In September a group of VICTA young people travelled to the beautiful city of Catania on the east coast of Sicily. The city is steeped in history and lives under the shadow of active volcano, Mount Etna. The itinerary for the trip was packed full of cultural experiences and adventure. On arrival we were met at Catania Airport by the Seable team who organised the trip and travelled to our apartments. We then went directly to the Tactile Museum where the group were able to feel for themselves models of famous landmarks. This was followed by a walk around the centre of Catania and a chance to unwind whilst sampling the famous Italian ice cream.
Day two was water sports day but unfortunately due to adverse weather the activities had to be cancelled. Although we were unable to travel out to sea, the diving instructor hosted a private induction to scuba diving in the pool. The young people experienced a one to one session with the instructor and have the experience of scuba diving after all. All those that took part gained so much from this activity, even those that were initially cautious gave it a go! Afterwards we were all hungry and a wonderful lunch of Sicilian street food was provided which was a real hit with the group.
On the third day we set off for Mount Etna where a cable car took us up to the crater of the volcano. The Seable guides provided a fantastic commentary and the group enjoyed exploring and touching volcanic rock. This was topped off by the most incredible truck journey down the volcano.
On the transfer back we stopped at the honey and olive oil factory where locally harvested honey, oil and Sicilian delicacies were available to taste and purchase. Overall this trip was a resounding success, the group bonded incredibly well and new friendships were formed. We saw many of the young people’s confidence flourish during the trip. The incredible service provided from Seable throughout had a big impact on the trip. The guides engaged and socialised with everyone at all times, and many of the group have kept in contact with the Seable team. We are thrilled that VICTA will be returning to Sicily in 2015 to hopefully experience more water sports and soak up the fantastic Sicilian culture.
“Hi Victa and thank you for an amazing cultural trip to Sicily! it was overall a great experience and one I would love to repeat. Obviously owing to being there for a short period it was very consolidated (not necessarily a bad thing!!) and went very quickly. The most important feeling from a blindness angle was the feeling of independence yet there would always be someone there to guide/read/be eyeballs generally. To go on an independent holiday would present many problems none of which were present in Sicily. Scuba diving was incredible! What a surreal experience to be able to breathe underwater. But more so it was great to get into a pool, share an incredible experience and bond with people in a similar situation. Etna was one of those once in a lifetime experiences. I was scared initially of the thought of travelling once at the top but thanks to a Mr Jamie Riley for being mean and dangling me on the edge of rocks, making me climb craters the hard way and for giving me the confidence I had when I was a much fitter person (and I a still mad at him for it :)) I cannot discredit the overall experience. The food was incredible (and I am still enjoying the food we brought back) and the activities were things I thought I could never do.”
– Eve Adkins
“I feel the Sicily trip was fantastic. The trip was well organised with varied activities and the group was fun, laid back and friendly. The trips were so varied that we did activities of all kinds, sporting activities, cultural and educational activities and more laid back activities. The activities were well managed and well led by the volunteers. The volunteers were great, they did exactly what they had to, no more and no less. If we left anything behind or needed an arm they were happy to help. At the same time, they were good fun and sometimes indistinguishable from the group of visually impaired people. I feel this was a nice touch as there was little distinction between the volunteers and the group and hence, no significant split in the group. Yet, when I needed help such as climbing Mt Etna, or help swimming in the pool, they were happy to provide it. What this trip to Sicily provided me was a fantastic opportunity to experience another country as a visually impaired person. Although I would try to do it without VICTA, it would be much more difficult and I would be much more likely to put barriers in my way despite really wanting to visit other countries. I feel the best way to truly understand a country and a culture is to immerse yourself within it and that means walking around a city, trying the countries food and drink, trying to speak the native language and generally getting a feel for the atmosphere and pace of life of that country. Sicily was really good for this, particularly as we were going around with people from Sicily. We were able to go to restaurants upon their recommendation and go to places maybe slightly off the beaten track. One of the very small, quirky things that interested me about Sicily is that they had policemen helping you to cross some roads. A small thing to notice but it says something about the pace of life. To have missed many of the once in a lifetime activities and events in Sicily would have been a real shame and VICTA gave me the opportunity to go. They provided an opportunity where I could be myself, get to know other young visually impaired people and provide just the right degree of help.”
– Warren Wilson
“I cannot praise the trip to Sicily highly enough. The trip was well organised without being too regimented. Our accommodation was fantastic and the activities including scuba-diving, the trek up Mount Etna, The tactile museum and the Honey tasting were experiences I will never forget. Everything we did was made accessible, without being made into a big production. Above all, the VICTA staff and volunteers were brilliant. They gave us the freedom to be independent, but were always around if we needed help. I feel that I made a wonderful group of new friends in Sicily, participants, volunteers and staff alike that I will definitely be keeping in touch with. I will be recommending VICTA to my friends and hope to attend more of their trips in the future.”
– Elin Williams
Images from Sicily 2014