Written by Matthew Clark
One of the greatest experiences of my youth has been three times attending the ICC, an international camp for young people from across Europe who are blind or partially sighted. I have wonderful memories of Vienna 2009, Athens 2010 and Cluj 2012 (Romania).
Each camp wasn’t just fun but helped develop skills. An example from Romania was learning to use Google Sites (a free website building tool from Google), which I later used at university to build a website for my student society, the Glasgow University Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Group. The photography workshop in Athens showed me that people with visual impairments can be good at photography, spawning an interest that is now a hobby. I also loved ballroom dancing, but have not become very good at it yet.
Further afield, ICC was close in mind earlier this year when I travelled on my first independent international trip, to Budapest to attend an International Liberal Youth study session. Did I mention I prepared for this adventure with only four days’ notice? About 30 young people from a dozen European countries were there.. None had worked with the blind before. I had an amazing time meeting incredible people, sharing culture and working together in our studies. In fact, in those ways much was similar to ICC. I have my time on the camps to thank for having the confidence and skills to work with people from different cultures, the awareness to enjoy the time in another country, and the ability to make an outstanding contribution to our work. That I did do. And the proof is in how many people – participants and staff – told me so, and that I had challenged their perceptions of people who are blind and partially sighted.
Thus ICC has helped me grow as a person. A person able to do things at home. A person able to travel abroad to make a valuable difference.
Last year I became a Trustee of VICTA, a fantastic charity and the UK lead for ICC. Since my first camp attendance in 2009 VICTA has taken on bringing many more from the UK to ICC. As a trustee I bring my positive experiences as one young person and help represent the needs of others in what the charity does. In this position I was keen to volunteer to return to ICC, now to make the camp great for new young people. This I have been lucky to do; bringing my experience in preparing for work to our new ‘CV Writing and Interview Skills’ workshop, sharing my enthusiasm and lessons learnt; and more widely supporting all the people at camp, being a living example of just a little of what is possible to them. I hope that by doing this, more young people can attend ICC, and more of them can take great things from it, to do great things themselves.
We might of have managed it too. Since camp I have received some lovely messages of thanks from participants; speaking of our workshops helping their confidence, or my experiences having given them ideas of great things to do in future, even asking if I might help give advice in future.
I am proud to have achieved this as part of team VICTA, giving back to and making more of ICC. An added pleasure was finding more former participants there for similar reasons to my own. Together with our new participants, and to use a word of the week, it was absolutely awesome!
By Matthew Clarke- VICTA Trustee