I don’t often think about my time at university. Hey, it was so long ago now that I can barely remember it anyway! Yet recently something has happened to take me back.
Oxford twenty-five years ago. At Freshers Fair I came across a stall for KEEN – a student-run organisation that put on sporting and other activities for disabled children (athletes). I thought it sounded like a ‘good thing’ to do and signed up. I was pretty nervous at the first session I went to. After all, what did I know about interacting with disabled people – I was petrified about coming across as patronising to those with physical problems and worried that I wouldn’t understand those with learning difficulties. I thought the parents would be watching me and judging me badly. I have to admit that nervousness never really went away. I kept on volunteering and even ended up on the committee. In the sessions though I tended to gravitate towards working with the more able athletes.
The format designed by KEEN Oxford has spread to a few other places and we’re not far from one of them. Little did I realise all that time ago that I would end up taking my own child to sessions run by this fantastic organisation.
The boys and I went for the first time a few weeks ago. We were the first to turn up so arrived in a room full of students all ready to welcome us. Once Pudding had established that there were lots of balls and people willing to play with him, he was of course in seventh heaven. T too loved the attention, and was happy to beat a student at football by 40 goals to 3. Squeaky flashing balls with the lights turned off was even better.
Two happy worn-out boys, two rested parents, no TV for at least half an afternoon. A definite win all round.
I don’t know if any of the student helpers have the same hang-ups as I did, but watching them I only see enthusiastic youngsters full of energy, with so much to offer these kids. And oh, I am grateful for that!