For those who don’t know, at the conclusion of Camp Purple, over fifty children and twenty volunteers were stranded at Wellington Airport. The entire airport suddenly closed due to fog. Every flight was cancelled. Many of the children were on special diets, virtually all of them were on medications, all the checked luggage needed to be collected, parents needed to be notified, and seventy flights rebooked. We had no place to stay for the night and no food for the children. It had all the makings of an organisation’s worst nightmare.
But there is goodness in the world. Rydges Hotel, who manage the conference centre at the airport provided a large conference room. With a protected place for the children we were able to formulate a plan, contact parents, and rebook flights. Then the Hutt Valley Freemason Lodge in Petone stepped up and literally handed us the keys to their lodge building. The building was huge, with a full kitchen, auditorium, lodge meeting room, even a museum upstairs.
I was so proud of the children. They never complained and turned the evening and night into an incredible adventure. It was an example what living with IBD can bring: an ability to adapt and turn a challenge into something positive.
As we reflect on entering this new decade, it would be easy to fall into the trap of focusing on our personal problems and what’s wrong with the world. There’s living with a chronic illness, there may be money problems, difficulties with our relationships, and stresses in the workplace.
There’s climate change, racial prejudice, inequities and severe shortages in our health system, and conflicts overseas.
But for a moment it’s good to step back and look at what’s right. We just celebrated our sixth Camp Purple where the children made new friends and felt the loving support of a real community.
Over twenty five volunteers , all with IBD themselves, donated a week of their lives, away from their own families to support these children. They demonstrated to the kids what comes out of living with a chronic disease: a heightened sense compassion, empathy, and inner strength. The children were mesmerised as they watched a video of three of our young volunteers who raised over $25,000 by spending two gruelling weeks racing through India in the sweltering heat in a tiny rikshaw. We could never find better role models.
Space does not allow me to mention all the incredibly generous individuals who have shown us the true meaning of charity. It is the reason why the camp will be entering its seventh year in 2021.