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- Féach takes to the Piste at St Johann
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NCBI sponsored Féach’s ski trip to Austria earlier this year. Féach is a support group made up of parents of children who are blind or vision impaired. Five families signed up and here Eithne Walsh talks about her experience of the trip.
This year we went skiing with Féach to St. Johann in Austria. To describe how great the holiday was I have to start at the end. We flew back into Dublin on the 22nd of January, as the plane landed my 6 year old son (vision impaired) who was sitting beside me, took one look out the window and burst out crying.
“I want to go back”, he sobbed and I think he described accurately how we all felt!
The trip is much more than a skiing holiday. Yes we all go skiing and have a holiday but sometimes the sum is greater than the parts. The skiing holiday idea started in Kilternan when the ski club of Ireland invited Feach children to give it a go. Here the voluntary instructors cajoled, encouraged and enticed our children for hours on the dry slopes. Always, always in good humour. It was here that we first heard you can, of course you can!
After our dry slope experience five families signed up for the holiday. That’s five families, with twelve children, seven of which were blind or visually impaired. They ranged in age from 6 to 20. The blind and visually impaired children got one on one tuition which is kindly sponsored by NCBI. Through this tuition they learn to ski but they also learn that any thing is possible. It is wonderful to see the great relationships blossom between instructor and child, to see the child’s confidence grow in so many ways as the instructor becomes a friend, mentor, role model, some one who constantly tells them, you can!
Over the week the group of children became very close. They were always laughing and messing and what struck me particularly was how much they looked out for each other. I think for the children to be surrounded by others who don’t see very well, or may even see worse than them, was a relief. Just for a week not to be different was a break. Everyday they all met for lunch in different restaurants up the mountain. Sometimes we would be in the same restaurant. Usually they did not want to know us; they were too busy having a good time. The level of independence they gained over the seven days was good for all of us.
Coming down a mountain on skis can be scary; I can’t imagine trying to do it without perfect vision. All our children did it effortlessly- better than us! It is hard to describe the feeling you get when you spot your child from up in a ski lift, skiing down the mountain. Sometimes things can be an effort at home, particularly trying to get them through the educational system, finding a sport that they like and can participate in is difficult, I hear the teenage years are worse. We now have two visually impaired children who can ski. What use is that when there is no snow in Ireland I hear you say? It has given them a great boost to their confidence and it’s a very large feather in their cap- sometimes feathers can be hard to come by. They can’t chase a ball around a football pitch or hockey pitch, but they can ski. God knows what else is out there for them to discover. When I watched them both go through the school gates the following Monday, they looked taller.
We were sad to be home but determined to go again next year. The kids are making a special effort to turn off the lights, save their pocket money, eat margarine instead of butter. When my son told me he didn’t need new runners despite the holes in his existing ones that we needed the money for skiing instead, I thought things might have gone too far!