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Camp Changed the Way I View Life & Nursing

Meet Lauren Deanus, a fun-loving English student turned Emergency Room nurse. Seems like quite the shift, right? That’s why we asked Lauren, a volunteer at Over the Wall in the United Kingdom, about her journey to become a nurse. Lauren says she owes her career choiceand outlook on lifeto her time at camp.

What led you to become a volunteer at Over The Wall?

Complete coincidence! I was looking for volunteering for my Gold Duke of Edinburgh Award after starting at university and came across Over The Wall through an internet search. It all snowballed from there!

How is volunteering at camp different than other volunteer experiences you’ve had?

It is the most exhausting (!) but also the most rewarding. Over The Wall not only positively impacts the children who attend camp, but also the volunteers. When I began volunteering I never anticipated the profound impact it would have on my life. I’ve never laughed so much. The constant stomach and face aches from smiling so often and so hard are things I never expected to experience again as an adult!

The impact camp has on the children is far-reaching and more impressive than we sometimes appreciate. We often don’t see the discovery moments children experience when they’re back at home, but there’s one moment that’ll always stay with me. I was working in the hospital and a child I did not know came in very ill and frightened. They were wearing an Over The Wall jumper. The realization that they chose camp as a way of helping them cope at a vulnerable time—when they were feeling unwell and scared —made me appreciate how much impact camp truly has. Volunteering at camp is not just a “volunteer experience,”  but more a way of life with friends you have yet to meet and share incredible moments.

How did volunteering impact your life, career path, or direction?

Over The Wall has changed the way I view life. It helped me to see the positive – not to dwell on the things you are unable to do, but rather to look at the many things you can. And it has especially influenced my career path.

When I first volunteered at Over The Wall I was an English degree student, unsure of what I wanted to do when I graduated. Witnessing first-hand the incredible work of the medical team at camp completely changed my plans. I saw how the nurses kept the children safe, made them laugh, and made healthcare part of the fun rather than a necessary chore – this completely reshaped what I understood to be the role of nursing. Because of camp, I went on to study nursing at university, and now I am a staff nurse in an Emergency Department working with both adults and children. I use the skills I developed at camp every single day to make the scariest moments in a person’s life less frightening. I have brought dancing, singing, games, and laughter to emergency medicine in a way that only camp can teach you! I am completely indebted to Over The Wall for showing me the direction I wanted to go in life and leading me towards a career I’m passionate about.

What skills did you learn or improve by volunteering at Over The Wall?

Camp has taught me so many things. The greatest of all things I’ve learned is to make the most of every single day and to appreciate the friendships and experiences life brings. I’ve learned to lead teams of people from a wide range of backgrounds and experiences, and to appreciate the skills each member brings to the group. I’ve become more self-confident and self-aware, and can laugh at myself in a way I never could before camp. I’m getting better at timekeeping (!) and being flexible enough to expect the unexpected! I’ve also developed a sense of calm in difficult situations, particularly emergency situations. I truly believe camp has made me a better person as well as a better nurse.

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How do these skills relate to other aspects of your life?

I am a more compassionate and caring friend because of camp, and have learned to actively listen to other people and appreciate the value this has. Learning to respond calmly and appropriately to emergencies was particularly helpful when embarking on my nursing career, particularly in emergency medicine! Understanding the procedures as well as the emotions that young people and their families face when experiencing serious illness has made me so much more aware of this in my work. In my job, I always consider children or siblings, and ensure their views are listened to, that things are explained to them, and that they’re involved. I understand how important this is for them.

What is it about Over The Wall that has made your experience so special?

It’s impossible to pin down one thing about Over The Wall that makes it so special. What I find so special about camp is the incredible bubble that is created around the experience – and by all the people involved. It’s a protected space where everyone is liberated to be themselves without any judgements or demands and I think that is something incredibly exceptional. Over The Wall creates more than just a week’s residential camp for children and volunteers – it creates friends, unimaginable experiences and opportunities, and memories to last a lifetime. Even more, it creates a positive mindset that can help both campers and volunteers find the light during the difficult times they may face.

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