A Finland experience

Long shot from an idiot

For my sins I went to school with Doug Hulme, by an off chance we met up again last year for the first time since leaving school , he told us all about his charity Second Chance, and his former playmates were suitably impressed by his endeavors. I thought no more about it, other than checking out his web site. Then several months later I received an email entitled ‘Long shot from an idiot’ which went along the lines :

‘I'm busy writing to all the women I know (and its true the wife doesn't suspect a thing). I'm taking a group of girls, mainly 16 year olds to our cottage in Finland 18 - 22nd August and I find myself short of female staff/volunteers (by 2). Fearing for my safety and afraid to bring the carpet slippers out from the hearth that week I thought I'd better see if anyone was interested. It doesn't cost anything and its quite interesting.

Don't worry if not, its just a passing thought.’

Bizarrely enough I had annual leave booked for the required period, and had been informed by my sons that they had no inclination to do either the offas dyke path or the coast to coast path so since I was free I agreed to go to Finland. Then I spent the next few weeks panicking I had no experience of girls, challenging or otherwise, I had never been a girl even in my childhood as I had two older brothers. However the thought of the wilderness appealed as I like camping, though I wasn’t to sure about the fishing since I am a vegetarian.

The trip arrived very quickly and started with me waiting on the side of the A3 for and hour or so, thinking Doug must have changed his mind and decided he needed a more experienced helper than me. In reality the mini bus had died and Doug was working miracles swapping buses and racing to reach me and the airport before it was all too late.

Everyone who was going to Finland was on the bus when it picked me up. They all seemed normal enough you know the right number of heads and no one actually killing anyone else. In fact they seemed really chatty and up for all the new experiences that lay ahead. I also felt reassured that there were more helpers than I expected.

The journey went very smoothly, probably made easier by the whistle stop race through the airport to get on the plane just in time.

The girls on arrival were less than impressed by the toilet facilities and the sleeping accommodation, but even though they did not know each other they soon became to develop a ‘team’ relationship with each other and dealt with little things like checking for spiders.

The five days were very intense, with lots of activities provided, and any down time was spent messing around in boats and having a go at fishing. One of my most favourite moments was when one of the girls was up much earlier than the others and wanted to have a go at canoeing. I helmed the Canadian canoe and we ventured across the inlet to where the male helpers were making their breakfast on the beach. It was great to be part of her sense of achievement when we landed the boat on the beach for the bacon sandwich, personally prepared for her. On the first day she would not go into the water let alone into a canoe.

All in all I found it an absolutely exhausting experience, the girls needed so much to talk to adults on an individual basis. At the outset it seemed a large number of helpers for such a small group of girls, the reason for this is the amount of personal attention they needed. They were great fun to be with and are like teenagers anywhere trying to make sense of growing up and coping with the circumstances around them, its just these ones have more circumstances than a normal person has to cope with in a lifetime.

Would I go again?
Can’t wait!

Carole Robinson