Summer at the Seaside

To grow, to improve, to learn that you can do it on your own thanks to the IRIFOR Camp “A blast from the sun”
Serena Cimini

From June 27 to July 6, 2015, at Marina Romea’s campsite Villaggio del Sole, took place a special summer rehabilitation camp Irifor “A blast from the sun” aimed at children and teens living with vision loss and multiple disabilities.


The holiday, made possible by the invaluable support of the Institute F. Cavazza of Bologna, was born from the desire to offer visually impaired children and teens a time and a place to meet, make friends, have fun and place themselves in new situations and activities.


In fact, during their spare time and especially during the summer when schools are closed, it is not so easy for visually impairment children and teens to find in their area a place that offers fun times in the context of educational and rehabilitation activities. With few opportunities to experiment away from home and their family, visually impaired youth may have slower processes linked to separation and identification which are inherent to growing up, improving, and discovering that you can do things on your own and become more independent. This contributes to increased self-confidence and a sense of self-efficacy, learning more about oneself by being with others, overcoming some obstacles and accepting our limits.


Avventure al campo estivo "Un tuffo nel sole" - Marina Romea (Ravenna)

Especially for these kids who participated for the first time in such an initiative meeting with other kids their age with a similar disability, this represented their first important occasion to be with different people who are yet so much the same.


It seemed obvious that the two main objectives of the summer camp were the following: AUTONOMY and FRIENDSHIP. We could certainly consider these the two pillars of personal well-being, essential in the life and the growth of all children and all teenagers, disabled or not. These two aspects are mutually connected. They always influence each other because, if we think about it, if I have friends, not only do I learn with them, but to be with them I have to be independent. I want to be independent. In addition, if I am independent (and less dependent on the adults of reference), it will be a bit easier for me to make friends and to be integrated with my peers.


To achieve their goals, the nine professionals (including the coordinator who has a field experience of many years and a psychologist specialist in issues related to visual impairment in children going through their development) have implemented a number of specific strategies. Namely: promote motivation and encourage children and teens in doing things by themselves through a constructive educational style based on trust and care, but not on an ideology of assistance; value everyone’s resources, making the children more aware and more responsible in organizing themselves and their things; develop experiential situations not only in the relationship between educators and youth, but also through discussion and peer tutoring.


Professionals have taken advantage of an instrument of observation and evaluation of abilities and personal skills: a grid taken from ICF (International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health, WHO 2001) designed according to the particular needs of this program. This tool has been useful in focusing on specific operational methods, defining the objectives and customizing interventions, when necessary.


The organizing team already knew almost all participants (18 youths aged 9 to 16 years) since they are users of the Service of Educational Counselling at the Institute F. Cavazza for the Blind. This favourable circumstance has allowed us to design targeted activities, with particular focus on situations of multiple disabilities to which were allocated time, as well as specific and personalized approaches and activities.

It is impossible to list all the participating youths’ experiences that translated into opportunities for discovery and growth. Nevertheless, here are the five main groups of activities:

1- Orientation and mobility thanks to the intervention of specialist Marco Fossati;

2- Creative and recreational activities (workshops on expressive theatre, music workshops, fun times and games at the beach or the pool and recreational activities organized by the campsite itself);

3- Activities for the upgrading of manual skills (cooking and piadina, mosaic and origami workshops, games of modelling and manipulation with salt dough, games stimulating two-hand coordination and fine motor skills);

4- Physical activities and sports: judo with instructor Marco Fossati; baseball with the generous collaboration of Aibxc (Italy’s blind baseball association); canoeing; ball games and games in the water;

5- Labs on personal independence and autonomy at home, implemented either at specific times (such as unpacking or packing bags or tidying the room) or in everyday life: recognizing and folding clothes, dressing and undressing, making the bed, washing and drying, pouring water, trying to use all the cutlery at meals).


This 10-day stay-away from home and families encouraged greater responsibility in the management of self, objects, medical therapies (e.g. using eye drops) and self-management of one’s own space and time. Being with the others encouraged and motivated youth to do things by themselves which gave them pride (even if it meant only trying) and allowed them to step out of the ideology of assistance and care by others.


There have been some improvements in personal and home autonomy (bathing, dressing, behaviour at the table), keeping things in order and taking care of one’s own medical therapies. These goals, however, will remain vain unless the work on independence does not continue in the youth’s daily lives at home and in school!


The presence of a diverse group has enabled many of the participants to also experiment in the new role of helpers (assisting, supporting, caring for other children or teens), therefore getting out of the role that they know so well and experience every day, that of being helped themselves. Help relationships and peer tutoring were at times encouraged through the intervention of professionals, sometimes they spontaneously came about among youth.

Avventure al campo estivo "Un tuffo nel sole" - Marina Romea (Ravenna)

During the stay, new friendships among youth were formed and others further strengthen, all very intense and significant. Forming groups of friends and sweethearts, experiencing the first romantic relationships are essential for the construction of identity and self-esteem, particularly during teenage life.


Informal moments among peers as well as theatre workshops have encouraged young participants to deal with and think about their own emotions and those of the others, while gaining a better self-understanding.


Relational aspects are probably the most solicited during the experience, and those that, even in such a short period (a stay of only 10 days), trigger obvious changes and improvements in the well-being of children, in their self-esteem, and in learning about themselves in a more serene and self-accepting manner.

Avventure al campo estivo "Un tuffo nel sole" - Marina Romea (Ravenna)