Barretstown: A Serious Fun Camp!

Guest blog post from Aisling Barrett who recently volunteered at Barretstown

Barretstown: Camp Day 1

What can I say, Barretstown is magic…I have no idea what day it is or what time it is but these aren’t important things for the next while. What is important? The children in camp! Smiles! Having fun!!!!

I’m working as a volunteer Cara (Irish for friend) and I’m in cottage 9 with ten to twelve year old boys from Ireland and the UK. All of which have stellar personalities, likes and dislikes and who have put a smile on my face since I met them today.

All smiles for Barretstown!

I’ve made new friends and have not stopped smiling, learned lots of new games and distraction techniques, and I’m knackered tired already! And I’ve met loads of other Aislings….no matter where you go we’re there!

There isn’t any time for technology, and my break is now over so time to go down to the dining hall, meet my cottage team and ‘groove for my food’!! Who doesn’t want to dance off the calories you are about to consume at every meal time!! 🙂

Barretstown: Camp Day 1 Bedtime Update

So much has happened in one day, it’s rather hard to believe or even explain!

After dinner we had some cottage time and then some excellent craic at the evening programme where every cottage got to go on stage and entertain the rest of the camp! I was even an honorary member of cottage 5, learning to Irish Dance (badly, thankfully as part of their routine!) with a bunch of lovely young ladies (one of which even showed me a magic card trick earlier in the day – magic of all sorts happens at camp!)

I quickly got back to my own special cottage of campers and caras – the superstars that we are – in keeping with this week’s theme of Hollywood!

I’ve seen some fab youngsters display such amazing qualities here today from brothers and sisters truly enjoying each other’s company, to children helping one another with tasks that they may not be able to do alone – and we’ve not even been here a full day together!
I’m rather excited to see what camp holds tomorrow and what magic moments I’ll be part of!

Barretstown: Camp Day 2

We’ve had a pretty busy morning here in Barretstown!

Our campers in cottage nine were all awake bright eyed and bushy tailed (well maybe not tailed at all!) by 7am! Thankfully they played quietly in their room until breakfast at 9. After breakfast and a quick trip to the med shed for me to stock up on my ol’ iron tablet it was pretty much off the first activity! I am assigned to group two which is a mix from different cottages, so along with the other caras and a fab activity leader called Niamh we did some more getting to know you games! We played super name games so I’ve gotten to know even more campers and I can high five so many and stop and chat with guys and girls as I pass along like all the returning caras (something only yesterday morning during training I thought wouldn’t happen to me, at least in this camp as I’m a newbie!)

During these games I even became a cow for a while (as we got to pick an animal we wanted to be!)

It’s helpful that I wore my cow socks in preparation!

I must say I love Barretstown more now (possible to love it more?! Not so sure!) because I see how amazing it is that everyone is included and can take part or sit out as they wish in any activity! It’s a great thing to have as campers don’t feel forced into any activity that they don’t feel comfortable with – it’s a lesson we could defo take on in everyday life!!

After our spot of getting to know each other we transitioned to Jim’s Place to the climbing wall! I was so delighted to see campers who weren’t sure they could climb reach the top – no mean feat considering I can’t even get two steps up them walls! As well as that I sat with a camper who made super recreations of the Barretstown Castle with green foam blocks and a fantastic imagination which saw the inclusion of the famous red doors!

Break is nearly done now so I’ll leave you with some of my favourite jokes that I have been testing out in camp…

What’s pink and fluffy?
Pink fluff!
Whats blue and fluffy?
Pink fluff holding its breath!
What’s brown and sticky?
A brown stick!
What’s a pig doing karate called?
A pork chop!
Whats black and white black and white black and white?
A penguin rolling down a hill!

Barretstown: Camp Day 2 Bedtime Update

It’s 00:23 and I’ve just hopped into bed. I feel exhausted, spent (but more money in the bank to keep going!), satisfied at a job well done, shocked at how much I’ve learned and developed in a day and excited for tomorrow!

Today was spent chatting to so many campers and caras and generally having an amazing time. After lunch my activity group went to ride out the horses. I was tasked with leading out the placid Tia, who loved me and kept rubbing up against me (I’m gonna call it love – Jenny the leader on this activity said it was because Tia was losing her coat for Summer…) I definitely was in my personal stretch zone with the horses but I hope the children couldn’t tell! I was afraid of my life that my campers would fall off Tia, but not at all! In fact it was executed perfectly and the kids were well able!

As well as that in the evening the campers had a disco so I took the opportunity to show them some of my great moves, though based on the laughs of the campers they were possibly not the best!! I love being silly and Barretstown encourages that so you can make kids smile and laugh – it’s a dream 🙂

So many other great things happened today too. Cottage 8 next door to us were doing amazing face painting and so I had a quick visit there:


I also managed to master the ball in wooden holder thingy game  – it was my Everest!

As well as this the legend that is Johnny Mojo paid a visit to camp and left some lovely gifts for the children who were delighted with the surprise! After the campers had gone to bed we had some cara time, which was lovely. It was a great to be with everyone and have the chats and to have fun with Nigel the Bear!

Time seems rather irrelevant here but it’s still going way too quickly for my liking!!! How is it last full day tomorrow?!

This fun should never have to stop so make sure to support me in the Flora Women’s Mini-Marathon and help Barretstown stay open for longer in the year 🙂

Barretstown: Camp Day 3 – the last day!

What a bittersweet day! Time does a crazy thing in Barretstown.. It goes so slow where you feel like we’re almost suspended in it, yet it runs away from you!!!

I’ve made such amazing friends from caras to activity leaders, support staff and campers, and of course with Nigel our over five foot bear (who frightened me by hiding in the bathroom one time!)

The day started off with early morning watch in the cottage, and a beautiful breakfast. Off onto fishing and then arts and crafts where I was able to learn some magic tricks from the campers (not that I’m any good yet!)

I also managed to fit my first ever game of Uno and many practice ones, I think I might have won one, though the campers are major champions at it!

After grooving for my food at lunch it was on into Barretstown Castle where the campers were able to take part in a sibling challenge – The Great Egg Drop!

The Long Goodbye

Every camper got a little booklet with pictures from camp and they got to autograph their little books to remind them of camp and their friends here. This was a sweet touch and so wonderful to see the children leaving little messages to each other. I was so touched when campers from both my cottage and even from others started coming up to me to get mine! Boy did I feel so loved, so I know the campers definitely did! In fact we swapped autographs – and I got many an autograph of the super campers I got to meet on my name badge and all!

After that we had some cottage time and the boys in my cottage needed to make up a few caras as a forfeit (for what I’m not even sure!). Typically, I got caught up in the madness and ended up not only donating my make up to this good cause, I also got made up! The boys had a brilliant time practicing their makeup artistry skills and didn’t I only look super afterwards – a vast improvement on the usual 😛

At dinner the campers were treated to a very VIP red carpet and guard of honour! I got to live vicariously through the campers and I felt a little famous too!

After dinner it was camp treasure hunt time and the big slide show where we got a snap shot of all the campers while they took part in their activities! The absolute beaming smiles on the slides and the cheers for every camper just reminded me why this experience was so worthwhile! Then as well as a shout out and huge thank you from the stage, caras also got name checked and a fab cert to remember our time here in Spring 5! It was such a little personal touch I was rather emotional and absolutely delighted! I enjoyed every second of my time here and I experienced so many beautiful (or magic!) moments, that those were thanks enough especially as camp is for the campers – however this was the proverbial icing on the cake (cake cake, to sing a camp song!)

After returning to cottage 9 (for the final night, campers and caras managed to all work together to break a Cottage 9, Spring 5 Barretstown Record in Silent Ball (we got 93 passes, a symbolic three at the end for Cottage 9!!) which was a pretty fantastic way to wrap up camp!


Reflection is an important part of camp and through refection with the campers at bed time I have been introduced to a great song that I feel needs to be shared.

It’s during quiet time that I have really thought a lot about camp. I’m shattered, but I’ve never felt so alive! Barretstown may seem a bundle of contradictions especially around the time and its movement, but it is the BEST PLACE I’VE EVER BEEN! From start to finish I have had a ball and I’m sure the campers did too! It can be challenging (especially having to drag myself out of bed, when it feels like you’ve only just shut your eyes!) but it’s worth every ounce of energy that goes into it!

From the teamwork that is witnessed around the camp to the high fives (and tens) when a camper does an awesome job, it’s possibly the most rewarding thing I’ve done with my time! I also understand you may be reading this thinking it’s all nonsense, it can’t be that amazing and that I’m plain hyping it up but I can assure you I’m not.

It is such a safe loving encouraging environment that plays to everyone strengths with everyone being the best version of themselves in Barretstown.

This camp has made me think really honestly about what I would like to do in life and my career and now I definitely think I need to change jobs, because I enjoy engaging with children so much, something that was reinforced in camp.

If you don’t believe how magical it is then you need to get there! Sign up to take part in a camp and you won’t regret it! You can find all the information you need on the Barretstown website.

In the meantime you can help Barretstown continue its magic journey by helping me to raise funds for camp by clicking on my mycharity page and donate. I will be running the Flora Women’s Mini Marathon on June 2nd for all the fantastic people that come to Barretstown, and those who have not yet been able to experience the magic! Barretstown is celebrating 20 years this year, let’s work together and ensure it stays for the next 20 and beyond! 🙂

If you would like to volunteer your time, follow this link.

I’ll leave you with a final quote that struck me from our Thank You notes from camp:

“Don’t say you don’t have enough time. You have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to Helen Keller, Pasteur, Michaelangelo, Mother Teresa, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, and Albert Einstein.”

– H. Jackson Brown, Jr.