Why Attend Space Camp?

?1998 KATE went to SCIVIS, Space Camp for the vision impaired, as a 14 year old in 1998. On her return she wrote

“.it was more than a once in a lifetime experience, it was the time of our lives. It helped us not only realise that if we try hard and aim for the sky we can reach the stars, but we also met friends that would last a lifetime. We lived each day as if it were our last and can recall every minute spent with our friends. The hardest and saddest time over there was saying goodbye. Our hearts were broken and as left a part of us stayed forever. We learnt knowledge that we can use in our curriculum, met others with similar problems, and ways to deal with it.


Just Call Me Lucky  

“I’m afraid she’ll lose all useful sight” I heard the Dr say in hushed tones to my weeping mother as I swung my little legs back and forth under the hallway chair that was too tall for my six year old legs. It was another ten minutes before she walked out of the Dr’s office dabbing the corner of her eyes, as if an eyelash had strayed and irrated them. But I knew her too well. I knew that she would hold herself together, push back the feelings of guilt and despair until we got home and I was safely tucked into bed. And then she would curl herself into a ball and cry and cry. She will cry because she thinks she has done this to me. She will cry because I will never be like other children. She will cry because I will never be like other children. She will cry because she never envisioned what her life, or hers would be like. Most of all, she will cry because the Dr told her that I will be blind before I reach my thirteenth birthday and what kind of life can you have if you are living in the dark?

That was 10 years ago. I am happy to report the Dr was wrong. Mind you there was no misunderstanding. I have less than five per cent of useful vision remaining and have had a cataract removed from one eye rendering it virtually useless. I am completely night blind and have glaucoma. Despite the degenerating genetic draw I was handed in life I feel the luckiest girl in the world. Let me tell you why.

When I was in secondary school I was assigned a visiting teacher. She was incredible, a whirlwind of energy, determination and hope. A rock solid pillar who would remain a positive force throughout my life. In 1998 she introduced me to a man called Dan. He was visiting from the USA and told us about SCIVIS. Where, for a single week per year, the camp was run for students who were blind I was intrigued by his stories of courage from the vision impaired children he had worked with back home. Space camp sounded like fun and, as any secondary student will tell you, there comes a time when you need to break free and really, just have some fun. After being the ‘only’ different person at an all girls school, this sounded perfect. And so, after many a fundraising sausage had been burnt, we were on our way. 

Arriving at Space Camp for the first time will remain a treasured memory. Everybody slept in a wing of the giant building called the Hab. There were three floors connected by metal stairs and corridors. And there wasn’t another soul in sight except Dan who greeted us with a warm smile and hug. We were first to arrive and by dinner time the noisy steel corridors were bustling with scores of new arrivals. If you looked around you would have seen even less vision and it gave new meaning to the phrase, the blind leading the blind’

While walking to my room I tripped and fell over nothing as I sometimes did. Embarrassed I looked around and to my astonishment nobody was gawking, laughing, pointing or staring. Nobody. Was I invisible? Had I acquired super powers? No Finally it dawned on me. It’s OK here, I’m Okay. No I’m better than Okay, I’m normal! Could this be the best day of my entire life? I think so. And just as I was coming to terms with how wonderfully normal I was, two girls walked past me, one with her T shirt on backwards and the other with one brown sock and one blue. There is nothing for it but to laugh out loud. I laughed so hard that I doubled over, my stomach in stitches. Not until that very moment did I know what it was like to free of anxiety, to be free of terrifying and debilitating fear. That was one of the greatest weeks of my life. It was so good that I proceeded to go back to Space Camp the following year and two years after that, each time being awarded the ‘Right Stuff Award” which was the strawberry on top of the icing on the cake because truly, I was lucky to be there.

I was even luckier when my muse of a visiting teacher introduced me to a vision impaired boy who lived close to us. He was on two of those Space Camp trips. He became my best friend. Then, he had a party. That night I met Chris. We formed an amazing friendship, one where I could be the girl I had been at space camp. Free and happy. We were engaged by the time I was seventeen and were married on the beach during our first year of university together. In 2010 our beautiful identical twin daughters were born and I haven’t been able to wipe the smile off my face. 

Please don’t get me wrong, life is hard and deep down I am still utterly terrified that one day I will be living in the dark. But as nana’s always said, ‘what is there for it but to put your bum up, head down and run at life with all you have because one day it will be gone.’ Nan may be right. All I know is that, as of right this moment I wouldn’t swap my life for anything, genes and all. After all without this lot in life I wouldn’t be the happiest girl in the world. Just call me Lucky.

7 Reasons to go to Space Camp

  1. Independence - Travelling on planes, through airports, on buses and around the camp you quickly learn to trust your instincts, to ask for help if needed be, to be organised and punctual. You learn new independent living skills as you go.
  2. Normalcy  - For me, it was the first time I felt normal, the same as everybody else. Every person has an impairment and your impairment seems to fade in the background along with everybody else’s, allowing your full personality to shine through.
  3. Friendship - After more than ten years I am still in contact with some of the friends I made at Camp. Never underestimate the bonds you can make when you spend an intensive week, 24 hours a day with amazing people from all over the world.
  4. Camaraderie - You are part of a team and on missions it is vital that each member of the group fulfil their task in order fro the mission to be successful. And nothing is better than the cheers that erupt after a three hour mission is completed.
  5. Courage It takes a lot of courage to take the plunge into unknown territory, especially if you have some physical limitations that should not stop you. At one time or another I’m sure every person who leaves their families and heads to a camp half way around the world has reservations, moments where they are scared and wonder if they can go through with it. But overcoming the fear and plunge is what makes space camp so unbelievable amazing. Never did I think I would go out at night without my family or have two totally blind people holding onto my elbows even though I could hardly see where I was going. You can do extraordinary things, Space camp helps you along.
  6. Achievement having my name called out and walking onto the podium to collect my certificate that tells the world I have achieved something is one of the proudest moments I have ever had. Knowing that after the quizzes, training, making and launching rockets, group games, physical challenges and one final three hour mission you can be sure you have achieved something remarkable.
  7. And most of all Space Camp is fun (oh and did I mention the Imax theatre, the life size shuttles and the food, amazing!!!!)