I’m sitting in an empty common room on Friday afternoon. The centre is busy in the midst of the bustle of the Camas Challenge. I can hear group members in the kitchen next door preparing a feast for tonight’s celebration and folk stomping around moving furniture upstairs to create a banquet hall in place of our dining room. For we have survived a week together and have created yet another beautifully unique community of group members, volunteers, staff and of course Ralph the dog, and that deserves a celebration.
I asked a few of the guys if they’d mind being interviewed for the eCoracle and I’m going to try and capture the conversation below.
Rachel: Who are you, where are you from and what are your first impressions of Camas:
Gary: I’m Gary from Greenock in Scotland. We’re up to Camas with IFit, Inverclyde Faith in Throughcare. It works with people just as they come out of jail with support. It’s brilliant. IFit help with housing support, benefit support, routes to recovery, addiction support, restorative justice. It’s really good for keeping us busy. We meet a couple of times a week.
This week has really helped me be grateful for what I have. I don’t let anyone in to myself. This week I’ve found I’ve opened up a wee bit more, got more confidence. I’ll miss this place when I go back to Greenock. But I’ll carry the memories, I’ll have those for the rest of my life. One of the best weeks of my life.
Alan: I’m Alan, also from Greenock, much the same as the other guys. I’m on a journey, I was in the services for a long time, seen and done things you’d never believe. I struggled after being back in society.
This place is mindblowing. I would just recommend it. I think the whole world should go back to living like this. Just bringing it all back to the basics. Camas is mindblowing, honestly, I think a lot of us have come to a big realisation of how much we’ve got to offer and what we’ve got to give. You staff here, we can’t thank you enough. For just giving us the opportunity to come here and experience the things we’ve experienced, seen the things we saw and done the things we’ve done. It’s just hard to put into words how great this has been. Going forward I’m going to try and use this as motivation for the guys who didn’t get to come, to get themselves in a place where they can come here next year and be a part of it. It’s been really important for my mental health, you know? I’m going home with a different attitude, a different outlook, I’m going to do things differently. I’m going to think differently. I’m going to be a better dad, a better partner.
Andy: I’m Andy, I stay in Port Glasgow now. Camas has been massive in my recovery… I was isolating myself. I’ve done it (recovery) before. Camas has been a total refresh, it’s been good to remind me there’s a whole world out there, it’s a total refresh for my head. Just how everyone is bouncing off each other, how everyone pitches in and has created a kind of bond. It’s been brilliant, a really great experience.
Michael: I’m Michael from Port Glasgow from the IFiT Group.
Lee: I’m Lee from Port Glasgow, born and raised but I now live in Greenock. I’ve been in prison most of my adult life and I’m now 40. I hadn’t really engaged with any support groups or anything when I’ve got out of prison but this time I engaged with IFit. I’ve been out of prison now the longest I’ve ever been out of prison and I don’t intend on going back at all. I’m stable on my medication, I’m not addicted to any street drugs or anything like that and coming to IFit has really helped with my anxiety, I had really bad anxiety, coming to Camas has just been amazing, It’s been so much better than I expected, I expected it to be amazing but it’s been so much better than that…I think my biggest accomplishment being here has been the abseiling. All the rest of the guys gave me alot of support, it’s good out here at Camas cos you’re in touch with nature.
Rachel: So when Robbie first told you you were coming to Camas, What were you thinking or expecting before you got here?
Gary: Hard labour!
Lee: Aye, that’s what I was thinking, hard labour. And no connection with back home but it’s good that you can still talk to your kids from here…
Alan: We could go home and describe this to people at home but there are no words. Until you get here and see it for yourself. You’ve got to come here and experience this before you can even begin to understand what makes the changes in each and every one of us.
So were you all really keen to come? Did it take any persuading?
All: No, no no no
Alan: A good stable place, we wanted to come and see what it was about.
Lee: It’s been like Hawaii, especially Market Bay. (Alan offered to be in a hula skirt next year) The staff and the volunteers have been great. Really helpful, really engaging and helping us to come out and do a wee bit of chores, that’s been good as well. Even though I’ve dodged most of them!
Andy: That surprised me. That the staff and participants have all bonded. And rather than just do the jobs and then youse go away and just chilling… you’ve created friendship with all of us.
What’s been the best thing about coming to Camas?
Alan: the life changing experience. Like my mind has been blown, absolutely blown away. I feel like I can go home and take some of the connections into my life at home. There’s a better way of dealing with stuff in life and I’ve learnt that, youse have got me to see that.
Lee: Just the guys that we’ve came with, we didn’t really know each other. The best thing I’m going to take away with me is that I’ve got to know everyone and we’re going to be closer when we go back to IFiT. We’re all going to have a better bond and you know what I mean, we’re all going to start doing things together.
Gary: Tranquility, it’s so peaceful.
Andy: Just the tranqulity, it’s so peaceful.
Gary: Respect. For each other. And perseverance. And patience. There has been a bit of carry on and some niggles in the group but when you’re away from family and you’re in a group on unknowns you need patience. (we had a chat about how living in community can make you vulnerable but also requires a lot of patience, to be challenged by people and have to share meals and chores with each other – it needs patience and perseverance!)
Lee: I love the fact that you grow a lot of your own vegetables in the garden and polytunnels. I tasted strawberries from the garden and they were amazing.
Alan: the best strawberries I’ve ever tasted.
Andy: a total recharge for my head and mindset. I was really down, but there’s a whole world out there. I just need to change my mindset.
Michael: I think what I’m going to take away from here is that we can work good as a team. We can do good things when we work as a team.
What’s been the worst thing about being at Camas?
Lee: Leaving, exactly, that’s the only bad thing. The only bad thing. And missing your family at home.
Alan: Those oystercatchers squawking in the morning!
Rachel: Ah yes sorry they don’t have a volume control.
Alan: midgies – they weren’t great either.
What would you say to someone thinking about coming to Camas?
Alan: Definitely come. Do not think about it. Get your name down and get yourself up here as quick as you bloody can because it’s the best thing you’ll ever do,
Lee: You’ll never forget it. We just need to make sure we talk about it so that the others can be stable enough to come.
Alan: I think when we go back the guys that didnae get to come see how close we’re gonna be. We’ll probably all sit at a table together and people will be a wee bit jealous and it might give them a push to get themselves in a place where they can maybe come along and experience what we have done this year. I’m going back and will be like guys you need to do this. Honestly one of the best things. I’ve been all over the world with the army. I’ve done some crazy mad things and I really mean this: this is one of the best experiences I’ve ever had in my whole life.
photo by Derek Mitchell 2023
Guys, it’s been an absolute pleasure having you here at Camas this week and so glad to have you all as Camas advocates out in the world! As Alan says, everyone should come to Camas.
Wondering what all the hype is about? Get your name down for one of our Open Weeks and come and see for yourself!
Want to know more about the brilliant work of IFiT? See their website here.
Image credit: Derek Mitchell 2023