This was our inaugural Living Skills Enhancement Retreat for Adult Burn Survivors. It was held at Mangrove Mountain in November 2006 which is run by the Wesley Mission. We had 14 participants from all over Australia turn up at Sydney Airport introduce themselves then get on a bus and were on our way to the mountain. Some of the attendees had already spoken in our BURN Survivors Chat Room so they had a little bit of an introduction while some of them were meeting for the first time. One thing they all had in common is they did not know what they were getting themselves in for.
The drive to Mangrove Mountain takes about 1 ½ hours which made the trip very interesting. How, everyone was quiet to start with then once the lollies came out (and some had more than others) the communication started to flow, must have been the sugar, it was like they all knew each other and not like they have met for the first time, by the time they got to our destination some of the walls were already down. They all got our bags, found their rooms and settled in for the retreat.
It was time for the first discussion session and who was prepared for what was going to happen, no one was but what was found out was some issues that was haunting some of them and some of the unanswered questions were getting answered. Some of the attendees were in different stages of their burn survivor journey and some were still burn victims, so more work had to be done but the first steps have been taken. There were many sessions over the weekend and a lot of tears flowed, many walls came down and the tears that flowed at the end of the retreat were “tears of joy”. Yes some of the attendees took one step closer to becoming a “BURN Survivor” and left the “BURN victim” part of their journey behind them.
The weekend wasn’t all about the serious side of things it was about having fun, letting your hair down (some of us it was about putting a wig on) and playing music, singing and team building exercises. Who was to know that renowned artist Daleina was turning up and entertaining them for the evening? By the time Daleina left there were a few attendees who were complaining about sore stomachs and that was from all the laughing. All the attendees said that it was one of the best nights they have had for a long time.
The staff at Mangrove Mountain was second to none, with Mick leading the way who was not shy to sing a song and just fit in with the rest of the attendees. The catering was enough to feed an army and some attendees were not happy about putting on that extra kilo or two. The accommodation was exemplary in all tick, tick, tick.
For the first Adult Retreat it was an eye opener for many, for some there was a big load taken off their shoulders as they have not spoken about their burn related issues to anyone, some who have carried this burden up to 40 years and who have said “how my life would have been different” if the Peter Hughes BURN Foundation was around then. No one wanted to go home and could not wait to attend the next retreat and friendships were made for life.