This week we welcomed 31 students from Thomastown West Primary school in the Western suburbs of Melbourne. The school is very multicultural school with many students having arrived to Australia as refugees. They are regular visitors to Cottage by the Sea with different students spending a week with us each year.

One particular camper this week was quite anxious leading into the camp. Teaching staff had mentioned to us that she had never left Melbourne before or tried any outdoor activities.

At Cottage we saw this as an awesome opportunity to help this particular camper step out of her comfort zone and experience the great wonders of the outdoors.

Her first “first” came very early in the week heading down to the beach. This camper has never been to a beach – ever! Our initial challenge was putting on the wetsuit as it was nothing like anything she was used to doing. It was amazing to see the huge smile on her face watching her feel sand on her feet for the first time but then it quickly became a very confused face with the sea salt burning her eyes. We had to explain that you are not supposed to open your eyes under water as it was a very salty ocean.

Mid-week we had the opportunity to choose ten campers to head out on the fishing charter boat. The teachers of Thomastown West drew names out of a hat to select the children to go on the boat, and our lucky camper was drawn first! Another first for a first, because she had never been on a boat before. We knew this would be another great experience for this child. She was full of excitement and nerves as she didn’t know what to expect, but had her bag all packed and ready to go the night before.

She had arrived back from the fishing charter over the moon, having the opportunity to not only catch a fish but to then cook it up and eat it fresh!

The week was almost over but we had one more surprise for this camper up our sleeve, it was surfing day! She couldn’t believe that we were actually going surfing. Going to the beach was a treat but learning how to surf was going to put the icing on the cake. Although she didn’t quite get to ride a wave all the way into shore she was still able to stand up and tell everyone “I can surf, I can surf!”

This young camper, along with all her school friends from Thomastown West, has headed off home happy but exhausted from a thrill-seeking week at Cottage by the Sea.