Review of the CYHU NF2 Summer Gathering 2016

On the first weekend of July, NF2ers travelled from all over the country to central Birmingham for the NF2 Summer Gathering 2016, hosted by Can You Hear Us? C.I.C (CYHU).

The event kicked off with an introductory session at Edgbaston Community Centre
1. CYHU Olympic Games - Fridayfollowed by ‘The CYHU Olympic Games’, which saw NF2ers compete in six amusing activities in a bid for Gold. With a surprise appearance from none other than ‘Her Majesty the Queen’, the Gold medal was presented to the formidable Andy Wight, Silver to Les Scales, and Bronze to Joanne Ward. Everyone else was awarded a ‘winners’ medal, because that’s what we all are!

At each Gathering, CYHU endeavour to provide NF2ers with 4. Group 2 canoeing - Saturdaythe opportunity to try something new in a supportive environment. This year, we took the challenge to the water with an adaptive canoeing session at Edgbaston Watersports. Whilst having a great giggle putting on the required, very unflattering attire, the atmosphere was also full of nerves. With balance difficulties, the thought of being in water is a daunting one but, in this case, everyone was quite 2. CYHU canoeing group photo - Saturdayliterally in the same boat (pun intended!). With assistance from the instructors, and always from each other, everyone made it safely into the long canoes that were tied in pairs for extra stability. Eight people
had to work together against the strong wind to navigate the canoes around the large lake and, once familiarised with the actions, a race was had between the two groups. CYHU are extremely proud of everyone who faced their fears and achieved what they previously thought they could not do. Wonderful teamwork!

5. Botanical Gardens - SaturdaySaturday afternoon was spent at Birmingham’s beautiful Botanical Gardens. This was a lovely way to unwind after all the action and everyone took great pleasure in being together amongst peaceful surroundings. In the evening a delicious meal was enjoyed at a nearby gastro-pub.

Cadbury World was the final stop of the Gathering and, as anyone would imagine, a whole lot of chocolate was consumed. Much fun was had exploring the interactive exhibition and seeing master chocolatiers at work. The Gathering was concluded with a reflection session in one of Cadbury World’s education rooms. This gave NF2ers the opportunity to share with each other how the weekend had been and what it meant to them.

The most important aspect of the Gatherings is that they offer the chance for NF2ers to relax in the company of other people who truly understand what it is like to live with the condition. When attempting to interpret just how special and needed these social gatherings are, we prefer our members to do the talking. So here are a few insights:

“At the gathering I felt much more confident. Being around others with NF2 was so liberating. I didn’t have to put on an act. People understood me, and I them. There was an unspoken bond.” (Adam Law)

“Coming here and taking part in the activities brings you out of your comfort zone. I wouldn’t do these things if I didn’t have others to encourage me. But coming to the gatherings is not just about the activities; I come to be with other NF2ers because I feel part of a ‘family’.” (Alison Knight)

“I wasn’t the same person who arrived as the person who left. This weekend has reminded me that it is OK to be me.” (Andy Wight)

“I feel so relaxed at the gatherings. As my physical health throws so much at me, I seem to spend most of my time asking for help and explaining what I need, asking and explaining, asking and explaining…. to be honest it is hard not to feel on the edge of life, left out and left behind unless I make enormous efforts. At the gatherings, I feel totally different. I may need to ask for help sometimes but I definitely never need to explain. Often I don’t even need to ask as my challenges are understood and catered for. The gatherings are one of the highlights of my year.” (Anna Lickley)

“I think the gatherings reinforce the fact that there is life after an NF2 diagnosis or going deaf. It might be a bit more challenging than before but it’s a challenge worth taking and taking part in life so grab it with both hands. I love seeing the new members take part in things as it reinforces our community and supportive spirit.” (Joanne Ward)

If you would like to get involved with future NF2 Social Gatherings you can check on our website, follow us on Facebook or join our mailing list to keep up to date.