I recently came across a company called Go Provence, offering
"supported holidays" for kids and adults with learning disabilities,
autism and other challenges. The goal is to provide stimulating, fun and safe
vacations for all ages in the South of France...and I think what they're doing is fantastic.
Go Provence was founded in 2010 by British expats Ian Callen, Anna
Callen and Neil Manser. While they cater primarily to clients from the UK,
they've had guests come from elsewhere in Europe and from the US as well.
Based near the Gorges du Verdon, in a spectacularly beautiful part
of Provence, Go Provence offers all-inclusive themed holidays that mix outdoor
adventure, excursions and relaxation.
For those who need it, they can even accompany clients to and from
the UK. There are also off-season trips, such as alearn-to-ski trip in
Andorrain January, 2017 (more on that below) and a trip to Italy in
Dates for all 2017 trips have just been posted on the company’s
websitehere. Themes include
Wildlife Photography, Trekking, Wolf Tracking, World Cuisine, Great
Adventure, Music Week, Art Holiday, Discover Provence, Water Holiday, Great Adventure and School of Rock. There will be also be a special week in Provence designed for
people who use wheelchairs. How great is that?
Go Provence also creates customized, private holidays for four
people or more.
For family members and full-time carers who choose to stay in
Provence at the same time, Go Provence will happily arrange accommodation
nearby, in the village of Esparron de Verdon.
Ian and Anna Callen have lived in Provence, near the Gorges du
Verdon, since 2007; they have three children. Ian worked previously at The
Olive Tree International School in nearby Quinson, teaching photography,
horticulture, conservation, biology and astronomy to children with challenging
behaviour. There’s a very nice story about himhere.
Anna also has a background in teaching children, particularly
those with dyslexia and challenging behavior. She formerly worked for the local
Tourist Office and knows the area exceedingly well.
has lived in France for 20 years after having worked with special-need kids in
the UK and with special-need adults in Malaysia. His training is in social
care, epilepsy and Midazolam, safeguarding vulnerable adults and the Mental
Capacity Act. Neil is the Go Provence chef and lives near St. Tropez.
All the Go Provence staff are fully bi-lingual (French and
English) and experienced and first-aid trained to a Red Cross standard. The
facility is registered with a local doctor and nurse and has access to
For those interested in an active winter getaway, Go Provence is
offering a five-night learn-to-ski holiday in Catalan-speaking Andorra in
January. Guests will fly from Gatwick to Toulouse, France on January 8, then
travel by mini bus to the beautiful Pyrenean village of Arinsal, set 1467m
above sea level. They’ll stay (full board) at the Hotel Solana for five nights,
enjoying five days at ski school with fully qualified instructors, ski
gear and boarding passes included. Support will be on hand 24/7; the trip is
€2090 per person. The registration deadline for the ski trip is October
24 and it only happens if there are five guests or more. More on the ski trip
Heading into their seventh year with Go Provence, Ian says the
team feels enormous pride in what they’ve helped their clients accomplish.
“We love seeing them achieve their goals,” he tells me. “We had a
client Ed, a great photographer who had won awards for his work but couldn't
find anyone to give him an exhibition. We were able to arrange a show for him
in a local restaurant. We had an opening evening, the local press turned up and
Ed sold five photos. As you can imagine, he was a very happy man."
Just around the time I was writing this, Ian emailed to tell me about his newest offering, a program called Travel Buddies, providing travel planning support and travel companions for a wide range of destinations. And in the months to come, Go Provence plans to add supported
backpacking holidays around Europe, a Northern Lights holiday in Sweden and
volunteer holidays in developing countries.
“We want to change the way that people with special needs
travel...and increase their opportunities to do so...to the point where access
to travel becomes standard,” Ian says. “Travel is so important to ones sense of
happiness! A friend of mine, who worked in a hospice sitting with terminally
ill people during their last days, once told me that when people looked back at
their lives and talked about their regrets, they didn’t mention money or
careers. He said that they wished they had spent more time with their family
and friends...and that they had traveled more.”
For more info, photos, mailing list sign-up and other details,
visit the websitehere. Ian also writes a
blog about the Gorges du Verdon, which you can seehere.
Photos: (1-8) Among the many activities offered to Go Provence clients are
kayaking, market shopping, painting, adventure sports, farm visits and photography. (9) In January 2017, the company will host a ski trip to Andorra. (10-12) Go Provence summer holidays are based in a large country house one
kilometer from the village of Moustiers Sainte-Marie, considered among the
most beautiful in Provence. The house was restored in the winter of
2013/14. It has a lovely garden with views over to Moustiers and the breathtaking Gorges du