On 3 to 7 August, YMCA St Paul’s Group will take ten young carers aged 10-13 years camping at YMCA Fairthorne in Southampton.
Here, they will get to do all sorts of fun and outdoorsy activities, including sailing, kayaking, raft building and canoeing. In the evenings, they will sit under the stars around a camp fire, barbecuing and telling stories…
However, although this definitely is a great adventure for the young carers, it’s also something more. For these young people, the camp also provides respite from stressful home lives, and a chance to be carefree and to play and make friends with young people who are in a similar situation to themselves.
Worries about family members
“All the young people at this year’s residential camp are young carers, but in different situations,” says Myke Catterall, Head of Children’s Work at YMCA St Paul’s Group.
Diane White, Manager of Kingston Young Carers, says a young carer is “someone who has somebody in their family with an illness”.
She adds that: “this is obviously a very wide definition and it can be a sibling, a parent or a grandparent. It does not mean they are the sole carer in the family, who do all the cleaning, cooking and caring, but rather that they have a family member that they worry about. Also, it often means their family situation is such that they miss out on a lot of activities their peers take part in”.
“The children we work with are a strong community, who take strength from each other. They give each other support at school as well, because unfortunately, some young carers experience being bullied,” Diane says.
Builds confidence and personal growth
“Some of the carers at this year’s Residential have very stressful home lives. Often , the parents need to focus so much of their energy on the family member who is not well, that the young carers are left to themselves a bit”.
“For the young carers, then, to get away for a week and to focus on play and activities is much more than just fun. It also builds confidence and helps them grow and develop as people,” Myke says.
“The activities at the camp challenge them and push their boundaries, which again leaves them with an immense sense of achievement. The activities often makes the young people open up and share their feelings with each other,” he continues.
Had a blast last summer
11 year old Will was a young carer who took part in the 2014 residential camp. Before coming to the camp he had gone through a very tough year, seeing his mum Cara fight cancer and the family go through a messy divorce.
“The fact that the residential camp was organised by YMCA LSW in partnership with Kingston Young Carers and Achieving for Children made it more attractive for Will to go,” mum Cara says.
“His friends and class mates in school all thought it sounded wicked – it was this cool holiday club that everyone envied . Also when we heard that one of his favourite teachers from school, Mr C, was in charge, Will was so excited – he really looked forward to it. The camp was a place where Will could see that ‘It’s not just me’ – other children are going through the stuff he is going through too,” says Cara.
“The point of the camp is to give the young carers some freedom to run around and just be children –to not have any responsibilities or worries and just be happy and play,” says Myke.
Will himself says: “It was really nice to have a break from home. I really missed everyone though, but to be given this opportunity was wicked! I felt I had freedom to just be myself and I had space to play and think.”
A positive effect on the family
Cara hopes that in the future, the scheme will also be available to her younger son Freddie, who also worries a lot and who experiences the same anxieties and issues that Will has struggled with.
“Being alone with four children, I can’t take them away on experiences like these. The residential camp was a fantastic opportunity for Will, and he was so lucky to get on it. It gave him the opportunity to not only try something new, but open up and start to understand his emotions, which has benefited him so much,” she says.
Support the camp
The 2015 Residential Camp still needs to raise £6,500 and we are kindly asking for donations to support the young carers getting an adventure they will remember for a lifetime.