Nathan’s missed a lot of school recently. His mother is a paraplegic, and while they get some home care it’s only three days a week. So he often needs to stay home to cook and clean, and help bathe and dress her. The other kids at school don’t understand the caring role Nathan has, and he is often teased for it. Nathan is 13.

 

Jessica is 11 and doesn’t have much time for friends. She is too busy caring for her younger siblings, and worrying about her mother. After a violent attack late at night from her ex-partner, Jessica’s mother recently attempted suicide.

These are just two of the 132 young people that regularly attend the St Nick’s Young Carers program run by the St Vincent de Paul Society Canberra/Goulburn.

12 August marks International Youth Day. One of the goals the UN has for marking the day is to encourage safe spaces for youths where they can come together to engage in activities related to their diverse needs and interests, and freely express themselves. 

St Nick’s gives this to young carers who otherwise don’t have the opportunity to just be children.

This year marks 20 years since the St Nick’s Young Carers Program started providing weekend activities and school holiday camps as respite and recreation for young people between 9-17 years who take on a caring role for a family member.

Activities on camp include swimming, outdoor adventure activities, art, games, sport, a disco and Carers Time. Carers Time focuses on building the self-esteem and resilience of the young people, while giving them an opportunity to share their situation and learn from the experience of other Young Carers.

Nathan has been attending St Nick’s camps and activities for four years. He enjoys the opportunities to have a break and have fun with other kids who understand his experiences.

When Jessica arrived at the last camp she was so worried about her mother she wanted to call her a few times every day, and her younger siblings were worried their mother’s ex-partner would come back, and so refused to go outside at night, even for a bonfire or games like Spotlight. Volunteers at the camp were able to engage the children in activities like creating a book for their Mum about all their happy family memories. The kids soon started participating in activities and making friends. The camp allowed the children a week of respite and recreation and their mother time to get the professional help she needed.

 

9 August 2018