Young Carers in Camouflage
Earlier this week, I visited 14 young carers from Kent who were participating in an overnight residential programme run by our West Kent team.
I learned that these young people, aged between 12 and 17, are, in the majority of cases, the sole carer for a member of their family and some of them bear this responsibility alone for up to 50 hours a week.
They are supported by Jan Hall and Sophie Butler from Crossroads Care West Kent, Mereworth, Kent ( www.carerskm.org), which provides vital support to these youngsters such as weekly groups where they come together and discuss issues and talk to others in similar circumstances. They can also learn coping strategies as well as how to undertake what many of us would describe as adult tasks – how to administer vital medication, how to run a household, which would include planning and preparing a weekly menu as well as managing household budgets. As if this is not enough to cope with, on top of dealing with the emotional element of caring for a sick loved one, many of these youngsters still go to school but, sadly, statistics show that they are not going to achieve their academic potential and many young adult carers aged from 16-18 are twice as likely as their peers to be not in education, employment or training (NEET).
Jan Hall told me that it is “vital for these young people to have time to themselves, where they can have a break from the responsibility and worry, and have the opportunity to experience new things and make firm friendships with other carers, thereby forming a vital peer support network. This network is like an invisible bond; they hold each other in such high regard, and respect each individual’s circumstances and experience. Many of the friendships forged between carers are stronger than those formed with their friends at school because of the similarity of their experiences and mutual respect”.
Over the two-day programme with Challenger Troop, the young carers have been out in the woods, being themselves, playing camouflage and concealment games, both in daylight and in the pitch black. They slept and ate
outside under the trees before undertaking a simulated first-aid emergency scenario which involved assessing the situation and administering emergency first-aid before evacuating the ‘casualty’ from ‘behind enemy lines’. After a quick snack (once the ‘casualty’ had been safely despatched in the ‘ambulance’), the highlight of the programme of activities commenced – the laser guns. Divided into two teams, it was full-on attack mode.
The youngsters were clearly having a great time, letting their hair down, focussing on themselves and thoroughly enjoying all the activities. One youngster told me he was so keen not be seen by Challenger Troop Instructors in the camouflage and concealment exercise that he lay in a muddy, wet puddle! Another told me he “would have won had he not been sabotaged by a team-mate giving away his position”.
Charlie Coster, Challenger Troop’s West Kent Team Leader said, “What a great bunch of young people! I truly admire their spirit and determination. They have relished the games and activities we devised for them and I am convinced that we have given them new skills and many happy memories to take away.”
Jan added, “They were all so excited to come on this trip, but it has exceed all expectations. Thank you so much Challenger Troop”.
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