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Young carers take time out for themselves

Over February half-term, 12 young carers from across West Kent participated in a bespoke overnight residential programme designed to offer them a new experience which would both challenge and inspire them, pushing themselves physically to achieve their personal goals. 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.

Supported by Jan Hall and Marie Smith from Crossroads Care West Kent in Mereworth (, which provides vital backup, such as weekly groups where the young carers come together to 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 and 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 a high percentage of young carers never fulfil their true academic potential.

“It is vital for these young people to have time to themselves, where they can take a break from the responsibility and worry, and have the opportunity to experience new things and make firm friendships with other carers, thereby forming an important peer support network”, said Jan Hall

Over the two-day outdoor programme with Challenger Troop CIC, they learned basic survival skills, including firelighting and shelter-building. In addition, they also learned safe knife skills and made tent pegs in the shape of foxes.

Fox tent pegs Bushcraft

They took on the daunting challenge of a military-style obstacle course comprising a series of exercises designed to test both mental and physical strength. In teams, they had to climb over, crawl under, balance, jump, hang and swing their way through many different obstacles.

After building a fire, cooking and eating al fresco they undertook a lamp stalk and night patrols, which ensured they were nicely warmed up before sleeping outside in bell tents on one of the coldest nights of the year.

The early morning frost and cold could not dampen their enthusiasm, as Day Two of the programme was, for many, the highlight. This would be their opportunity to try archery and air rifles, something they had all been looking forward to, with Jan and Euan showing promise at both activities.

Following this session, the youngsters were introduced to camouflage and concealment and the laser guns, and then the games began…

Neil Andrews, Challenger Troop Instructor in change of the programme, was clearly impressed. He said “They had a great time, letting their hair down, focussing on themselves and thoroughly enjoying all the activities. 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.”

Matthew, one of the participants, said “Thank you guys for an awesome weekend. It was brilliant!!!”

Jan added, “They were all so excited to come on this trip, thank you for the wonderful opportunity, giving them a break from their usual every day caring responsibilities. They would love to repeat the experience.”

If you are in an organisation and would like more information on our bespoke programmes please ring on 0845 548 5070

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Posted: 9, March, 2016
by Kevin Campbell

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"Outdoor learning is giving them back their childhood wonder and curiosity at new things, allowing them to experience the marvel of discovery and the learning that comes from taking risks"

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