Diabetes camps are extremely special for those with type 1 diabetes. Meeting a person with type 1 who hasn’t heard or been on a camp is a rarity. For many of those who have been on such camps, it is often a life changing event for both the camper and their family. You can also guarantee that even for volunteers who don’t have diabetes, camp would have left an imprint in their memories.
Earlier in the year, I had the pleasure of coordinating the two Family Camps, which were held at Anglesea. Together with two other volunteer coordinators and the camps coordinator from DA – Vic, countless numbers of emails and phone calls were exchanged in the months leading up to the event to ensure that everything we could prepare for was done. For us volunteers, coordinating this was done amidst busy teaching periods, studying for exams and other personal commitments. I am extremely proud of the work that we have done to provide families and young kids with type 1 diabetes very positive and memorable camps.
Family camp is easily one of my favourite camps amongst all diabetes camps. It’s a very small and intimate camp with up to 25 campers aged 4–7 years old, accompanied by a parent. For many families, this is a fantastic opportunity for them to meet other parents who understand what they are going through. It’s great to have the parents mingle and also talk to leaders with diabetes about their experiences growing up. More importantly, it shows them that their kids have the same potential as the next kid on the block. Diabetes does not have to stop them from doing anything they set their minds to. I think all our leaders are fantastic role models in that sense. Even the leaders without diabetes. It’s also great for leaders to hear about the experiences parents face when bringing up a child with diabetes. Sometimes in our busy lives, where we are independently managing our diabetes that we forget our humble beginnings or basic support network. It gives me a new appreciative outlook on parents altogether. I especially hold parents of kids with diabetes in great stead as I can’t imagine the emotional turmoil that they go through at times.
For the kids, this will often be the first time that they will meet others their age with diabetes. This small detail is sometimes enough for them to build lifelong friendships. I have seen many kids who arrive on camp quiet as a mouse but completely come out of their shells by the time they go home. It’s a remarkable change that even amazes their parents. Camps are also a time for THEM to be the majority for a change. Where everyone understands how much it sucks to have a low, and you don’t have to feel embarrassed or ashamed of injecting or testing around everyone because hey, everyone else is doing it too!
Through camps, kids build their independence and confidence, particularly with their diabetes management. But they also pick up tips and advice from fellow PWDs on dealing with life in general, with diabetes in tow. Being part of this process of empowering kids that anything is possible, is enough reason for me to keep volunteering with Diabetes Camp Victoria for as long as possible.