I couldn’t think of a better way to start the year than with diabetes camp! Junior Camp is organised and run annually by Diabetes Camp Victoria for kids with type 1 diabetes aged between 10 and 12 years old. This year, 65 kids had the opportunity to camp at Anglesea YMCA and did activities such as surfing, big swing, indoor rock climbing and had a day out at Geelong Adventure Park. Camps are a fantastic opportunity for kids to make friends with other kids their age living with diabetes. Often I overhear kids exchanging experiences and encouraging each other, which is what camp is about. For this camp, I went with my health professional hat on as a dietitian’s assistant rather than a leader or coordinator. I was grateful for this opportunity as this position is highly sought after but it also gave me the opportunity to sit back and observe camp with a different perspective.
There were many aspects of being a leader that I missed such as opportunities in getting to know the kids. On this camp, my role as the dietitian’s assistant was mostly to go through the amount of carbohydrate campers had on their meal trays or negotiating extra serves of carbohydrates into their meals. Although it was a vastly different role to what I’m used to, that’s not to say I didn’t enjoy it! Observing camp also gave me a renewed appreciation for the coordinating roles on these camps. Having coordinated two Family Camps last year, I can imagine how much background work these guys would have done to get the camp running as smooth as it did. I paid attention to what the coordinators did and took away things that worked well. Hopefully I will get the chance to apply it in future coordinating roles.
The most beautiful part about being a fly on the wall was the chance to watch friendships blossom. Not just between campers, but also between leaders and health professionals. The bonds formed are another reason why many of us have a special place in our hearts for camp. I saw kids (and parents) at check-in who were a nervous wreck. For some of them, this would be their first camp away from parents (or vice versa). Over the 4 days on camp, I continuously heard the amazing accomplishments they achieved. From doing their first injection or line changes by themselves to going all the way to the top on the big swing, these kids gained something each day. I’m pretty sure I also saw magic happen at the disco when the quietest kid broke out with the craziest dance moves! For many of these kids and parents, diabetes camps is a life changing event. They go home with new diabetes management skills as well as good memories. One of the campers told us that although she didn’t bring a camera, she had many good memories in her head, which were even better than photos. To me, hearing statements like those meant equated to a successful camp. Diabetes is a cruel blow for these kids as they are forced to grow up way too quickly, facing the notion of life and death. But their positive attitude and strong will and determination will always continue to inspire me never to give up.