What a Difference a Day Makes
It had been six long months of lockdown, and six long months since we'd been able to take our young carers out for the day, but in August - at long last - our face-to-face activity days were finally back in action!
Our Memory-Making programme has been running since our foundation in 2013. Its purpose is to create for young carers much needed opportunities for relaxation, leisure and social connection. By hosting groups of up to 20 young carers and organising fun and enriching activities for them to take part in, we hope to help young carers feel part of a community and maintain positive mental health.
Our first day back in full swing took place at Burnbake Ropes Course in Rempstone Forest. There, a high ropes course, low ropes course and even a trapeze lay in wait for our young carers to try their hand at. After months pent up inside, it seemed the perfect place to let the kids blow off some steam.
In any group of young carers, there's always a range of characters, and that day's group were no different to any other. Some were bold and brave, and would have been swinging from the treetops within the first five minutes had they had the chance. Others were more apprehensive - fearful of heights, or nervous about meeting new people. One, in particular - the little girl with the bright green raincoat - seemed almost frozen to the spot when she arrived. She was quiet. Shy. She knew none of the other children and looked uncomfortable. I understood her position. After months of lockdown, this was new to us all, and nobody could have blamed her for needing time to warm up.
First things first, we ate some lunch. Caught up on everything we'd missed during lockdown. Shared thoughts and feelings about going back to school. Several of the more nervous children seemed visibly to relax within minutes, and to open up. But the little girl in the bright green raincoat remained mute. I kept an eye on her. Tried to put her at ease.
After lunch, the instructors arrived and introduced themselves. They gave the kids their harnesses and helmets, and divided them up into groups. By now, the children were laughing and joking with one another, chatting as if they'd known each other for years. All except one. The little girl in the bright green raincoat. I caught her eye and gave her a smile.
As the first child prepared to brave the dizzying heights of the high ropes course, I turned away to grab myself a helmet. I put it on, clipped it up, stepped into my harness. When I turned back, I couldn't believe my eyes. The child was already at the very tip-top of the course, swinging from monkey bars some thirty feet up in the sky. Even more amazing? It was the girl in the bright green raincoat. As she made her descent, the other young carers whooped and cheered, and by the time she reached the floor, a very definite smile had spread across her face.
As less confident climbers stepped forward one by way to take their turn, she showed patience and enormous kindness in supporting them to overcome their fears. By the end of the day, the little girl in the green raincoat was giving instructions, sharing techniques and asking others for their advice. She was one of the gang - almost a different child to the child that had arrived that morning. It's remarkable: the difference that just one day can make. For some, a group of supportive peers can have huge impact. For others, it's about having the chance to try something new, and turn off from everyday stresses. For the little girl in the bright green raincoat, it was about excelling at something and feeling accepted and admired by her peers.
Before she left, she completed a survey for us. She ticked the box that said she'd gained more confidence. She ticked the box that said she'd made friends. Even better, she ticked the box that said she'd like to come back and take part in another MYTime activity.
And who knows the impact that the next day out might have on her? It was a wonderful day, for the girl in the green raincoat, for all the children, and for me too. Now, on the brink of a second lockdown, our activity days are on pause once again. But one thing's for sure. Our Memory-Making Programme will be back in full swing just as soon as it is able to be, and that day can't come a minute too soon!
Computers Donated to MYTIME Young Carers will Make an 'Immediate, Positive Difference'
Dorset-based charity, MYTIME Young Carers, has received a donation of three computers from Computers4Charity, and 12 laptops from Bell Integration.
The charity helps to level the playing field for young carers aged 5 to 25, by providing the support, opportunities and friendship that every child deserves.
Penny Day, Development Manager, said: “We started applying for laptops after being contacted by the Dorset Young Carers Team at Dorset Council.
“They informed us of some young carers who had been struggling to access our popular MYTime@Home programme and online Youth Group as they did not have access to a computer.
“This had also impacted directly on their ability to engage with their school online learning programme.
“We know that having these computers will make an immediate, positive difference to their lives and education.
“It’s incredibly satisfying to be able to support these young people in this way.”
George Cook, Honorary CEO of Computers4Charity said, “We love what MYTIME does, providing young carers with the support, friendship, respite, retreats and opportunities.
“What a fabulous charity. We are delighted to donate three laptops for their use.
“Everyone should be encouraged to dig deep and support such an important cause.”
Computers4Charity supports a diverse mix of charities in multiple sectors. Safety and security of donations is paramount, and all computer items are 100 per cent tracked and traced, data wiped, safety tested, environmentally compliant and software licence legal. Donations of unwanted computers, preventing them from being scrapped or dumped, are always welcomed.
Provision in a Pandemic: Stepping Up for Young Carers
The outbreak of Coronavirus has impacted us all, and nobody more so than our young carers. Facing increased caring responsibilities and subjected to heightened levels of social isolation, young carers have needed the support of MYTime more than ever this year, and we weren’t about to let them down.
Since our foundation in 2013, we have worked to tackle high stress levels and feelings of loneliness by bringing the young carer community together. With social gatherings prohibited by law from the 23rd March, our usual modes of supporting young carers suddenly became redundant. One thing was clear: we needed to find ways to adapt, and fast.
It took us less than three weeks from the day that lockdown was announced to launch the first stage of our emergency Covid-19 response, MYTime@Home. Based on the 5 ways to wellbeing this programme was designed to provide young carers with easily accessible opportunities for leisure and relaxation, and to help support their mental wellbeing. Via YouTube, we set about curating and releasing a series of online video activities for young carers to join in with at home. Today, these videos have been viewed more than 1500 times,and shared across the nation by organisations such as Military Young Carers, Warwickshire Young Carers and Isle of Wight Young Carers too.
Next came an exciting collaboration with the creative arts charity, Create. Together, we hosted a three day Zoom photography workshop for six young carers in May half term. The workshop allowed the children to find beauty and inspiration within the four walls of their homes, and incorporated plenty of opportunities for teamwork. The project culminated in parents and siblings gathering around their computer screens to watch an online presentation of the work that had been produced, and to celebrate the achievements of the children involved. 100% of participants said that the workshop had helped to enhance their creativity, that they had made new friends and that they had enjoyed the project. We’d call that a success!
Inspired by the opportunity for social connection that our photography workshop had created, we soon launched a weekly Zoom Youth Group for young carers. Each session centred around a different activity, from circus skills, to drumming, to yoga. When participants needed equipment to be able to join in, for example ingredients for a baking session, we organised home deliveries to make sure no one was left out. Since the launch of the Zoom Youth Group in May, over 40 young carers have attended. Of these, 100% have reported that they enjoyed the youth group very much and felt less stressed as a result of attending. Of those who reported feeling lonely prior to a session, 100% have also reported feeling less socially isolated afterwards. Our Zoom Youth Group will continue throughout this second phase of lockdown and beyond.
The final strand of our Covid-19 response provision was by far the furthest outside of our usual remit. While our other programmes aimed to address levels of stress and isolation in young carers, our Food Provision Programme catered to a more basic and fundamental need. Too young to drive or to travel to shops on their own, young carers often depend on supermarket home delivery services for their food shopping. Because they were not recognised as a 'clinically vulnerable' group by government, many were unable to access these services during lockdown, and so struggled to access food. Some had to rely on local corner shops with inflated prices, and consequently found themselves unable to afford three meals a day. Through our Food Provision Programme, and with the help of an amazing team of volunteers from the Bike Shed Motorcycle Club, we delivered the weekly food shopping to 20 of the most vulnerable young carers in Dorset and their families. Our community really got behind us, enabling us to continue to deliver this vital service throughout lockdown and beyond, and ultimately, we have been able to deliver a total of 143 food shops.
It’s been a tough and unpredictable year. We’ve needed to move quickly and proactively to meet the emerging needs of young carers, and we’ve had to stay strong, focused and positive throughout. It’s been challenging, but we’ve been endlessly inspired by the incredible resilience and stoicism of our amazing young carers. They’ve taken the unimaginable in their stride this year, and we are proud and privileged to have been able to support them when they’ve needed it most. We cannot know what the future may bring now. We cannot know how our ‘new normal’ will evolve. But what we do know is that we will continue to do our best for young carers and to support them, however we can, no matter what the future holds.