By Georgie-Ann Cox

On 27 January we waited at Wellington Airport as 30 teens flew in from all over Aotearoa to join us for Teens Camp 2023. The previous two years have been cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so connecting in person felt extra special this year. Seeing these young adults have the courage and success in catching flights – some even connecting ones, was fantastic. Some lucky teens even got a quick photo and selfie in with the former Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, as she was spotted in the airport. Anticipation filled the air as more and more attendees arrived, and before we knew it, we were on the bus headed to camp.

We watched relationships strengthen as the night went on; hours flew by filled with laughter while our teen leaders took the camp attendees through team-building games. Guessing each other’s age – without words! Learning about each other’s hometowns and families, and a paper folding game which was much harder than it looked.

The weekend was spent exploring El Rancho camp and enjoying the action-packed activities. We didn’t let the rain stop us as we headed to raft building and kayaking – I think most of us ended the morning quite wet! We played mini golf at the pool, rock climbed, and battled in soft archery.

The educational session with nurse specialist Nicola Gray was a highlight too. Nicola said spending time with her young patients outside of a clinical setting was special. It was an opportunity to talk about issues that the youth leaders had highlighted during the co-design of the camp as important topics, such as transitioning into adult rheumatology care. Having our youth leaders answer questions allowed for open conversations, with lived experiences, advice, and support.

The theme for Teen Camp 2023 was Connection. The Youth Advisory Group wanted to offer a place for young people with arthritis to feel connected, make lifelong friends, and understand that they are not alone in living well with Arthritis.

“Hosting Teens Camp is a fantastic opportunity for young people with arthritis to connect with others who share similar experiences in a safe and supportive environment. Young people may feel isolated or misunderstood by their peers so attending the camp helps them develop a sense of community and belonging, leading to improved mental health, self-esteem, empowerment, and quality of life. We do our best to host these camps each year because we recognise their significant impact on young people with arthritis. By creating a positive and supportive experience, we aim to inspire young people to become volunteers within Arthritis NZ. This will help build a strong foundation for engaging with and supporting the arthritis community in the future.” – Teens Camp Co-ordinators, Arthritis NZ.

Teens Camp would not have been possible without the generosity of our donors.

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