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What is Children’s Camp?
Each year in late February or early March, about 30 children, their caregivers, and siblings attend the Arthritis New Zealand camp for children with JIA and other rheumatological conditions – a weekend filled with fun and information. The camp provides a safe environment for activities like abseiling, flying fox, archery, raft building, kayaking, or they can relax by soaking in the hot pool.
Who can come to Children’s Camp?
The camp is for children who have been referred from a paediatric rheumatologist and recently diagnosed with a rheumatological condition.
Health professionals attend to answer parents’ questions, and several young people return every year as leaders and to share their own experience of living with a rheumatological condition.
What is the benefit of attending Children’s Camp?
Families often find camp a considerable boost as they discover they’re not the only ones living with these conditions. It’s a chance to make friends with others who understand what they’re going through. “I’m not alone anymore,” is a common response.
2019 Children’s Camp
The 2019 Arthritis New Zealand Children’s Camp was a roaring success. Nearly 100 people attended the weekend-long event that took place from Friday 1 March to Sunday 3 March in Matamata.
The children discussed their challenges of living with arthritis and shared their solutions in support group sessions. In these groups, they found friends and peers who have a similar diagnosis and are walking the same path.
The other side of the camp was to give the children a jam-packed weekend full of activities. These included games inside the gym and out in the sun, including the flying kiwi, flying fox, mini golf, Burma trail, foam slide, archery, wall climbing, kayaking, building rafts and racing them, top town, swimming, and heaps more.
Eight-year-old Rosie Goldie-Anderson was diagnosed with Systemic Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis 18 months ago. “I made one friend, Isla. She is my age and has the same diagnosis as me and takes the same medicine. She even likes Harry Potter, like me!” she said.
Dan, Rosie’s dad, said that going to camp and meeting other families on the same journey was fantastic. “It’s great to be around people who understand the journey to diagnosis, medication, and dealing with this condition that flares and goes away,” he said.
Members of the New Zealand Paediatric Rheumatology Service gave in-depth, informative sessions to parents, while the children had the time of their lives.
The teen and youth leaders had one extra day before camp and were taught about leadership to help run activities during camp. All of the youth leaders were aged from 15 years and older, and each one has a form of arthritis. Five brave teenagers Madi, Evelyn, Jayden, TP and Tessa, opted to be on the panel in front of the parents and introduce themselves and their journey. After that, the parents asked the teens questions about living with arthritis. Parents came away from the session with quotes they will carry with them forever. “One of them said ‘it does get better, and the pain won’t last forever’, when talking about flare-ups, and that will stay with me,” said Dan.
Arthritis New Zealand CE Philip Kearney is proud of the annual Children’s Camp. “This event is one of our flagship events. It is truly humbling to hear about the experiences of both the children and parents alike. To see the children making new friends, trying out activities and just being ‘kids’ is rewarding. The ability for parents to hear from specialists, share their journeys and support each other is also invaluable. My thanks must go to the fantastic group of volunteers and staff that helped make this possible.”
Arthritis can affect anyone at any age and new figures* released in 2018 reveal that more than 647,000 people in New Zealand have arthritis, 48% of which are of working age.
The report shows that there is an increasing number of people getting diagnosed with arthritis and the number is projected to be one million by 2040.
2019 Photo Gallery
Help us make a difference for the 670,000 + affected by arthritis in New Zealand. To donate towards the costs of Children’s Camp, click here to go to our Donate page.