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Issue 97, June 2007


by Lynn Farrow
Social Worker, Wellington HDA

The Twelfth Young Peoples Camp was held from 18-21 April at the El Rancho Holiday Park, Waikanae, which is situated about one hour north of Wellington. All young people from Huntington's families throughout New Zealand, between the ages of 12-18 years, were welcome to participate.

The Objectives of the Camps are:
  • to enable young people from families with HD to meet others from similar circumstances
  • to share information and experiences about HD
  • to support each other and by doing so, develop a mutual support network
  • to have fun

The Camp operates as a special support group and has many positive features; it can be a source of power for participants; it provides access to accurate information, and genuine support, help and friendship; provides an opportunity to express anger with Huntington's and fears about the future; creates a sense of belonging and "being in the same boat; overcoming feelings of isolation; and provides an opportunity to get feedback about coping and to share coping techniques.

There were nine participants at the Camp (including one 19yr old youth helper) - one from Wellington; two from the Manawatu; two from Taranaki; one each from Invercargill and Greymouth; and two from Christchurch. For five of the participants this was their first Camp. All participants very quickly got to know and respect each other and soon were offering knowledge, support and encouragement to each other.

This Camp was run on a similar basis as past Camps with a mixture of indoor and outdoor activities. These activities encouraged confidence, fostered trust and cooperation amongst the participants. The outdoor activities, which were very popular, consisted of high rope activities, flying kiwi low ropes, go-karts, and river rafting.

Other activities included evening indoor sports and an interactive art experience at Cogitate, Petone. Amongst other activities owner Cathy Gilpin invited campers to throw balloons filled with paint at a large piece of canvas to create a one off masterpiece. As you can imagine the kids really 'threw' themselves into this and had a ball, all in the name of Art.

David Clegg, a highly skilled facilitator with full outdoor safety qualifications and an acknowledged expert in Adventure Based Learning and Adventure Therapy, organised and facilitated all the outdoor activities. David has been involved in five other Camps run by the Wellington Association and his input has been invaluable in organising these outdoor activities

We also ran a number of discussion groups focusing on aspects of HD. The participants discussed what HD was and how knowing about it made them feel; "difficult/stressful things about HD", "unhealthy ways to cope with HD", "healthy ways to cope with HD" and "where to go for help". Kara Hitchman genetic counsellor from genetic services, Wellington Hospital led an informal talk on the genetics of HD, and issues around HD testing.

We had one final surprise activity for the campers before camp ended on the Saturday morning. David reliably informs me that it was not until his rental van packed full of inquisitive campers entered the grounds of Helipro that they finally guessed what was last on our 'to do' list. Thanks to the generosity of staff at Helipro all campers were given the opportunity to co-pilot their helicopter (not just have a ride) as they went on a scenic flight over the Kapiti Coast. I knew we had done well when the first participant came dashing over, bouncing and laughing to tell us how "awesome and wicked" the experience had been. One of many priceless moments during the camp.

To all the Campers - thank you for coming and for sharing your stories and knowledge on HD. Thank you for the support you showed each other, your team work, respect and honesty. It was a real privilege to work with you all.

Such a Camp can only be successful with the appropriate facilitation and help. As well as David, Carla Perry Social Worker for Taranaki, Manawatu and Palmerston North became our official 'camp mother' and did an awesome job insuring the campers stayed fit, healthy and well fed. Thank you also to Kara for volunteering to be part of the camp and Johny for all his assistance. Great work guys.

To all those who supported the Camp financially, including family members, Southland MS Society, Child Youth and Family Services, Pelorus Trust, Phoenix Trust, Huntington's Disease Associations (Christchurch and Wellington), Pak'n Save Paraparaumu, our heartfelt thanks to you. Without your help this Camp would not have happened.

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