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Issue 89, June 2005


The eleventh Annual Young Peoples Camp was held from 19-23 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 12-26 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 12 participants at the Camp – one each from Auckland and Wellington; two each from Blenheim, Invercargill and Greymouth; and four from Christchurch. Their ages ranged from 12-20 years. For eight of the participants this was their first Camp. As with other Camps, 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. From my experience this is the most appropriate and most successful approach for these Camps.

These activities encouraged confidence, fostered trust and cooperation amongst the participants, as well as provided an environment where mutual respect and support were nurtured.

The outdoor activities, which were very popular, consisted of high rope activities, flying fox, horizontal bungee, indoor rock climbing, go-karts, kayaking and river rafting. The Campers were encouraged to find a “special” stone from the Otaki River and to “store” all their special memories and thoughts of the Camp in this stone. Each participant shared with the other Campers why they had chosen the particular stone and the special thoughts and memories they had stored in it.

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

A number of sessions were focused on aspects of HD. The participants discussed “What HD means to me”, “Difficult/stressful things about HD”, “Unhealthy ways to cope with HD”, “Healthy ways to cope with HD” and “Where to go for help”. As usual there was a Question Box and participants were encouraged to leave in it any questions on aspects of HD, anonymously. The questions were discussed and answered during one of the HD sessions.

The objectives of the Camp were achieved, new friendships were made and old friendships strengthened. The bonds formed and the sharing of “stories”, will lead to continuing mutual support.

Such a Camp can only be successful with the appropriate facilitation and help. As well as David, I wish to also acknowledge the help from Carla Perry and Lynn Farrow, both Social Workers with the Wellington Association.

To all the Campers - thank you for coming and for sharing your stories and knowledge on HD – we look forward to welcoming you to the next Camp.

To all those who supported the Camp financially, including many family members, Sir Roy McKenzie, MS West Coast Society Inc, Marlborough HD Support Group, Southland MS Society, Adams Hope Trust Greymouth, Lion Foundation, NZ Community Trust, Pelorus Trust, Phoenix Trust, Huntington’s Disease Association (Auckland) and Huntington’s Disease Association (Christchurch), our heartfelt thanks to you. Without your help this Camp would not have happened.

Dorothy Tortell
Senior Social Worker

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