‘Fabulous friendships’ made at camp

Youngsters from throughout Otago and Southland with type 1 diabetes arrive at Berwick Lodge...
Youngsters from throughout Otago and Southland with type 1 diabetes arrive at Berwick Lodge yesterday for an annual camp. PHOTO: GERARD O’BRIEN
Amid the kayaking and abseiling, some youngsters with diabetes have life-changing experiences at an annual Berwick summer camp.

"Some of the amazing activities that they do can be life-changing and confidence-building as well," camp co-ordinator Jenny Rayns said yesterday.

The latest four-day camp began at the Berwick Lodge yesterday and is organised by Diabetes Otago, with strong support from the Southern District Health Board and the University of Otago.

Ms Rayns, an SDHB nurse specialist, is "camp mother" at the latest camp, for 20 children aged 8 to 12 with type 1 diabetes, a form of diabetes that usually develops in childhood.

She has undertaken this role for 20 years, being paid by the SDHB in working hours, but also volunteering the rest of each day, together this year with seven other volunteers, to make the event work.

"The children are very excited," Ms Rayns said.

Associate Prof Ben Wheeler is another team member long involved in the camps.

He is a paediatric endocrinologist and paediatrician working at the University of Otago department of women’s and children’s health, and at the SDHB.

"It’s certainly an exciting thing to look forward to for a lot of the kids," Prof Wheeler said.

While the youngsters were enjoying themselves with a host of physical activities, "we sneakily teach them about diabetes constantly, especially about exercise", Prof Wheeler said.

Exercise was beneficial for youngsters with diabetes, and they were taught to manage any related difficulties, he said.

Ms Rayns was delighted to see initially shy children coming back to the camp the next year and greeting others again "like meeting an old friend".

"They’re building fabulous friendships which can be lifelong," she said.

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