I have been in the Scottish care system since primary 7 and lived in 3 foster homes. I’m still in care, but now I don’t feel as small as I used to. My main friend group have all been involved in the care system.
We all met through a charity who work with Care Experienced young people for “A Lifetime of Equality, Respect and Love for Care Experienced people” called Who Cares? Scotland. I have often felt like an outcast because of my background in the care system. I have felt shut out and rejected.
But becoming part of Who Cares? Scotland has opened up doors and I started feeling less isolated. I became proud of who I was.
The first time I heard about the WC?S summer camp I wanted to go, but sadly I was too young. Over the course of a year, I waited patiently and when applications came out I jumped at the chance. When I found out that I was going, I was ecstatic. I got the list of equipment needed and started gathering the essentials. I was told that camp was open to people taking musical instruments, so I thought that I would take my saxophone but my carer at the time told me I wasn’t allowed to. This annoyed me but I was so excited for camp I didn’t really care anyway.
Finally the day rolled around and it was time to go to camp. My WC?S advocacy worker was driving a minibus of young people down from the Highlands and the Western Isles to camp. I knew everyone on the bus and the journey down was really fun. We had a laugh and a giggle and listened to the band Skippinish.
I was unsure of what to expect from camp but as soon as I set foot on the campsite, I was welcomed like an old friend and then shown to my tent. I was sharing my tent with two of the boys on my bus so it wasn’t like I didn’t know anyone, which meant I wasn’t scared at all. We put our stuff in the tent and organised our sleeping bags then went to explore.
I met up with the others from my bus who had been before and they showed me about and introduced me to people. One of the crew members I met first was Euan. I will always remember this moment because he made me feel something I hadn’t felt in a while. He made me feel normal. He didn’t ask stupid questions about me being in care, he spoke to me like I was part of a family, and in that moment I realised I was family. I may not have been related to him but I was family.
I realised all these people at camp were all the same, we had something in common and we owned it.
Too officially start camp we went into the mess tent and were welcomed and introduced to the camp Chief. The great thing about the Chief is they change every camp. Our chief was called Caroline. I didn’t find out her actual name till a year later when I met her again, because all I knew her by at camp was Chief. I think the greatest rule of camp, is if someone does something that you don’t like then you get to present a case of why they should be dunked in the river. I specifically remember Brevie getting dunked because he cheated during a game of rounders. My number one favourite thing about camp is the people. We could be in the worst campsite and have the worst weather but we would still have fun.
Whilst at camp we had an opportunity to go river-tubing. We drove for half an hour to get to the activity centre, got given wetsuits then off we went. We started with jumping off a cliff, then got into our tubes and started floating away down the river. We sang, we fell off our rings, we chanted and we had fun. The challenge whilst floating down the river was to stand up on our rings. I tried but fell a lot. It was really fun and I made more friends.
There are only 2 things I didn’t like about camp, the toilets and the end. The toilets are just ewww and the end of camp is just really sad. Imagine saying goodbye to your best friends knowing that you won’t see them for at least a year, then multiply that by 10 because that’s how I felt at that moment. I hated having to say goodbye to all these amazing people that I had met but I was lucky to be able to keep in contact with some of them.
I will always remember this camp as it was my first and favourite year of going. Since this camp, I have been back once and plan to go again this year. After that first camp, I realised something else. I realised that people do care and that I will always have people to talk to no matter what. After camp, I felt different, I felt better about who I was, and I felt able to share that part of my identity. I owned it.