This year, Who Cares? Scotland is hosting its biggest summer camp yet for care experienced people. Chloe, one of our camp leaders, has written about what that week together means for her. You can donate to our Summer Appeal and find out more.
I started thinking about what it meant to be a young person in care when I was fourteen years old.
I was invited to a youth forum on what young people would like to change in care. When I think about it now, I realise how important that moment was: for the first time, outside of the children’s house I grew up in, I got together with other care experienced people to think about change. That has become a theme in my life.
When I heard that Who Cares? Scotland was going to run a summer camp, a week full of activities and sleeping outdoors, I wasn’t sure. I didn’t have any plans for summer but no plan sounds better than no flushing toilets and sleeping on the ground.
I also wasn’t sure about the whole camp vibe. Although I was sure it would be friendly, I’m suspicious of people who are happy all the time. On every TV show I have watched, camp leaders are definitely too happy. That isn’t me.
Despite that, I signed myself up. Getting to spend a week with people who get me and understand what it’s like to grow up in care was too good an opportunity to miss.
On my way to camp, I got really excited. I knew some people on the bus and the atmosphere was amazing even before we left.
When I got to the site, a giant field in the middle of Perthshire, I felt like I was at an important event. Even though no one really knew what was going to happen, as it was the first year that camp was held, everyone was still in high spirits and all the camp staff and leaders were really welcoming. They were happy. But not too happy.
I loved camp so much and at the end, I wanted to stay for another week. I had the most amazing time because I had met new people. I threw a Frisbee a thousand times and never got bored. I got to know about other peoples’ care experiences and how they felt about the care system and I found that really interesting. We have totally different personalities, different lives but knowing what being in care is like completely connects us.
I went back the year after and felt the exact same, a place to call home.
Surprisingly, the thing I loved most about camp was the thing I was most suspicious about. Every night is finished with a happy, clappy, high energy talent show called “Sing Song”. Everyone takes part, whatever they think their talent is, and we do it in a space that is completely free of negativity and judgement. The encouragement we show each other and the laughs we have are real.
I constantly tell other care experienced young people about camp and how amazing it is. I want every young person in care to have the opportunity to experience the atmosphere, the home, the family we create in that field.
Many young people who go to camp don’t really have anyone they can call family. They don’t really have someone who understand them and what they have been through.
We’ve even opened camp up to care experienced people from across the UK and Ireland. I thought this was amazing because I realised that we had so much in common, even though we lived miles away. They knew about the stigma that comes with being in care, they knew what it feels like to be judged but they also knew the power in us getting together.
Camp means a lot to me because it creates an environment where people can be free from the judgment and stigma that we experience far too often.
Camp also gives me something to look forward to every year.
It is a place where I can be myself. It is a week where I don’t have to impress anyone. It’s a week that I spend completely enjoying myself.
That field, where we have no flushing toilets and sleep on the floor, has turned into my sanctuary, a place to escape to.
Together with other care experienced people, we’ve made our own little wonderland and I think it’s amazing.