Camp Yellow Bird – Helping Young Diabetics to Live Healthy Lifestyles


Helping children with diabetes to develop a positive approach to proper management of their health is an annual focus and aim of the coordinators of Camp Yellow Bird, and this year, this objective was carried out under the theme ‘Lean on me’. Sessions with topics such as ‘Leaning on the medics while we face the monster’, ‘Demystifying Diabetes and ‘Leaning on the dieticians to make more healthy choices from each of the six food groups’ were used to highlight the theme for the camp, which was held at St. Hilda’s High School in Brown’s Town, St. Ann from July 22 to 29.
Coordinator of the Camp, Yvonne Campbell says that the theme had come in handy as they (the coordinators) had to look to each other for support in making decisions.
The eight-day camp hosted 103 participants, including 67 diabetic campers, making this year its largest since it was founded in 1992. Other campers included facilitators, counsellors and family members of campers who came to learn and support.
“This year’s camp was mainly funded by the Ministry of Health through the Healthy Lifestyle Programme” informs Mrs. Campbell adding that “approximately 85 per cent of the children that came to camp were newly diagnosed within the last 18 months.”
She says that this year’s camp was challenging because of the large number of campers inclusive of adolescents and young adults aged 15-22. The camp accommodates diabetics between the ages of six and 18, but, Mrs. Campbell notes that “because they (campers) were newly diagnosed, we made an effort to have them at camp this year to teach them the coping skills.”
Some campers had challenges with their coping skills. This she says can perhaps be attributed to “some who are moving from children into adolescents, adolescents into young adults, and to complicate all of that they now have diabetes”.
Funding was budgeted at $1.5 million for 70 participants but with the number of campers and personnel that were accommodated, this budget was exceeded. Referral for the camp is made through hospitals, dieticians, physicians, nurses, and schools, as well as churches, she informs.
Despite the challenges, Mrs. Campbell points out that the children left camp more aware and every opportunity was used as a “teachable moment” with the campers having achieved the basic coping skills to manage their diabetes.
A major concern of the programme is owning a camp site. There is the challenge each year of acquiring a location to host the camp. Mr. Campbell explains that “the churches are having their camp just around the time we are having our camp.we are trying very hard to get a piece of land and then build our own camp site.”
Although the camp focuses on teaching diabetic children how to manage their condition, it is also a regular camp. Some of the activities include a sports day featuring of basketball, cricket, track and field, aerobics, and nature trail. The camp is about “fun and excitement in a safe environment,” Mrs. Campbell notes.
She points out that “a child with diabetes becomes an adult with diabetes” and the organisers try to instill in campers that they can live a healthy and happy life. An essential focus of the camp is teaching the proper skills of insulin intake, nutrition, and exercise.
Camp Yellow Bird is a voluntary organization but receives support from the Ministry of Health, the private sector and other interests. It has now taken the concept a step further, establishing community support groups for children with diabetes and their families.

JIS Social