Camp Yellowbird Seeks Permanent Home


The organisers of Camp Yellowbird, the annual summer progamme for children and adolescents with diabetes, have renewed their appeal for the donation of land to establish a permanent site for the camp.
The camp, which was established in 1992 through the foresight of the Diabetes Association of Jamaica (DAJ) and the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation with technical support from the Ministry of Health, has, over the years, used several facilities including Hampton High School in St. Elizabeth, but needs a permanent home, which it cannot afford to purchase on its own.
“Every year it takes us months to find a campsite because of our special needs. There are some campsites that we can reuse but, there are others that we have had a lot of problems with,” Violet Griffith, Manager of the Camp told JIS News in an interview.
The arduous process of identifying yet another campsite for next year has commenced for the committee of five dedicated volunteers. “The greatest need now is for a home of our own. We would love to have a basic campsite where we can start building on and then over the years, we can improve on it,” expressed a hopeful Ms. Griffith, adding that fees could be raised from the renting of the site for other activities.
Having a permanent home would go a long way in accommodating more children because, at this point in time, for each child that participates in the camp, a fee has to paid to the selected campsite. “If we had one of our own, which we could maintain at a low cost, then we would be able to accommodate a lot of the children,” the Manager said. “We would not have to turn children away,” she added.
This summer, a number of repeat campers had to be turned away from the camp, which was held at Hampton from July 16 to 23. Only 76 of the 91 children who wanted to attend could be accommodated. The group was the largest number of campers to date. “Resources were so limited, so we took mostly the newly diagnosed and the younger children living with diabetes, because it was important to us to ensure that these children learnt to manage their disease,” Ms. Griffith informed.
The new young campers, whose average age was 12 years, were taught to measure and inject their insulin as well as the basic coping skills to manage their disease. While imparting these lessons, the children were able to mingle with others in their age group, who also have diabetes. “They were able to make new friends and, also create little support groups, which they could call upon in times of need,” the Manager said.
Having a permanent campsite would also facilitate different types of camps. Counterparts in other countries have several camps per year, to enable children living with the disease to adjust more easily. “By having more camps, the children have no time to forget what is taught. Our greatest drawback is that we can only afford one camp per year,” Ms. Griffith lamented.
For example, in the United States, similar camps are held on weekends, where children visit for two days and messages relating to diabetes education are reinforced. There are also specialized camps where the family can get together with their diabetic offspring.
“We, at this time, cannot facilitate these types of camps. We can only have a single camp. It is sometimes heartrending when each year, the children beg us to stay longer. Some even want their parents to come to camp,” the Manager noted.
Meanwhile, the camp continues to provide an invaluable service to children living with diabetes. The range of activities offered is influenced by input from the campers and includes swimming, ball games, camp olympics, nature trailing, hiking, table top games, art and craft, talent shows, rap sessions, diabetes challenge quiz, diabetes education, nutrition education, camp fire, kangaroo court, and a banquet.
In addition, there are usually two educational sessions each day, which provide information in the form of innovative games, songs, drama, role-play and discussions.
Every opportunity at the camp is used as a “teachable moment.” For instance, the food menu reinforces meal planning-principles, whereby the campers learn proportions at the dining table as they choose foods according to their meal plans under the watchful eyes of the dietitians.
The camp also provides medical supplies such as insulin among other provisions. “We have to raise funds, because as you know, a camp for children with diabetes is costly, and we cannot pass on all the expenses to the children because many could not afford to come,” Ms. Griffith said. “Every year we try to raise funds to sponsor each child that needs sponsorship. This is for at least 50 per cent of the cost to attend. There are many that we have to sponsor 100 per cent, and this is where we have been thankful that a number of companies and individuals have assisted us with sponsoring a camper, providing funds or kind such as food, medication and machines for blood glucose testing,” she added.
It costs $15,000 per camper, however each camper usually pays $6,500 to attend. Participants come from all over Jamaica – from deep rural areas, inner city communities and affluent neighbourhoods.
Diabetes is a disease that is caused when the body does not produce or properly use insulin. Juvenile diabetes manifests itself in several ways. The child tends to eat constantly but complains of hunger; is always thirsty; regularly wets their bed and frequently visits the bathroom to pass urine.
Children are diagnosed with diabetes from as early as 10 months.

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