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The sky's the limit for young carers

​Up to 80 young teenagers from all over Norfolk and Suffolk who care for parents or siblings with a mental health condition are about to enjoy a two-day break in the heart of East Anglia.

They will take part in the third “Reach for the Skies” event organised by Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT), which this year will take place at the Thorpe Woodlands Adventure Centre at Shadwell, near Thetford, on 10-11 April.

Howard Tidman, NSFT’s Carers Champion for Great Yarmouth, said that, as far he is aware, NSFT is the only NHS trust in the country to organise such an event for young carers.

“Reach for the Skies is aimed at young people aged between 13 and 15 who are caring for a parent or sibling with a mental health condition,” he said. “It’s very tough for them so we want to give them a break from the many demands of being a young carer.

“These people do not always go to school regularly or look after themselves by going to their GP or dentist’s because they are so busy caring.

“So they lose out academically and in terms of their own health, and they often don’t have any aspirations because they think their sole purpose in life is to look after someone.

“We call the event ‘Reach for the Skies’ because we want them to look up and realise they can be whatever they want to be in life.”

Howard has personal experience of being a young carer because he looked after his own mother throughout his childhood while she battled alcoholism.

The youngsters will be able to take part in activities such as archery, canoeing, high ropes activities and a zip wire, and entertainment will be provided by a live singer, storyteller and fire-eater in what organisers hope will be a festival-like atmosphere.

Among the organisations who will take part in a marketplace of information stalls will be the police, army, fire service, the University of East Anglia, the University of Suffolk and a wind farm company keen to encourage girls to consider careers in engineering. Information will also be available on subjects such as sexual health and dentistry, and pastoral support will be on hand for the young carers.

They will spend the night of 10-11 April “glamping” at the adventure centre and can also expect to be visited by NSFT’s Medical Director and Director of People and Development, who are Dr Bohdan Solomka and Duncan Forbes respectfully.

Funding for Reach for the Skies has been provided by various organisations, including Carers Matters Norfolk, Norfolk County Council, the John Jarrold Trust, the Norwich Freemen’s Charity, the Rope Trust and the Florence Clarke Charitable Trust. The £6,500 that has been donated will cover the cost of the two-day event.

Other organisations supporting the event include Suffolk Family Carers, Great Yarmouth and Gorleston Young Carers, the Benjamin Foundation and West Norfolk Carers.

Last year’s Reach for the Skies was held at the Horstead Centre, a residential activity centre on the edge of the Norfolk Broads, and the first in 2017 took place at Pleasurewood Hills, near Lowestoft.

Flashback - Five young carers taking time for themselves at Reach for the Skies 2018.

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