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Local young carers help develop a Commonwealth young carer charter at the East Africa Young Carers Festival 2019

12/12/2019

Members of Northamptonshire Young Carers (including Young Healthwatch Northamptonshire members) participated via video link in the East Africa Young Carers Festival 2019. Healthwatch Northamptonshire’s Chair and Commonwealth Organisation for Social Work board member, Dr David N Jones, also participated in the event.

Dr David N Jones with young carers’ in East Africa Young Carers Festival

Around 50 young carers gathered in Nairobi earlier this month (5-7 December 2019) for a festival of fun, reflection and campaigning organised by the Commonwealth Organisation for Social Work (COSW) in partnership with the Kenya National Association of Social Workers linked with associations in Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda and supported by the UK Children’s Society Young Carer Team and Nairobi County Council.

Using social media and video, funded by the Commonwealth Secretariat, the young carers connected with young carers in other Commonwealth countries such as Canada and United Kingdom, including young carers from Northamptonshire. They described the pressures of their daily lives such as caring for disabled or sick parents, ‘parenting’ siblings, doing small jobs to earn money to pay rent and buy food, doing school work, forced to be ‘responsible’ whilst being denied respect by officials and communities.

Young carers’ connect with other young carers’ in the commonwealth via video call

Improvements expressed by the young people included helping school teachers and public officials to understand their pressures instead of punishing them for shortcomings (resulting from their caring responsibilities), arranging help with school fees, making it easier to get medical help when needed and spreading awareness in the community.

Joanna Johnson, Young Carers Service Manager for Northamptonshire Carers, said: “It was a really interesting conversation to be a part of and we appreciated the opportunity to connect with Young Carers (via the magic of technology) in Africa last week. Finding out that despite the geographical, economic and political differences in our countries that fundamentally Young Carers share similar worries was humbling.

We are all still striving for Young Carers to be recognised and better supported across the globe. Connecting with others no matter their differences in location or background and having the opportunity to share experiences is a powerful thing.

We would welcome similar opportunities in the future and hope to learn from each other and support where possible to get all children the support and help they need to have their own needs met.”

Commonwealth Organisation for Social Work Board Member, David N Jones, who participated in the event, commented: “It was fantastic to see the transformation in young people through the weekend - getting to know each other, discovering shared experiences and problems (including with UK and Canadian young people), enjoying games and good food and struggling with serious conversations created a common bond and boosted confidence to speak out about their realities.

“The social workers who organised the event did a great job and deserve the highest respect. This was a great example of Commonwealth values in action to celebrate 70 years of the Commonwealth. Now we hope political leaders and communities will listen and respond.”

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