For people with diabetes, diabetes camps hold a special place in our hearts. If you need proof, check out our Global Postcard video! Members of the Beta Change team recently talked about what camp means to us.
As Steph so eloquently put it, “camp is a magical playground that encourage and empowers all those involved.” Some team members have had the pleasure of attending camp as a kid living with diabetes, while the rest of us first experienced the magic of camp as adult volunteers.
No matter when we first joined the diabetes camp community, we all agree that diabetes camp is THE place to meet peers living with type 1 diabetes. We may have had reservations - as Katie said, “I was initially hesitant to get involved in the diabetes community, due to a few common misconceptions of what hanging out with a group of people with diabetes would be like.”
However, it didn’t take long before she realised that “camps are a place where magic moments are around each corner and lifelong friendships are formed,” as Fi describes her camp experience.
In our special Beta Change diabetes camp feature, Pei Yan shares with us an in-depth reflection on her experiences with diabetes camps over the years.
I remember my first diabetes camp. It was 21 years ago - in 1997 - and the camp was held at a holiday resort on a touristy island in Singapore called Sentosa. Everyone around me was so happy while I sat alone at one corner, not knowing what to expect and feeling rather afraid. There were a few familiar faces - doctors and nurses from the diabetes clinic I go to - but they were busy with running the camp. It was a simple overnight (three days, two nights) camp and, slowly, I started enjoying myself.
It was a place where we could talk about diabetes, to take injections openly, and be able to loudly declare “I have a hypo!” That was it: I was hooked on diabetes camp. Year after year, and camp after camp, at various locations both local and overseas, there will always be at least one familiar face at diabetes camps - ME (and some of my friends). We are the so-called “hardcore” campers. Families, parents, and even siblings know us when we appear at camps and that makes them feel at home and allowed us to catch up with each other.
Gradually, I moved from being a camper to group leader, and eventually a young adult volunteer. A few of us who grew up with diabetes camps decided to come together and called ourselves SugarRush. We return to camps to help with planning of family night games, mentoring young campers, and demonstrate to parents how we have journeyed with diabetes from childhood into adulthood. Many of the doctors, nurses, dietitians and social workers have watched us grow up through camp. There is always time to reminisce about the mischievous or hilarious things we have done at past camps and the times where we became living examples during learning sessions.
Pei Yan at Games Night at Diabetes Camp, June 2017
Diabetes camp means a lot to me. It was my first step to meeting other people with diabetes only a year after I was diagnosed. It was where I learnt to become a leader. It was where I got to eat, play, and chat with healthcare professionals - and even their family members. Diabetes camp was where SugarRush began and where we realised that we want to give back because we benefited so much from it.
“I have been part of diabetes camps as a camper and as a peer leader, surrounded by those with different perspectives, ages, competencies - and each time I grow from within the sphere of those I’m in company with. And for that, I am rich.”