National | Youth

Young carers offered support by being heard, seen, and understood

A programme to assist young carers is taking a holistic approach to supporting them.

Te Rina Ruru-Pelasio (Ngāpuhi) is the co-founder of the charitable trust and is a former young carer herself, looking after her older brother who was left with a traumatic brain injury after an accident.

Ruru-Pelasio says her experiencing the lows of caring at a young age is what drew her to create a programme aimed at supporting young carers.

“It also had a significant impact on my mental health. After a year or so I became suicidal and ended up self-harming.

“If you met me back then, everyone used to say how strong I was and how amazing I was for being able to do that for my brother and I loved him. I didn’t regret doing that. We know our whānau are important but we forget how important we are as well.”

‘It’s not a burden’

Camp Unity’s first camp was run in 2017 specialising in children impacted by brain injuries.

Ruru-Pelasio believes the care whānau have for a loved one is unmatched, leading to unconditional care for them.

“It’s not a burden because we don’t have a lot of trust in other people to be able to love them as much as we do, so we want to be the ones to look after our whānau members,” she says.

Camp Unity provides services that offer young carers a space to feel heard, important, and loved in times they don’t.

Ruru-Pelasio says during her experiences as a young carer, “at times it became overwhelming”.

“We’re here to be able to tell them that they are important too and we’re here to support them to be able to do what they need to do but also looking after their own mental health and not losing their own sense of self.”

Camp Unity will be hosting a camp in Rotorua next weekend.