For four full days last week, 16 children from across Northland living with type 1 diabetes stayed together at the annual Diabetes Summer Camp at Whangarei Heads to learn about their condition, make friends and most of all, have fun.
To be eligible, attendees need to be at least seven years old, and priority is given to those that are newly diagnosed. This year, three newly diagnosed children came along and met other type 1 kids for the first time. Six out of the 16 at the Camp were using insulin pump therapy and a 16 year old girl and 17 year old boy with type 1 took part as youth mentors.
Every year a large contingent return to the camp, including ten-year-old Siena Southall and 11-year-old Aayden Mitchell who said they look forward to coming back to meet up with friends from previous years.
Aayden explained that she finds it reassuring that she’s not the only one who has diabetes and gets to meet others that know what she is going through.
“I’ve learnt you’re not always perfect. You can have high sugars and so can everyone else.”
Northland DHB’s dietician Mary McNab’s cooking was one of the highlights for the girls. Along with the enormous slippery slide that Whangarei Heads Volunteer Fire Brigade put on for them and all the activities they got to take part in with Sport Northland, the Papermill and Muay Thai Movement, who all volunteered their support.
Camp coordinator and clinical nurse specialist Eve de Goey said Northland DHB provides three specialist diabetes nurses, a registrar, child health clinic nurse, paediatrician and the diabetes kaiāwhina who work together to look after the kids over the four days. Two diabetes experienced staff cover the nightshift and ensure the children all get tested throughout the evening, and two community volunteers also assist to help the Camp run smoothly.
Families are only asked for a koha of $20 to contribute towards the Camp. Northland DHB pays for the food and staffing, and the remainder of the costs are covered by funds raised at the annual Diabetes Fun Run & Walk in November, which Northland Community Foundation manages until the Camp is on.
Muay Thai Movement instructor Kylie Batistich said she too lives with type 1 diabetes and jumped at the chance to help out at the Camp.
“I’ve always wanted to do a diabetes class where there’s no stigma around stopping to go and do a test. Being able to do it with all the kids, was next level. They are my people. We all got to show our pumps to each other. It was just awesome.”
Kylie has had diabetes for the past 24 years and said in that time there had been many advances in technology. She now uses a device called a Miaomiao which sends continuous glucose readings direct to her watch. This device gives data to help her control her insulin levels which can drop or rise at any time, especially when she’s exercising.
“It’s great to see a lot of the kids have them because it’s life-changing. We need to get it funded for everyone.”
The successful Camp not only gives the children the chance to meet and reunite with other youth with the same health issues in the beautiful surroundings on Manaia Baptist Camp, but it also gives their parents a well-deserved break.
Image: Diabetes Summer Camp attendees, carers and Muay Thai instructors practising their moves.