Young Carers celebrate 70 years of the commonwealth by developing a commonwealth young carer charter whilst enjoying a relaxing weekend
Around 50 young carers gathered on 5-7 December 2019 in Nairobi for a festival of play, fun, reflection and campaigning. The event was 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 the County Government of Nairobi. Previous events were held in 2009, 2012 and 2016 preceded by a major conference in 2006 ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kn2VV9WECsw).
For the first time the festival connected with young carers in other Commonwealth countries, including Canada and the United Kingdom using social media and video, funded by the Commonwealth Secretariat. The event will be followed up by social media dialogues involving other Commonwealth countries including India, Ghana, Nigeria and South Africa among others. A video from young carers in Malawi is contributing to the dialogue.
The young carers discussed what would give them help and support, feeding into a Commonwealth-wide consultation with young carers working towards the creation of a Commonwealth Young Carers Charter, setting out their aspirations, their expectations of the Commonwealth and national governments and their hopes for improved understanding in their home communities.
Young carers 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.
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.
Speaking after the event, COSW Board Member David N Jones 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 Commonwealth @70. Now we hope political leaders and communities will listen and respond.’
The aim is to launch and present the Young Carers’ Charter or manifesto at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Rwanda in June 2020.
9 December 2019, Nairobi, Kenya
COSW David N Jones – Phone: +44-7827-441577 Twitter: @JonesDavidN Email: DavidNJones@PeopleNeedPeople.org.uk
See also Children’s Society website – www.childrenssociety.org.uk/youngcarer/festival
The Commonwealth Organisation for Social Work (COSW), in partnership with several local and global bodies, has supported a weekend festival for young carers in East Africa in 2009, 2012 and 2016, modelled on the very successful Young Carers’ Festival organised every year in England by the Children’s Society (CS)(England). CS staff have provided support for the event in the past, including hosting visits by Commonwealth young people so they can experience and learn from the event.
The project is made possible thanks to the Noel and Thea Jones Fund. Additional funding this year came from the Commonwealth at 70 fund, celebrating the bonds of friendship between Commonwealth peoples since the original charter was signed in 1949.
This project first came to life in a conference in Nairobi in 2006 funded primarily by the Department for Children, Schools and Families (England) – with additional support from the Commonwealth Youth Programme to assist the participation of young carers from Kenya and UK in planning and delivering the conference. A report and video of the event are entitled ‘Addressing the needs of young carers (East Africa)’ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kn2VV9WECsw ).
The objectives at the heart of the COSW young carer project from the beginning are:
- Focus specifically on young people supporting family members with illness or disability at home
- Bring young carers together so they can share their experiences and give mutual support – reducing isolation and showing recognition and appreciation
- Give young carers space to be young people & have fun
- Provide opportunities for discussion, informal counselling and reflection
- Provide opportunity for the community to acknowledge the burdens carried by young carers – make it more public so their problems are better understood 6. Connect Commonwealth countries
- Develop professional social work networks linked with IFSW and COSW – bringing together social work association leaders for regional discussion and mutual support (social work leaders from other countries travel with young carers as guardians and supporters)
All these were achieved in 2019, reflected in a major feature to be published in the Sunday Nation newspaper expected on Sunday 15th December 2019