“It’s really comforting knowing that you’re not alone” – our weekend breaks for young people

14 August 2019
Young people on outdoor pursuits.

If you’re a young person living with arthritis or a similar condition, we know it can be hard to meet people the same age who are managing a similar long term condition, but so many people tell us how beneficial in can be when you’re able to share your experiences with others.

That’s why our Young People and Families Service run several residential weekends away across the UK, where young people from the age of 11-18 years have the opportunity to meet others who really understand their condition.

These weekends away also provide great opportunities to get to know our young adult volunteers who have grown up with arthritis or a similar condition, take part in new activities that you might not have tried before, as well as learning more about your health condition and ways of looking after yourself by sharing tips and ideas with each other. Mostly it’s a chance to have fun and meet new people!

What can I expect?

Our weekend residential stays usually run from Friday evening to Sunday afternoon and we provide transport from central locations.

Friday evenings are relaxed, giving everyone the chance to get to know each other and play some games.

On Saturday, the days begin with something like crate stacking (great for team bonding!) and then there will be a couple more activities in the afternoon – in the past this has included archery, graffiti art and canoeing. After dinner we might sit out by the campfire and have a go at making s'mores, with the option of some games or watching a film. This is a chance to rest and relax after the day’s activities.

On Sunday morning, there will be a choice of activities available including something more crafty and the chance to go on a zip wire, followed by a final lunch together.

Alongside all the activities, there’s also lots of downtime, where you’ll have time to unwind and chat to people.

Our weekends are usually at activity centres in the countryside. We have our own private area, and everyone stays together in small dormitories, with shared space for eating and activities. It’s a great chance to get away and visit somewhere new.

“You all have something in common so there's no misunderstanding”

We caught up with some young people who have attended our residentials before to find out what they thought and why they’d encourage others to come along.

Mark was diagnosed with juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA) when he was three. Now 15, he’s been attending our weekend residentials for almost three years.

“Everyone is very friendly and it’s really easy to meet new people and make friends. There were loads of fun activities I hadn’t tried, and I also learnt valuable information about my condition. I hadn’t really been able to talk to many people about my arthritis before, it was good to share experiences and methods of coping because different things work for different people.

“I especially enjoy the residential part, it’s nice to get away from home and stay in dorms in the countryside. I’m from Birmingham so it’s been great meeting people from other areas too. I was a bit apprehensive going along for the first time, but everyone was so welcoming. I would strongly recommend to anyone else considering it.

“I’m hoping to become a volunteer when I’m older because I’d love to help other younger people living with arthritis.”

Ellen, who was diagnosed with JIA and uveitis when she was 18 months old, explains why she wishes she’d known about events like this when she was younger.

“It was a total eye opener when in my 20s I found people who were going through the same stuff as me and had been in their childhood as well.

“As a teenager this would have been invaluable because I would have actually got a chance to understand my condition a bit better and get that it wasn't just me on my own.

“On top of the importance of sharing experiences, events like this are just really fun, and you don't have to explain how you're feeling to anyone.”

Katherine, one of our volunteers, was diagnosed with polyarticular juvenile arthritis when she was 6. She explains why attending our residentials was so valuable.

“You're 1 in 1000, or you're the only one in school, so you do feel like nobody understands what you're going through. To come to something like this where you get to meet other people and keep in contact with them, it's really important.

“After an anxious start, I remember feeling so relieved that I was hearing stories that were similar to what I was going through. From hospital trips, to the challenge of explaining arthritis to others, to medication, to feeling different from my friends... there were people my age who just got it and it surprised me that it actually felt really good to be able to talk about it with other people.”

How to get involved and sign up

Our Young People and Families service are here to help young people and their families feel less isolated and provide peer support opportunities through a variety of events, including our residential activity weekends, workshops, education/careers, and whole family events.

We host events across the country, in the Peak District, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Find out more and keep an eye on what’s coming up in your area or email us on ypf@versusarthritis.org.