Students relief carers at Camp Firefly Reply

Children with special needs will have a summer break of fun activities while living in the PLC and Shore boarding houses. Picture: The Firefly Foundation

by Samantha Woodhill

Students at Pymble Ladies College and Shore School will work as relief carers for disabled children and their families in the inaugural Sony Foundation Camp Firefly session scheduled to start in December.

Since 1999, the Sony Foundation Children’s Holiday Camp Program has given Year 11 students the opportunity to care for a child with special needs over a four-day period. Camp Firefly at PLC and Shore will allow children with intellectual and physical disabilities to stay in the school boarding houses for a week during the summer holidays.

Alison, 16, a Year 11 student at PLC, says, “The main aim of the program is to give the parents of the children a break from their busy everyday lives.”

Students undertake special training before the camp takes place. They learn about the challenges of caring for children with disabilities such as dealing with physical incapacities as well as different behaviours.

Nat Woodhill, a social work student at the University of Sydney, says it’s important for high school students to engage in such programs.

“Not only is it important for the girls at PLC to learn to help others in the community, it’s important for them to learn about the needs of disabled children. This program is extremely valuable to our community in that respect,” she says.

Although the program receives funding from the Sony Foundation, the schools also have to raise funds to help defray costs. As well, the students are involved in raising awareness about the program by talking to parents and visitors at events such as school fetes.

“Looking after disabled children is like a full time occupation,” Alison says. “It’s important that these families are given relief, even if it’s just for a small amount of time.”

Alex, 17, is a student at Shore School. “We do loads of activities with the kids – kite flying, swimming, an aquarium visit and other stuff as well,” he says.

Alison says she values the program because the whole of Year 11 gets involved and they all have to work together; as well, she gets to see what happens in the wider community and to be involved in it.

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