When her mum passed away in 2012, as a teenager at the time Sarah felt isolated in her grief.
But, when in the following year she and her younger brother attended an AnglicareSA Star Bear grief and loss camp, she realised she wasn’t alone and forged connections and a bond with others that remains today.
“I didn’t really know any other kids who had had a parent pass away,” Sarah says. “Trying to talk to your friends about it is kind of a bit weird when you’re 14, especially when they don’t understand.
“So going on the Star Bear Camp and meeting a lot of people my age who also had a parent or someone else pass away was really good because we got to talk about similar experiences.
“We were able to learn about loss and grief, what that means, and also how to deal with that – because it’s quite a big thing.”
Star Bear Camps are free weekend camps for bereaved children, young people, and families who have lost a parent, sibling, or other significant person. Sarah and her brother who were 15 and 13 at the time were referred to the program by their school.
Sarah says she looks back on her camp experience in 2013 fondly, particularly creating the Memory Box for her mum, Honor.
“That was a very memorable activity, I guess, because now I’ve got something that I still have 10 years later, which I can still use and still have my memories in there.
“We also did a lot of fun activities, lots of outdoor activities with all the other campers, which were really fun to do.
“I really liked doing the memory sharing circle as well, because that was a good point of everyone coming together and then you make quite good connections with people in that circle, even though you’ve never really met before.
“I made friends with people on the Star Bear Camp who I’m still friends with now which is amazing.”
With her own camp being so impactful on her journey through grief, Sarah set about using her lived experience to support others following their own path.
Initially going back on camp as a 17-year-old Junior Mentor, Sarah, a teacher by profession, still volunteers to this day as a Mentor and sees firsthand the development and change in the campers.
“I was like, ‘well, this made such a difference when I was a kid’ so I wanted to help out in that way too – and I can really see how much it means to the kids on camp,” Sarah says.
“They start from being like super, super quiet and then I find, especially in the Memory Box activities, there tends to be a lot of time where they start opening up a bit talking about their love one.
“Then making the box for them opens up the conversation with the mentors and with the other campers.”
AnglicareSA is looking for volunteers to join the Star Bear program and make a real difference to the lives of children and their families who have lost a significant family member.
Volunteers can help through a variety of roles:
- Mentor – support one child for the duration of camp
- Rover – assist wherever support is needed
- Group leader – lead activities with breakout groups of children
- Craft – set up and help facilitate several activities
To be a Star Bear volunteer you don’t have to have experienced grief or loss, but you will need some security checks and to complete training modules. AnglicareSA will support you in obtaining these.
AnglicareSA’s Star Bear loss and grief camps would not be possible without our many donors, including Variety SA, CatCorp, and the many individuals and businesses who give generously to support this vital program.
To register your interest or to seek further information, please email [email protected]