Teens take on Mittagundi

18 teenagers, who have siblings with life-threatening conditions, escaped the city to Mittagundi Outdoor Education Centre for a week of challenges and fun. We caught up with Very Special Kids Family Support Worker Jess Birnbaum to find out how it went.

What happened on the camp?
So many activities! We began with hiking, camping and cross country skiing across a three day period up near Trapyard Gap in the Alpine National Park and at the Mittagundi farm we were wood chopping, gardening, cooking, log de-barking and fence stumping. The young people that attended also had the chance to share stories about their families and develop invaluable peer connections with one another.

What was the highlight?
The camp presented us with many challenges, we were faced with rain, snow, sleet and sunshine (sometimes all in one day)! Our feet and hands were cold, there was no electricity or flushing toilets and at times we felt like giving up. But we pushed through and the learning and self -discovery that came from this helped to foster a massive sense of achievement, togetherness, trust and respect. Many young people reported the highlight for them was skiing or seeing snow for the first time, but overwhelmingly, most people identified the support and encouragement they received from their peers and the connections made as the thing they loved most about the camp.

How was the camp made possible?
We worked in partnership with Mittagundi to try and obtain funding for the camp and it was through the generous donation and financial support from the Calvert Jones Foundation that the whole experience was made possible. It’s also worth thanking the families themselves for encouraging and supporting these young people to take a week out from their creature comforts to bravely come along and charter the unknown.

What benefits were there for those that attended?
Without a doubt one of the major benefits of the program was having the opportunity to spend a whole week away together, the very act of digging deep and banding together to support one another through the challenges we faced is what made this camp so rich and rewarding. Time spent connected to nature, without the distraction of technology or mobile phones allowed for deep discussion and exploration of the many complex layers of emotion felt by these extraordinary young people. Being pushed outside our comfort zones forced us to discover things about ourselves that helped us redefine our goals and foster a huge sense of accomplishment. The peer connections formed helped young people develop a greater sense of self and a sense of belonging.