Deaf Children Australia (DCA) and the Deaf Society of NSW (DSNSW) are holding a Crossing Borders Camp at the YMCA Anglesea Recreation Camp in Victoria for 51 deaf teenagers from 19 to 23 January. The camp supports young people aged 14 to 17 years from around Australia to develop their self-esteem and personal and leadership skills, as well as enhance their friendship networks.
As Caroline Doutre, DCA’s National Manager Client Services and Development, explains, “Young deaf people are so much more vulnerable to mental health issues because of isolation and poor self-esteem but a camp like this can really make a difference by breaking down the barriers.” The teenagers are gathering from as far afield as Darwin, Perth and Brisbane.
Seventeen year old Matt Surtees attended the last Crossing Borders Camp and will be coming along again. He explained how much the camp means to young deaf people like himself:
“I am really keen to go to Crossing Borders again because you get to meet new people, and improve your communication and social skills. And even if you are shy like me, you get to improve your confidence. I usually keep to myself but when people came up talking to me on the last camp, I realised I could learn from them and I made lots of new friends. I have kept in touch with some of them through Skype and Facebook and it would be great to get together with some of them again.
I think it’s fantastic that kids come from all different parts of Australia. We all communicate a little differently and get to know each other’s signs. We come together on an equal level – whether we are deaf, hard of hearing, whether we sign or don’t sign.
One boy who came last year was the only deaf kid in his school so the camp was a really good opportunity for him to make new friends and not feel so alone any more. There is a whole network of young deaf people like us who can support each other – but we need that chance to meet each other first.”
The teenagers will have the opportunity to try surfing, high ropes, mountain biking, skating and other fantastic outdoor adventure activities, along with participating in team building exercises and leadership workshops. As Caroline states, “Often, these young people are the ones who sit on the sidelines so it’s wonderful to see them have the confidence to get involved and have a go at everything.”