Sunday, 5 June 2011

Young Carers

My daughter Taylor has been friends with Niomi since primary school. I often wonder why they are such good friends when they seem to have very little in common but when other teenage girls are bickering and falling out for the silliest of reasons, Niomi and Taylor have never even exchanged cross words.

Niomi's brother is autistic. The difficulties of living with autism have put a big strain on the family and Niomi does whatever she needs to do to help. When her mum was diagnosed with cancer some time ago, Niomi found herself plunged into the role of young carer for her mum as well as her brother. This was when she was introduced to a Support Group in Shropshire run by the Red Cross.

The Shropshire Young Carers Group gave Niomi the chance to connect with other young people in her situation and take time out away from her responsibilities at home as well as providing much needed support and advice. She threw herself into the organisation with great enthusiasm and became involved in a project to help raise awareness of the difficulties faced every day by some of the 900 young carers across the county.

In collaboration with The Hive Music and Media Centre in Shrewsbury and The Shrewsbury Museum Service, Niomi and a group of her fellow young carers made a 20 minute documentary highlighting their daily challenges.

As part of the documentary, Niomi wrote a poem called 'What If'.

When I first read her poem I was very moved by it. She had managed to capture a little of how it feels to have so much responsibility at what should be a carefree time of your life. She also managed to convey how willingly she accepts her responsibility.

Niomi, who loves to play guitar, really wanted to put her poem to music. She wasn't quite able to do it on her own so she asked her friend, Taylor, for some help. Taylor showed the poem to big sister Liberty who could see the enormous potential of the lyrics. Between them, they used the poem to create a beautiful song which they then recorded at home using their own recording equipment. The finished song took my breath away.

Yesterday, which also happened to be Taylor's birthday, we were all invited to the premiere screening of the documentary at the Hive. The Mayor and Mayoress of Shrewsbury were present and drinks and nibbles were served. There was a lot of excitement in the room and obviously a huge amount of pride in the project. It was an honour to be a part of it in some small way.

It was a total joy to see Niomi in this environment. I'd never seen her so confident and purposeful. She even led everybody in a rousing rendition of 'Happy Birthday' dedicated to Taylor.

Watching the documentary was an eye-opener to me and hopefully it will find a wider audience when it is exhibited as part of the Museum's social history collection, telling the story of the Young Carers today in Shropshire.

The beautiful song was used to play over the credits and left a haunting impression after the final credit had rolled.

I felt immensely proud of Niomi and of my girls for their contribution to such a worthwhile venture. If more people are made aware of the impact on young people who perform a carers role in the home, just maybe something can be done to make life a little bit easier for them.

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