The tickets were booked, the passports were ready and the bags were packed! 4am on August 3rd 2017, 10 young carers met with Billy, Katie and Jasmin to head off on the journey of a lifetime. We headed off to Glasgow airport and after a slight hiccup at check in made it through security and onto the flight. There was a buzz amongst the group; excitement, nerves and anticipation. Throughout the trip we asked the YC's to keep a diary of all the activities they took part in and how it made them feel.
After a 7 hour flight we arrived in Toronto and headed into the city.
"I think PKAVS Young Carers is an amazing group and it has helped me and my wee brother so much by giving us the chance to get time away and to relax and to create memories like this trip willbe a great memory that will stay with me forever."
At 22 degrees the 15 minute walk to the accommodation seemed forever, but it was worth it when everyone got to their rooms and settled in. A quick freshen up and everyone headed out to explore. We visited Nathan Phillips Square, and went to Jack Astor’s for dinner where everyone enjoyed a lovely meal and pudding.
The next day we were up bright and early for a tour to Niagara Falls. We visited the Falls and went on a boatride called the HornBlower which went right up to them, it felt like we were being rained on. We then went for a walk so we could take some good pictures of the falls from the top. We also spent some time shopping and having lunch before continuing our tour for the day to see the Whirlpools on the Niagara River, the flower clock and the little town Niagara-on-the-lake.
"Niagara Falls was amazing! It was so good, I can't believe we have just been to it and the boat ride was really good."
When we got back to the hotel everyone was feeling tired so we just had dinner there.
On Saturday we headed out early towards the CN Tower, where we all supported one another to make it to the highest level at 1,467 ft. Some of us even managed to stand on the glass floor at 1,122ft.
"Today we went to the CN Tower which was really good, normally I get kinda scared of being quite high up but I was fine and I really enjoyed it and the views that we got were beautiful."
We then headed along the waterfront, bumping into Spiderman who swept us all off our feet, before catching a water taxi to Toronto Islands. The little boat was so fun as we jetted over to the islands and we got an amazing view of the skyscrapers.
On the island we had a nice chilled afternoon exploring the island, going to the beach, a water pad and a giant maze before having some dinner and getting the ferry back to the mainland.
The Sunday saw us head to Camp Kahuna, which was the main purpose of the trip.
When we arrived everyone was a little apprehensive about what to expect, but soon got stuck into a giant game of capture the flag. After a few hours everyone was allocated their cabins and had some time to settle in and meet their new roommates before a big camp campfire.
During the week we took part in so many different activities including drumming, magic, dance, weird science, drama, scavenger hunt and an escape room.
The afternoons at camp were spent doing big activities including game shows, The Kahuna Olympics, a Carnival and a visit to the creek. The Carnival was a firm favourite with lots of different inflatables, a sweeper, candy floss and lots of games.
Lots of the young carers also really enjoyed the trip to the creek as they got to try fishing as well as swimming down some rapids. Evenings at camp were spent watching different shows including a hypnotist and a band as well as watching a movie, karaoke and of course campfires. Although everyone felt a bit homesick at times the young carers were supported through this by their peers and by staff.
"Camp has been really fun. The food is ok but not the best. I loved the olympics and the carnivl but my favourite thing is campfires. When we did karaoke Katie, Jasmin and Billy were really funny."
When Camp finished on Friday we said all our goodbyes and thank-you and headed back to the city for our final night in Toronto. We dropped all our stuff off at the hotel and went out for dinner before heading to a Blue Jays game. The atmosphere in the stadium was electric and we all enjoyed some popcorn and cold drinks while watching the game.
"The baseball game was really good and so much fun. It was really fun to watch, it's just like a big game of rounders. It was just a great experience!"
Saturday saw us pack up and reflect on what an amazing time we had all had. We finished off shopping for souvenirs and gifts before heading off to the airport for the journey home.
Upon returning home we asked some of the YC's parents for some feedback about how they felt the experience benefited their child:
“Without exaggeration my daughter literally had the time of her life, she had a once in a lifetime opportunity to experience a range of things that she will remember forever that without this trip she would never in her lifetime get the chance to see or do. I feel that it has really improved her confidence in the ability to mix with other people and encouraged her to form strong bonds with people out with the home environment and away from her caring role. I feel it has helped her be more independent as being only 9 and that far away for 10 days encourages her to become more self sufficient in personal care and encourages her to be responsible for her belongings etc.
I think the best thing is that since returning to school, though she is stil very upset and quite miserable about events surrounding school she has a new found sense of knowing that she can make friends with others and so she has a hope that there are more options out there for her.
The whole trip has had such a positive experience for her from the new friends she has made, to overcoming her fear of lifts (she wouldn't even go in lift up n primark and you had her up the CN tower lol) and to seeing a world she would never have got to see with us.”
This year the Young Carers team have organized a jam-packed Christmas Extravaganza on the 15th December, 11am to 3pm at The Gateway in Perth.
The Scottish Government is consulting on the development of the policy and regulations for the Young Carer Grant, a new benefit which will be delivered by Social Security Scotland.
Last night the BBC shone a light into the reality of being a young carer. This is Katie's story.