Make a Difference to develop permanent camp site

Make a Difference is developing a permanent campsite in beautiful, undeveloped rainforest in Kangaroo Valley.  The property, of over 100 acres, will serve as a base for the camps we run for young people whose lives are affected by mental illness.  The NSW State Government has kindly provided substantial funding for the development.

The young people we assist either struggle with emotional or behavioural difficulties themselves, or are affected by the mental illness of a parent.

"[Some] children deal with...frightening circumstances as part of their ordinary lives"

“While some families where a parent has a mental illness manage really well, there are others where children deal with very challenging or frightening circumstances as part of their ordinary lives. This has a profound effect on those children”, said Make a Difference CEO Mandy Miles.  “The children and young people we support have said that when visiting our rainforest property their worries seem far away. Just spending time there is healing in itself.” 

We recognise that for children growing up in very troubled circumstances, a one-off experience of support isn’t really enough. We aim to be a constant, positive presence throughout their entire adolescence if possible. 

Our support may be in the form of camps or mentoring or other assistance as needed.

The property gives us and the children a place to call home. Many adults have fond memories of childhood holidays at the same, familiar place each year. Most of the children we support have not experienced family holidays. We hope that as the young people return to the property year after year it will provide a similar safe, warm touchstone for them.

The hallmark of our programs and our whole philosophy, is the high degree of respect we feel towards the children and their families. In line with this, the children and young people are central to the development of our rainforest retreat.

The model we use, written by our CEO, is innovative and based around positive regard for children and young people, and – perhaps controversially – around adults and children being equal. The model is quite involved, and more will be explained in future newsletters, and on our site, but it does outlaw the use of adult authority, and we have been pleased with how effective it has been so far.

We were privileged to hold our first camp last weekend, a ‘high needs’ camp, where six outstanding men buddied for the weekend with six fantastic boys. It was really a great experience for all concerned, as we did some work on the property, canoed the (tiny) rapids of the Kangaroo River, and played chess and monopoly in the warm farmhouse we had hired adjacent to the property, when the weather was inclement. A heart-warming family-style weekend.

Going forward, we are looking to the children and young people we support to come up with some really innovative ideas about how to develop the property, particularly in terms of games and challenges that can be fashioned from the remarkable natural features of the property. Using their initiative and imagination, as well as our own, we hope to create a campsite property unlike any other.