A Little Spare Time Can Go a Long Way

It’s pretty easy to look around these days, and catch glimpses of negativity near and far. One of the darker facets of social media and the internet is that some form of discrimination is only ever a few clicks away. Fortunately though, in an almost Newtonian fashion, there’s a wide range of opposing, wonderful forces at play – and I’d love to share my experience surrounding one such initiative.

This September, I was lucky enough to be invited to join the Sony Foundation Camp. This camp organises a week-long experience for children with severe mental and physical disabilities, and is saturated with wholesome volunteers. My introduction to this pseudo-family was made through a peer of mine in first-year at Griffith. Him and his girlfriend have been intimately involved with the camp for some years now, and the passion they have for the annual event is obvious, and inspiring.

From a medical perspective, it was fascinating to discuss the array of medications required for some of the children’s conditions with the nurses (who were also volunteering their time). Not only did the quantity of different medications surprise me, but so too did the types required on a daily basis. From anti-convulsants and sedatives to anti-psychotics, the list seemed unending and formidable. Furthermore, the insight to the daily care requirements for such conditions was starkly humbling. It became apparent that the camp was not only for the enjoyment of the children, but it also offered a rare opportunity for their families to have a bit of time for themselves.

I must say, more often than not, I’m impressed by the Australian medical system and am continually thankful for the array of benefits we’re entitled to through schemes such as Medicare and the PBS. This camp, however, elucidated for me just how inadequate the provisions are for some families with one or more high-need children in their care. Whilst similarly thankful for the help they do receive, in some instances, both parents of a child would need to work full-time jobs in order to pay for the costs incurred by their child’s condition. This then doesn’t take into account that full-time care is of course required for them too! The plights of the families I was exposed to certainly made my blundersome efforts to try and balance food and rent-money feel infinitesimally unimportant!

While such resource allocation and funding are vastly complicated topics and certainly beyond my ‘pay-grade’, if you will, I was very thankful to get to partake in an effort made by the community at large to try and alleviate the workload for such families. I feel like initiatives such as the Sony Foundation Camp offer an experience that benefits everyone involved. Certainly, the attendees and their families enjoy the week, but so too did everyone else that volunteered their time. I sincerely cannot recommend getting involved in this, or something similar highly enough.

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Jonah Parenteau

Jonah Parenteau

Jonah is a first-year medical student at Griffith University currently aspiring towards neurology. In his future practice of medicine, he'll continue to draw inspiration from the notion that "...there is art to medicine as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy, and understanding may outweigh the surgeon's knife or the chemist's drug" (Hippocratic Oath)