It's 15:00 on Friday 24th June. There is 30 minutes until I finish work and 3 hours before I head to YMCA Faithorne Manor to volunteer for the young carers festival. I can barely contain my excitement let alone imagining the excitement of the young people travelling to the festival.
The festival happens at Fairthorne Manor every year to provide a space where young carers from around the UK can come together and enjoy themselves as young people for the weekend. This is the 17th Young Carers Festival. The festival has also been a place where worries, opinions and ideas are shared around the issues young carers face and from it we have seen changes in legislation to benefit the young carers.
This is my fourth Young Carers Festival (YCF) and it is always such an honour to be part of bringing joy to these incredible young carers. Tonight I have the pleasure of welcoming the new arrivals and showing them to their tents. Everyone is so ecstatic to be here that even the puddles in the tents from the weeks previous bad British weather didn't dampen the young people's spirits (pun intended).
The opening ceremony kicks off around 21:00 starting with a message from the Young Carers, leading to guest acts Mahalia and Jake Quickiden, then to the spectacular fireworks display (I'm sure it gets better every year), finishing with a disco to end the first night. What a great way to start the weekend.
It's Saturday and again feelings of excitement rush through me like a child at Christmas. I'm acting as face painter today which means I get to chat to the young people all day. I get to witness them enjoying themselves, making new friends, catching up with friends they have met at last years YCF and sharing their stories with one an other.
In my break I walk around the Voice Zone and I also come across the Wish Tree, which always brings a tear to my eye. Although most of the young carers wished that their relatives would get better, or wished people understood them more, or wished they got more help with their studies; not one person wished they had a different life or complained about being a young carer in any way. They were all grateful and almost honoured to be able look after their loved ones.
These young people are truly incredible and thanks the staff at YMCA Fairthorne Manor and the Children's Society and all of the volunteers and leaders, they get to celebrate all that they do in style every year and I am forever in awe of the Young Carers Festival and of course the Young Carers themselves.