Jessica’s Story: Building confidence to face challenges

Jessica was referred to us in 2021 by her school, who felt the Youth Adventure Trust could really help her. Jessica is a type 1 diabetic; living with this condition has meant she’s been limited with the activities she could take part in. In turn, this has led to Jessica having lower confidence in her abilities. Having recently moved up to secondary education, her teachers felt that the time was right for Jessica to experience more independence, self-management of her condition, and the opportunity to build her confidence; all things she could achieve on the YAT Adventure Programme.

Jessica was a little nervous on her first day with us. She was very quiet and didn’t speak to many people. However, she took part in all the activities and clearly enjoyed the chance to meet new people. Before her first residential camp, Jessica’s Programme Manager spent some time with Jessica and her mum at their home, going through an individual care plan relating to her health condition. This was a really useful exercise for both mum and Jessica, allowing them to feel more confident about her staying away for 6 days, and taking part in so many energetic activities.

Jessica approached Mountain Camp with a fantastic attitude. As a result of our work around aim setting, Jessica decided her camp aim would be ‘Realising that I can do the same as others even when I’m anxious’. With the attentive support of Youth Adventure Trust staff, Jessica was able to take a lead role in managing her condition for the first time. Despite having to take extra steps around mealtimes and before and after activities, Jessica contributed fully to her team and took part in all the activities. Thanks to the safe and friendly environment created at Mountain Camp, Jessica went far beyond what she thought she was capable of and we could see her confidence grow as the camp progressed. She made new friends, shared ideas, and challenged herself on all the activities. We were confident that Jessica left camp with a renewed sense of confidence and a belief in her own ability to manage her condition, setting herself an ongoing aim to ‘Have more trust in myself and other people’.

After sending feedback about her Mountain Camp experience to Jessica’s school, we were contacted by her teacher to thank us for the work we had done with her over the summer; ‘Jessica has come back to school with a glow about her and a lot more confidence’. September, 2021

Sadly during the following winter months we were informed by her parents that Jessica’s wellbeing had deteriorated to the point where she had been having suicidal thoughts and using her diabetes to force hypoglycemic incidents. Upon hearing this her Programme Manager began visiting her in school to offer her some additional support. Jessica was still feeling limited by her condition and struggling socially at school. In their meetings Jessica’s Programme Manager spent time with her reflecting on all she had achieved at the camp and Activity Days, and the new friends she had made. We let Jessica know about available support and encouraged her parents to seek professional help, which they did. One of Jessica’s three Activity Days over the winter was based around animal care. Here we partnered her with a friend from Mountain Camp and together they spent time caring for horses, goats and dogs. It was lovely to see the happiness on Jessica’s face, and hear from her mum afterwards how much she had taken from the day.

The following spring the next part of Jessica’s programme was Coastal Camp. Jessica was a non-swimmer and again would have to manage her diabetes with YAT’s support in a challenging environment, so she was understandably worried. We were also aware that her mental health, although improving, would be tested by the new environment and experiences she would face at Coastal Camp. With our support, Jessica was able to focus on her aims for camp and worked hard to stop feelings of anxiety preventing her from taking part in activities and sharing ideas with her group. Again Jessica was able to achieve more than she thought possible and was a regular source of support and encouragement to those around her.

“I was very nervous but I got more and more confidence and I was like, oh I really love this.”

Jessica, June 2022

A few months later in the summer of 2022 Jessica attended Forest Camp. Again, this new environment would pose challenges with regard to her diabetes. There is often no phone signal on Forest Camp, something Jessica usually relies on to monitor her blood sugar levels. Again, staff were on hand to support Jessica with both her diabetes and mental health needs. Jessica had a really positive experience at the camp and went away feeling more confident in many different areas. By the end she was comfortable talking to everyone in her group individually and collectively, including explaining her diabetes and how having the condition affects her mental health.

Jessica is now reaching the last stage of her Youth Adventure Programme with four Pathway Days planned over the year. Through the environment, challenges and support our programme offers, we have seen Jessica gain confidence in being independent and managing her diabetes as well as understanding she is as capable as any other young person. She has become more self aware, and has accessed support for her mental health. This support has allowed Jessica to look at life and the future more positively, whilst allowing her to celebrate her own strengths and accomplishments. She has made new friendships, and grown in confidence when speaking with others or taking part in new experiences.

“Even now if there’s something I’m scared or worried about I just think of my time on YAT and think, I could do that, why can’t I do this. I just think that all the time and it’s really been a big help.”

Jessica, February 2023

Jessica continues to attend everything on the programme and make the most of the opportunities on offer. We are sure that she will go on to use her new found confidence and insight to fulfil her potential. We are looking forward to keeping in touch and seeing how she gets on in future years.