Camp Koala – a lifechanging experience for young people living with Diabetes

Across Australia over 1.3 million people have Diabetes and 283 people are diagnosed every day. For young people, living with Diabetes is challenging, not only physically but also emotionally.  

Diabetes is one of Lions key global focus areas and one of the life changing projects launched recently is Camp Koala.  

The inaugural Camp Koala – Type 1 was successfully held for 7 days from 11-17 April 2021 at YMCA Camp Wyuna in Queenscliff, Victoria. 21 Type 1 diabetic teenagers between 15-18 years old attended the camp and benefited from a range of activities, inspirational speakers and the rare opportunity to connect with other diabetics their own age.  

The camp aims to provide attendees with knowledge and tools to promote healthy nutrition and a positive lifestyle while managing their diabetes.  

There were a a range of fun activities to participate in at the 2021 Camp Koala, including canoeing, bike riding, volleyball, basketball, walking, zip lining, tubing, laser tag and boogie boarding. 

During the camp, the young attendees also had access to one on one time with a diabetes nurse educator and nutritionist. Where it was felt necessary the camper’s own diabetes team were contacted for follow up. Campers voluntarily accessed a joint App call “Happy Bob” which monitored their levels. This App had a capability of private communications to each other and very much aided in accessing diabetes self-management. 

Attendees benefited from hearing from Type 1 and family therapist Joe Solowiejczyk who zoomed in from the USA, dietitian and Type 1 Foundation Board Member Julianne Cuthbert and nutritionist Andrea Balog who gave an insightful talk on nutrition, positive body image and confidence. 

The teens were also taken out to dinner to help gain real-life experience in carb counting and ordering from a menu. Many had never eaten out in a formal environment on their own since diagnosis due to a fear of working out injections and found the dinner extremely informative.  

Most importantly, Camp Koala provides participants with the opportunity to meet other young people who understand the challenges of living with Type 1 Diabetes.  

Participants set up an Instagram support page to keep in touch and left a number of positive messages thanking the Camp Koala team for the experience.  

    “For me, the worst thing about Type1 diabetes is the fact that I couldn’t share my experience with anyone because I would feel like a burden, so I stayed silent and let the disease win over me. Camp Koala changed this, from the word go I walked in and I knew things were different, we each connected on a level which I had never felt before and I felt in control know that there was support and safety in those around me. I just felt that the camp provided me with something that no-one in my day to day life could because these people got it. For me insulin is the control but connection is my cure.”” said Lachie Read after attending Lions Youth Exchange & Camps – Camp koala – Type 1. 

The next Camp Koala will be held from 3-9 July 2022.