Posted: 29 March 2019

Young carer shares her story with her community

Lydia was an assistant carer for her grandmother from the age of 14. Her grandmother developed spondylosis which meant she was paralysed from the neck down and was in need of constant care. 

She talks to us about her experience as a volunteer speaker and tells us why it was important for her to share her story.

BECOME A VOLUNTEER SPEAKER

What made you want to speak about your role as a young carer?

A friend offered me the opportunity to speak about my experiences and I thought it would be a good chance encourage schools to recognise the difficulties young carers face.

I think it is important to increase recognition for young carers because it is hugely difficult to maintain duties at home and do well in school. I know I really struggled. We need to educate teachers and authorities to look out for who may be a young carer and provide help and resources so that they have a fair chance at success. 

What did you talk about as a volunteer speaker?

I spoke about what my days looked like. How much of my time was taken up by duties that were out of my control. I spoke about how, as a result of being exposed to this world of caring for an elderly person, I grew up at a faster rate, mentally, compared to my peers in school.

'I grew up at a faster rate'

I also spoke about the difficulties of fitting in and ensuring I kept my reality behind closed doors so that I didn't look weird or get loads of sympathy.

In the talk, I really wanted to give people a sense of what it feels like to be a young carer because that was my every day. At the time you know it is difficult and not normal to have so many responsibilities, but all I hoped was that one day it would be made useful in some way.

What was the best bit about being a volunteer speaker?

The best bit about speaking out, particularly on a topic that is so real for me, is knowing it can help someone else.

I think there is such power in putting to use the difficulties that shaped my teenage years so that changes can be made for both schools and the carers themselves. 

Any advice for people who might be new to public speaking?

Breathe and read slowly. Do not feel rushed.

Also, make it you! I am quite a jokey person and it would feel staged if I did not communicate in a way that comes naturally to me. Be you and be calm, that's all you need to do.

If you had to open with a joke, what would it be?

What kind of cats like bowling? Alley cats!

And finally, what's your favourite word?

Nonna, it 'grandma' in Italian. I love that word it's so gentle sounding.

BECOME A VOLUNTEER SPEAKER

By Kaja Zuvac-Graves
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