I often sit back and think about all the fun I had as a kid growing up. We would come home from school and as we got off the elevator you could smell my mother’s pot of food throughout the hallway and more so when you entered our home. We had a routine schedule, which was change your clothes, eat, do your homework, do your assigned chaos, and the play or have some fun. If we went outdoors to play when the street lights came on we were expected to be knocking on the door of our home a few minute after that. The treat of the evening was waiting for my father to bring home the dessert, which was ice cream. He did this every day. I guess you figured out my favorite dessert?
One thing I will always cherish is leaving NYC every summer and spending my summers in South Carolina. My mother would put us on the Greyhound bus the day after school closed and we would return a few days before school began. I would have such a difficult time getting my feet into my school shoe because I sudden wore shoes while in SC. We played all day long, with each other and the chickens cows and pigs. There were no street lights but the darkness and mosquitoes was a good incentive to go indoors.
Never once, did I think about wanting to be an adult or was I expected to take on adult responsibilities like caring for a sick, ill or elderly family member. My heart goes out to youth caregivers. Youth caregivers have taken on the roles and responsibilities of caregivers while struggling to balance their academic, social, childhood experience.
Imagine, rushing home from school because your mother has to go to work and you have to watch your grandparent with Alzheimer’s. You cannot concentrate enough to do your homework or study because you have to make sure your grandparent does not walk out of the house or turn on the stove. You begin to stress out because you have a midterm test the next day. Your mother arrived home by 12 midnights; you attempt to study for the test but falls asleep.
Caregivers Outreach Ministry Empowerment ( C.O.M.E.) saw a need and an opportunity to take on the challenge to advocate for the needs and challenges of youth caregivers with the inception of the SHARKS Program in 2015. The program is heading into it 5th year and is based out of PS/IS 83 in the Bronx. The program provides youth caregivers with monthly support group sessions followed by respite activities. The respite activities provide fun time. A break from their caregivers’ responsibilities, be with other youth caregivers, express their thought and needs, a be a kid. The program also foster family time activities with our Annual Purple Day and Walk to End Alzheimer’s’, and Family Game Night. In addition, referrals are made to community organizations to assist the family as a whole.
Help us continue to make a difference in the lives of youth caregivers. Do you know a youth caregiver? Consider nomination them to be recognized at our 13th Annual Caregivers Award Celebration on November 16, 2019. To learn more about the SHARKS, make a donation or become a volunteer Visit our website at SHARKSyouth.org.