Time for Them: Making Memories Self-Defence Days

8th Dec 2021

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The work young carers do for their loved ones is invaluable and our society depends on them, but at MYTIME, we believe that every child needs and deserves opportunities to take time for themselves too. Through our Making Memories programme, we host fun and enriching activity sessions for groups of around 20 young carers to enjoy together, as a community. These provide young carers with much needed opportunities for relaxation, leisure and social connection, and allow them a richly deserved break from their caring responsibilities. The programme builds community spirit, positive mental health and self-confidence. Sadly, over 80% of young carers report that their participation in leisure activities has suffered as a direct result of their caring responsibilities, so it is important that our Making Memories days offer young carers chances to partake in new experiences. By trying new things, young carers can develop key life skills, resilience and increased self-esteem.

Following a recent forum event in which several young carers had informed us that they felt unsafe going outside in their local areas, and that this created a barrier to exercise for them, we set about organising 2 self-defence days through our Making Memories Programme. With funding from Sport England’s Tackling Inequalities Fund, we were able to involve a total of 32 young carers, and to improve their safety, confidence, and self-worth. The sessions were hosted at Tier 1 Martial Arts centre in Poole, and aimed to  equip young carers with the knowledge and skills that would make them feel more safe when out on their own, while encouraging physical activity too.

Each session started with some warm up games which helped the young carers to come out of their shells and start talking with one another. Some recognised familiar faces from the last Making Memories day that they’d attended, and jumped straight back into conversations with one another.

Next, working in pairs, young carers learnt a series of moves they could perform using their hands, elbows and legs to defend themselves. This created discussions around potential dangers, how we can use our judgement to minimise risks and how we can manage risks when we do find ourselves in dangerous situations. Afterwards, participants stated that they felt more confident that they would know what to do or say in a potentially dangerous situation. As the day went on, the young carers practised their newly-learned defence moves on punch bags and perfected their techniques. In the afternoon, activities involved some martial-arts style defence drills with sticks and some exciting airsoft gun games.

At the end of each day ,the young carers were exhausted but glowing with confidence, now, not only feeling more safe in the community but with new skills in their back pocket. They had had a day to connect or reconnect with peers going through similar experiences to them, and a chance to focus on their wellbeing instead of their caring responsibilities. The results of participant surveys show us just how much young carers take from these kinds of Making Memories activity days, with 100% of respondents reporting that they had fun, tried something new, made a new friend and felt less stressed. Most young carers said that their mood and self confidence had improved too, and that they believed in themselves more. Now, that’s what we call a success!

Here’s to the next Making Memories day with MYTIME!