“Giving children a fresh perspective: that’s why we do what we do.”

Our Honeypot Team Leaders have all the best stories! We chatted to Nikita, Team Leader at Honeypot Pen y Bryn, about what a typical day at Honeypot is like and why respite breaks mean so much for young carers.

 

I started at Honeypot a year ago, and became a team leader in April. I’d worked with children for nine years before that, and seen the needs of children in the local area; they’re out there not getting the chance to be children. This has been my first experience of working in a residential setting, and it’s intense, but really meaningful. The level of support we can offer is so much greater, and you really get to know not just the children but also the rest of your team. I also visit schools, homes and coffee mornings and hold meet and greets to spread the word about what we do; people aren’t that aware of young carers, so it’s vital for us to go out and make sure we’re reaching the young people who need our help.

On a typical residential day, after we’ve woken up and had breakfast, everyone sits down to plan out their day. We ask the children to rate how they’re feeling out of ten, so that if anyone’s worried or unhappy we can make sure we’ve solved it and they’re feeling positive for the day ahead. Then we decide what we’d like to do; we make sure that the children know they can do whatever they’d like, and we’re there to make their break as special as possible.

We always have a mix of activities to choose from, from craft to baking to go-karting, because we know how important it is for young carers to have the chance to do whatever they want and get whatever they need out of the break. One boy who came to us was one of twelve children and said he hadn’t slept past 9am in years – he was chuffed to be able to sleep from 8:30 at night until 9:30 in the morning!

In the morning, we often go for a walk by the stream or head over to a nearby farm to say hello to the alpacas. For children coming from big cities, it’s a rare opportunity to spend so much time in nature. After lunch, nine times out of ten, everyone wants to go swimming. The new heated pool was opened in August and especially in this cold weather, it’s a huge hit; for some young carers, this will be their only experience of swimming outside of school lessons, and we always have floats, lilos and music to turn it into a pool party.

After swimming, everyone gets into their pyjamas for an evening meal together, then we have a movie night with hot chocolate and popcorn. Things like that are really important for making the children feel at home and creating a supportive environment. Before bed, the children can call home if they like; otherwise I’ll text their family to let them know all’s well and tell them what we’ve been up to.

One thing I’ve introduced that’s worked really well is ‘High Low Hero’: at the end of the day, we sit down together to tell each other our high and low points of the day and nominate someone who’s been our hero today. It’s a great way to get feedback straight from the children so we can keep making breaks better. Last weekend, one boy said his high point was the Christmas dinner we held, since he’d never had one at home before, and that the staff were his heroes for supporting him.

There have been so many highlights to working at Honeypot, but one memory that’s stuck with me the most was of one boy who I first met at a meet and greet for newly referred families. His dad told me his mum had recently been diagnosed with MS and had rapidly become unwell, and the boy had been struggling to accept the idea of becoming a young carer. When he came to Honeypot, he was quite held back; he didn’t think he needed to be there and was reluctant to take part in activities. One evening, he was chatting with a girl around the dinner table, who mentioned that her mum was poorly and in a wheelchair; as he said ‘Me too,’ you could see it dawn on him that the other children there were in the same situation as him and that they’d understand what he was going through. After that he threw himself into everything and had a brilliant time. His dad told me after he got home that the change in his outlook and behaviour was out of this world. Making a difference like that, giving children a fresh perspective and showing them they’re not alone, is why we do what we do; that’s what Honeypot is.


Honeypot is the national charity for young carers aged five to twelve. We do not receive government funding and rely on your donations to keep running respite breaks. Please consider supporting us by making a donation, attending an event, or making us your organisation’s charity partner.