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Children use lockdown to create their own storybook about the importance of caring

EIGHT children and young people who care for sick or disabled family members have teamed up with an author and illustrator to create their own colourful storybook, Scarers and Carers.

They are all members of the Merthyr Young Carers group run by Barnardo’s Cymru and they launch the book this week, (Tuesday June 8) Carers’ Week, with the help of the Children’s Commissioner for Wales Sally Holland.

The book tells the story of Alfie, Dora and the monster hunters who are out to catch her. It contains a message about the importance of people caring for each other, something the Merthyr Young Carers know all about.

During the pandemic the Merthyr Young Carers met online with author Mike Church and illustrator Osian Grifford to create the book as part of a partnership between Barnardo’s Cymru and the Stephens and George Charitable Trust which was set up to mark 100 years of printing in Merthyr.

The project was funded by the Integrated Care Fund through the charity Interlink and has been shortlisted for Merthyr’s Academy of Success Awards.

Geraldine Maddison, project worker with Barnardo’s, said: “Our youngest young carer was just eight, the oldest 14, and they have all loved being involved.

“Being a young carer can be very isolating at any time but it has been so much worse during lockdown. Some had lost a lot of school even before the pandemic because of their caring responsibilities for parents or siblings but this has done wonders for their confidence.

“Three of the young people were new to the service so to achieve something like this on Zoom when they didn’t previously know each other has been ground-breaking for them. It has had a knock-on effect on their families too, they are so proud of them.”

Two of the young carers who took part are brother and sister Ethan and Charlotte Davies who help mum Julie to care for their 22-year-old disabled brother Liam.

Charlotte, 12, said: “It was really fun working on the book. We all came up with the idea of monsters and how important it is that we all care for one another. Liam loves the book too.”

Mum Julie said: “Ethan and Charlotte thoroughly enjoyed themselves and their teachers are really chuffed with them. I think it has given them a load more confidence and I’m so grateful they were able to take part. It’s been absolutely brilliant, they had the best time ever.”

Ethan and Charlotte were joined on the project by Jessica Canavan, Cian Evans, Sam Drewett, Millie Rae O’Malley, Jessica Stapleton and Angel Wills.

Helen Hughes, Charity Co-ordinator with the Merthyr-based print group Stephens and George, said: “We realised that a lot of young people were feeling isolated during the pandemic, particularly young carers. We knew that Geraldine was doing exceptional work with young people and decided that teaming up with an author and illustrator would be the perfect project to raise young carers’ confidence and self-esteem so they realise they can achieve amazing things.”

In charge of presenting the virtual launch of the book is Merthyr’s Youth Mayor Andrew Millar who said: “I’ve really enjoyed hearing their story, understanding why they wanted their monsters to have characters and seeing the process behind creating the book. It’s been a fantastic project.”

Children’s Commissioner Sally Holland will be joined by guests including Jeff Edwards, High Sheriff of Mid Glamorgan, Dawn Bowden MS and BBC Wales’s Lucy Owen and Roy Noble.

Scarers and Carers costs £5 and the money raised will go back into supporting future community projects. It is hoped the book will raise the profile of young carers who often miss out on educational and social opportunities because of their responsibilities. Every secondary school in the borough was represented by a young carer on the project and the book will appear on their library shelves.

Scarers and Carers costs £5 plus postage and packing on ebay https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/194179258884 or can be purchased at Dowlais Community Centre. The money raised will go back into supporting future community projects.

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