Meet Rhianna – From Sibling Camp to Camp in the Cloud

When Rhianna was three years old, her brother Connor was born with multiple life-threatening food and environmental allergies as well as asthma, eczema, adrenal insufficiency, and keratoconjunctivitis.  Connor’s illness meant that he required a great deal of care, which inevitably had a huge impact on Rhianna’s childhood too.      

“I became a young carer for Connor, at a very young age” said Rhianna, “My mum was around, but I still had to do my part. He was being taken care of, 24/7, so I had to learn to figure out how to do things, in case he had to be tended to instead.” 

Now 17, Rhianna is still affected by her brother’s illness, “I struggle to complete everyday tasks when he isn’t feeling well,” she adds. “My attitude depends on how he is doing. I didn’t get to experience much of my own life because I was always trapped within his.” 

Discovering camp  

It was when Rhianna’s parents found Over The Wall, that she discovered a place where she could reclaim her childhood, be free and have fun.  

“Camp is one of the happiest places I have ever been, I have met some of the best people through Over The Wall and I have experienced some of the best days of my life. For years I felt shoved aside for my brother’s needs, I felt isolated, left out. But when I came to camp, it was like I finally had people there for me.” 

Camp cancellation 

Over recent years, Rhianna experienced sibling camps and was especially excited about attending her last camp in the summer of 2020, until the outbreak of the Coronavirus caused all camps to be cancelled.  

“I was at school when I found out camp was cancelled. I didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t help crying. It wasn’t until later that I heard from Over The Wall and learnt that there would be a ‘virtual camp’. I was so happy- but also confused as I had no idea how it would work!” 

Camp in the Cloud 

“Camp in the Cloud was really great. It captured the atmosphere of normal camp- even though we weren’t there, and it still gave me an escape. I’m so glad it happened.” 

“I loved the online ‘Cabin Chat’ and being able to easily connect to friends I had met in the past, as well as speak to new ones. Our whole family had been shielding and so I hadn’t been out for a long time. It was a relief to forget about the lockdown and have different activities to wake up to every day.” 

“I really enjoyed the ‘escape box’ – and the robot hand was fun. I also made an origami mobile which is now hanging up in my room. I hadn’t done any of these activities before. I’d always wanted to try and do an escape room- so having the box delivered to the house was a cool way of doing the challenge. I really enjoyed it.” 

“It was great to hear from the volunteers too, and chat to them- that made it all feel like camp. Some of the campers I hadn’t spoken to since my last camp, so it was good to catch up with them. Talking to people in similar or worse situations makes you feel like you aren’t alone and you feel much better about everything. Without Camp in the Cloud, I would have missed out on that.” 

“During Camp in the Cloud, the days went so quick! There was a lot to do- the week was over in what felt like seconds. It gave me something to do rather than be on my phone. There was a gallery where we could post pictures- and comment on each other’s work and I was also able to FaceTime my friends whist we did the challenges together – so we could chat whilst doing them! That was really good fun.” 

“When Camp in the Cloud came to an end, I felt more relaxed and much less stressed. It gave me a breather- from everything- like normal camp would have. Camp in the Cloud gave me a break, it felt like everything was reset again.”  

Read a very moving open letter from Rhianna to Over the Wall here.