A little bit of light
Camp Quality – where laughter truly is the best medicine.
As the world presently struggles through difficult times, there are those who are no stranger to dealing with unimaginably difficult times on a daily basis – but Camp Quality is there to help them through with the best medicine of them all.
14 July, 2020
Not only is there physical anguish around a diagnosis, but cancer can take an unimaginable toll on a family’s mental and emotional wellbeing
Childhood should be filled with glorious, grubby adventures. With happiness and positive memories at the forefront and all the cares of adulthood not even showing on the horizon. Unfortunately, each year tens of thousands of Australian children aged between 0-13 years are impacted by cancer either personally, or inadvertently through a parent or sibling’s diagnosis. Not only is there physical anguish around a diagnosis, but cancer can take an unimaginable toll on a family’s mental and emotional wellbeing. That’s where Camp Quality takes centre stage with their series of at-home, at-school and in-hospital programs. Supported by the much-loved Camp Quality Puppets – Kylie, Dean and Melissa – this special not-for-profit works to help change the cancer story for kids and their families.
The Audi Foundation has long been a corporate partner of Camp Quality, and through its grants program helps support Camp Quality’s Primary School Education program.
Through the national Primary School Education Program, the puppets have played a major role in the crucial education around kids and cancer for the wider community – instilling the message that we’re all the same on the inside, despite what is happening on the outside. This year Camp Quality celebrated five million students watching the puppets perform and answering questions such as ‘can you catch cancer?’ on behalf of many students directly impacted by the disease.
Additionally, the puppets have sparked joy and laughter to those experiencing the challenges associated with being sick while in hospital. Camp Quality CEO Deborah Thomas explains, “The reality of cancer is that a child is in hospital usually with one parent, which leaves one parent at home trying to keep the financial wheels moving. Then there are siblings who feel as if they’re not getting attention, and they just see that their family was one way and now it’s another. The idea of reconnecting the family and creating a community for them is so important. But the main impact I hear and see is from the parents, and what it means for these parents to see their kids laughing and smiling. There’s an immediate benefit in the work we do.”
Of course, there’s no ‘off switch’ when it comes to cancer and in the face of a global pandemic, when lockdown and imposed restrictions means more isolation and precaution, COVID-19 indeed feels like an added blow to those families affected. Because children with compromised immune systems face a double threat with coronavirus, Camp Quality immediately shifted to the introduction of a digital dose of positivity through more online programs and services on the newly constructed Happiness Hub.
“As well as fun activities, wellbeing resources and inspiring content from the Camp Quality Family, the Happiness Hub is also the home of our virtual camps, the puppets and a wonderful story time section,” explains Thomas.
Of course, there’s no ‘off switch’ when it comes to cancer and in the face of a global pandemic, it feels like an added blow to those families affected
“COVID has really made us think about what our digital services look like,” says Thomas. “The Happiness Hub has been fantastic and we’re now looking at other resources for teachers online"
“There’s been amazing collaboration across the organisation because people at Camp Quality aren’t necessarily able to go out and do the job that they’ve been hired for. We’ve had people who are co-ordinators writing wonderful pieces for the Happiness Hub, we’ve had Andy Griffiths one of the most famous authors in Australia reading part of his new book on the Happiness Hub, and a Facebook show with puppets. Additionally, we have developed two apps – A Kids Guide to Cancer, which is a simply written, beautifully illustrated resource particularly for newly diagnosed cases during COVID-19. And The New Normal Navigator App, which helps families navigate all of the services that are available to them.”
There was also Camp Quality’s ‘Camp In’, a crowdfunding initiative that took place on the 4th July and encouraged households to set up camp in the living room or backyard and connect with friends while helping kids facing cancer. While this was a shift from the regular camps the organisation has run in the past, this pandemic has certainly seen everyone subscribe to various forms of adjustment.
“COVID has really made us think about what our digital services look like,” says Thomas. “The Happiness Hub has been fantastic and we’re now looking at other resources for teachers online. We have some wonderful blue skies ideas, but the first step is how we place the puppet program online as a resource for schools, should we have this sort of shut down again.”
Between the media, corporate and non-profit sectors, Deborah Thomas has a number of vast credits to her name and it’s her wealth of experience which ensures she is the ultimate CEO to navigate change. In a noisy sector, where there are a lot of well deserving charities seeking funding, Thomas is able to use her commercial experience to help this charity redefine the course.
“Having been through the crisis that was the implosion of the magazine industry, I think I’m quite good at dealing with change. I watched the publishing industry completely move and I think a lot of that has been applied now particularly into what we look like in the physical space and the online space. Between that time and the nine years I spent on the Council of the National Library of Australia while they were transitioning online, my strength is in how we deliver face to face services as well as those online.”
Certainly, her passion for the work is also a key driver to Thomas’ success with Camp Quality.
“I just love the fact that I’m doing a job that’s so community orientated with so many passionate people and something that is changing people’s lives for the better. People are going through the darkest time they could imagine and you’re able to provide a bit of light, some fun and some positive memories.”
Deborah Thomas has a number of vast credits to her name and it’s her wealth of experience which ensures she is the ultimate CEO to navigate change
Want to ensure you always receive the latest news and features from Audi? Subscribe now to the Audi Magazine newsletter.