Photo credit: Maskrosbarn
On the first night of camp, surrounded by candles and bundled under blankets, Jessika passes around small pieces of paper and asks her campers to complete the sentence: “I’m here because….” She then collects the pieces of paper and begins to read the statements aloud.
“I’m here because my father is a drug addict and I need to get away for a while.”
“I’m here because my mother is mentally ill and I’ve been abused my whole life.”
After sharing her campers’ statements, Jessika tells them her own story about having parents that struggled with addiction and mental health. Jessika first arrived at Maskrosbarn as a camper when she was 17, in 2009. At camp, she learned about addiction and mental health diseases and their effect on her parents, developed strategies to cope with their impact on her home life, and began prioritizing her self-care. Most importantly, with the support of her peer mentors and counselors, Jessika took charge of her own journey from healing to success.
Maskrosbarn demonstrates that, empowered with the right skills and support, youth can break out of cycles of harmful behaviors and chart their own path to healthy adulthood. In turn, young people like Jessika are then empowered to serve as care-givers, messengers of hope, and role models for other adolescents struggling in similar situations.
In the words of John C. Crosby, mentors provide a brain to pick, an ear to listen, and a push in the right direction — and peer mentors like Jessika combine the best of these qualities. On International Youth Day, let’s celebrate the youth who are courageously leading each other and their communities into a healthier future!