Champions for Children: Meet Jim

Jim Cameron is one of the facilitators of the Chronic Illness Peer Support Program (ChIPS) at the RCH.

Thanks to the Good Friday Appeal, ChIPS provides a supportive community for those navigating the complex world of chronic illness, offering young people the opportunity to connect with each other. We spoke to Jim to find out more about a day in his life!

Hi Jim! Tell us about yourself and your work at the RCH.

I’m Jim and I am one of the facilitators of the Chronic Illness Peer Support Program (ChIPS). I work with young people who have a primary diagnosis of a chronic illness, many of whom have been in and out of hospital their whole lives. The program is designed to give young people the opportunities and resources to connect with and support each other. We explore opportunities for advocacy, leadership, personal and professional development, social connection and more. My colleagues and I do what we can to facilitate these experiences. We also rely on genuine youth participation in our program, which means engaging with a core group throughout the year (roughly 25 young people) who help shape the key features of the program.

Can you explain chronic illness and the patients you might see in ChIPS?

Chronic illness refers to a condition or illness that is ongoing or recurring. For some, their diagnosis is life-long. It can have a varying degree of impact, typically requires ongoing medical intervention, and can make some aspects of life very challenging.

We see patients with a wide range of medical needs and although we try not to focus on severity of condition, some of those needs can be significant. We try to meet young people where they’re at, which means they dictate what they need from the program and how best it can be achieved. The patients we see are typically looking for social connection and many are seeking ways to advocate for other young people with a chronic illness or disability.

How do you see young people supporting one another in the program?

The support I’ve seen in the program is unreal. Due to the longevity of the program and the duration a young person may be involved (12-25), I’ve witnessed a lot of individual growth. ChIPS members with experience become mentors within the program and help newer members find their way. This cycle is awesome to see, because members who started out shy or unconfident end up as leaders in the program.

The shared experience of chronic illness creates a baseline of understanding which connects the members of the program. To be a member of ChIPS is to be seen, which is something we all long for. The kind of empathy I’ve seen within the program goes beyond chronic illness as members are not defined by how they navigate their conditions. We really are a family and the members of the program support each other to overcome many of life’s challenges, whether through role modelling, social connection, or mental health support.

What three things would you take to a desert island and why?

  1. A guitar – hard to be bored when you can play an instrument! Creative outlet, huge mental health benefits. Enough said.
  2. Salt – Sorry, but I need to season my food.
  3. Nintendo Switch – How else will I play Zelda?

If you’d like to learn more or to donate to the Good Friday Appeal and support programs like ChIPS, you can visit their website: www.goodfridayappeal.com.au/donate/

2 comments for “Champions for Children: Meet Jim”

  1. Kristy

    How can we get in contact with a program like this at the RCH? Our daughter has a rare genetic condition and there are no groups in Australia to join and no cure. Would love for her to have guidance. She has fibrous dysplasia over her frontal, orbital and temporal bones..which is changing the shape of her face. She is 9 years old.

    Reply

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