Caring Ruth takes gold at Buckingham Palace

By Julie Waters 

BANGOR’S Ruth Warmington is celebrating a special golden achievement during Carers Week.

Twenty year-old Ruth first became a young carer when she was aged just eight years old after her younger brother was diagnosed with epilepsy.  

Thanks to the support from the Action for Children charity and West Presbyterian’s 297th Girls’ Brigade, Ruth was able to pursue her interests outside of her family commitments. 

Now studying for a Music Business BA (Hons) degree at London Metropolitan University, Ruth was invited to Buckingham Palace recently to celebrate achieving her Gold Duke of Edinburgh’s Award.

A young carer is defined as someone under the age of 18 who looks after a parent or another family member; they take on physical and emotional duties that adults usually handle, which can often feel scary and isolating. 

Like many conditions, epilepsy does not just affect the person having seizures, the disruption and unpredictability of the condition impacts the whole family.  

As a young carer Ruth was limited to what she could do outside school due to her caring role and her family focusing on her three younger brothers. 

Ruth recalled the support she received from Action for Children. “Cathy the family support practitioner came to meet me at home, then  invited me out for hot chocolate and treats. Escaping from my family but knowing I wasn’t going too far away was wonderful. 

“I didn’t have to worry about mum being on her own with the boys. At home everything was about my brother, but with Cathy it was about me. I loved my time with her. 

“At school, my friends just didn’t get it. They’d be worrying about what phones or clothes they wanted, where they were going at the weekend. I was worried was my brother going to have another seizure? Would he hurt himself? Would there be another ambulance at our house?”

However Ruth said: “But Cathy understood my worries and concerns, she quietly reassured me, took my worries seriously and gave me outlets to dump my stresses. 

“She got me involved in activities and residentials with other children who were in similar situations and it made a world of difference to me, to my mental health and to my coping at home and school.”

Throughout her childhood Ruth also enjoyed going to Girls’ Brigade but there were times when it wasn’t possible for her family to get Ruth to her weekly meetings or to extra activities.  

Thanks to 297th NI Girls’ Brigade Captain Cheryl Miller and her team of volunteers Ruth was able to attend every week and was provided with everything she needed to fully take part in all aspects of the organisation.

“Like Cathy, Cheryl knew what was going on at home,” said Ruth. “She would go out of her way to give me extra support, arrange lifts, provide equipment and I’ll never forget that. Kindness and understanding go a long way for a young carer.”

Cheryl said has it been a privilege to see Ruth grow from the little girl joining the Girls’ Brigade Company at the age of four to recently completing her officer training aged 20. 

“Ruth has developed lifelong friendships, worked hard and developed into the outgoing, confident young lady she is today.  She has shown real determination especially through her teenage years and always with a smile on her face.”

Ruth invited her mum Corrin and Cheryl to Buckingham Palace to celebrate achieving her Gold Duke of Edinburgh’s Award.

Corrin described it as a ‘joyous occasion’. “We are indebted to Action for Children and West Church NI GB for supporting our family. They have encouraged us through our hardest days. The help they have given Ruth has allowed her to fulfil her potential and achieve at the highest level.  

“We are delighted that Ruth has been awarded her Gold Duke of Edinburgh’s Award.  It was a joyous occasion at Buckingham Palace – the weather was glorious, the tea and cupcakes delicious and the gardens exquisite.”

If you are a young carer aged eight to 18 living in the South Eastern Trust areas or know someone who is visit: https://www.facebook.com/YoungCarersNI or email niyoungcarers@actionforchildren.org.uk for more information.