Reynella East College student Rosemary has grown up fast.

Her dad is blind, her mum suffers from chronic illness and with siblings also living with disabilities, including autism, the now 14-year-old has taken on more responsibility already than many people will in a lifetime.

However, she wouldn’t have it any other way.

“I’ve always been mature,” Rosemary explains. “I’ve always cared for my family, especially my dad – helping him to do things and go places, especially on the bus. But, I did always wonder if there was anyone else like me.”

That was until late 2016 when a friend introduced Rosemary and her mum to Siblings in Focus – a Communities for Children AnglicareSA activity, funded by the Australian Government Department of Social Services, designed to support young people whose siblings have disabilities and complex needs.

“I was shy at first but it was really welcoming and to just have a break. My mum used to stay for most of it, and it was good for her too.

“I wanted to hear how other people felt about having siblings with disabilities but it’s not like we talk about it all the time

“I felt like I was the only one who had been living like this but then there were other people going through the same thing even though our situations are all very different. I just felt comfortable.”

Now, almost three years later, Rosemary has gone from participant to mentor undertaking a volunteering role to support the initiative run out of Hackham Community Centre.

“Once I turned 13, I was too old to continue as a participant, but Tanya (SIF co-ordinator) asked if I would like to become a volunteer. I was so keen. I can catch the bus straight to Hackham. It works perfectly for me and I am really excited about it.”

Rosemary, who wants to study psychology when she leaves school, said she really liked “talking with people and hearing their problems and seeing how (she) could help them.”

“It’s hard to imagine everyone else’s life. With my own family I get sad sometimes because I can’t relate to them and it can be sad and confusing watching things happen in the house and all the doctors’ appointments.

“For most people, the program is just about having a break from all that which is really important.”

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