Written by Naty Galárraga

In my first HAEi Youngsters summer camp meeting in 2017, I expected a few nice conversations, some shared experiences, and then everyone going their separate ways. In just four days, I didn’t expect to make many new or lasting friendships. I didn’t realize at the time how I’d be proven wrong.

After that summer camp, I’ve made an innumerable number of friends through the HAEi Youngsters Community. They’ve helped me in ways I couldn’t possibly have imagined at the time. This community has supported me whenever I needed, through so many different channels: Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, video calls, and of course in person.

Having the HAEi Youngsters Community means having a family—people you can depend on for anything. And as I’m now traveling around the world, I have reached out to many Youngsters and people within the HAEi organization, all of whom have been amazing allies in this journey.

The first and most crucial kind of support from this community is how it helps us stay healthy while traveling. After leaving Ecuador for the US, I needed to find an HAE specialist and didn’t know where to start. I reached out to Lisa from HAEA, and she helped me locate one of Washington state’s only HAE specialists. She later checked in on me by message to make sure I was doing okay.

Later, I had one of my first attacks while traveling solo in Arizona. My girlfriend was over 8700 km away in Portugal, so when I was scared about the rash I was experiencing  which was a side effect of one of my medications, I wrote our Youngsters’ WhatsApp group chat. They immediately helped me feel better in an unfamiliar situation by telling me what was normal. I learned that they experience the exact same medication side effects, which put my mind at ease. But the kindness didn’t stop there. They even kept checking on me a couple days afterwards, just to make sure I was okay.

Beyond supporting each others’ health and safety, the HAEi Youngsters Community has also enriched my experiences and helped me get the most out of my world travels. When I posted on my Instagram story about traveling to Seattle, one of the HAEi Youngsters, Isabel, immediately reached out with tips about cool places to visit. She also said that we had to meet someday when she was back in the area. And when I landed in Israel, another Youngster, Millen, wrote me with can’t-miss travel tips. She also always kindly checked in on me to see how my time was going in her home country.

From that first four-day HAEi summer camp, I never would have imagined forming these friendships, much less finding so many people like myself. Although we don’t see each other every day, and even though we’re separated by hundreds and thousands of kilometers, we Youngsters find ways to help each other, keep in touch, and share our favorite experiences with each other. These actions make me feel supported and happy. I know that I have a community to count on—one that takes care of its members as a family.

With HAEi, I also know I never need to be afraid of seeking adventure around the world—and neither should you. Thanks to the Youngsters Community, there’s always someone there to support you, whenever you need and wherever you go.