A Swindon woman who became one of Britain’s youngest carers has won a national beauty pageant and wants to use her platform to help other young carers.
Sheri Harvey, 22, was announced as the new Miss Atlantic 2021/22 in a virtual ceremony on April 24. She also won the competition’s awards for best in interview, popularity and publicity. For Sheri, competing in pageants started as a way to overcome losing confidence when she was bullied in school. She has since won many beauty pageants in the UK. Sheri is using her Miss Atlantic title to set up her Caring4Children platform, inspired by her own experiences.
She says, “At the age of four I found my dad at the bottom of the stairs. He had collapsed from a stroke. A year or two later, my mum also became very ill with chronic regional pain syndrome.
“I had one parent who was bed-bound and the other had to stop working and couldn’t do as much as she used to.
“I took on a very heavy role at home and was registered as one of the youngest young carers in the country.
“It became my normality. I learnt how to use the hoover, how to do the washing, how to give their medication – all the things I may have naturally learnt as I got older but I started that process from a very young age.
“I found it challenging to not have a normal childhood. I only saw my friends at school and my studies became very difficult.
“I couldn’t concentrate at home because I would worry whenever I heard a crash in case one of my parents had collapsed. It was a constant worry, even when I was at school.
“When you become a young carer, you become the adult in your family and the whole family dynamic shifts.
“It was something that my peers didn’t understand. They went out and played and had sleepovers, while I did housework, gave medication, helped with dinner and everything you would expect an adult to do.”
Sheri has started her own platform to ensure young carers get the support they need: “I started Caring4Childhood about a year ago, which is for raising awareness about what being a young carer does to a child, in partnership with local schools and Swindon Carers Centre.
“It will signpost young carers towards the support they need and make sure they are never isolated.
“Through pageantry I have met so many women who have gone through their own struggles that they are now advocating for and want to.”