Where the light shines in

Far from being a place of sorrow, a children’s hospice is full of hope, discovers Tim Gibson

I went to The Treehouse expecting to feel overwhelmed by sadness and I left with a heart full of hope.

    ...where children and their families are given joy even in the most testing of circum-stances.  

Hope in discovering a place of light and life, where children and their families are given joy even in the most testing of circumstances.

Hope in meeting staff who are committed to the wellbeing of children, young people and family members, who strive daily to set up conditions in which they can live every second to the full.

Hope in seeing that a parent’s worst nightmare can become a moment of shared becoming, making memories that endure even when a young life is taken away.

The work of East Anglia’s Children’s Hospices (EACH) is undeniably challenging. It treats children and young people who have life-limiting conditions, as well as providing end-of-life care and supporting bereaved families.

While such work is inevitably profoundly sorrowful, EACH sees its task as helping children and their loved ones find meaning in these experiences.

As Vicky Matthews, a corporate fundraiser for the charity, explained: “EACH is here to respond to the needs of our users. That means supporting children, young people and their families in whatever way works for them.”

Such support naturally involves medical care, but it’s about so much more. During my visit, I met Sandra the art therapist and Ray the music therapist, whose roles focus on using creativity to help people through the difficult moments that come when dealing with illness, dying and bereavement.

“We’re very much a user-led service,” said Vicky. “Alongside the work of our clinical staff is a whole team of people who strive to give families and their relatives what they need to get through hard times.”

"As an example, the charity once organised a private screening of a newly released film for a child who was receiving end of life care and was desperate to see it while they were staying with us. We contacted the distributor who was able to make this happen. Only the child and his family were authorised to watch the movie. It was a wonderful experience and made a very special memory for them."

    “Alongside the work of our clinical staff is a whole team of people who strive to give patients and their relatives what they need to get through hard times.”  

It is moments like these that shape the character of EACH’s three hospices, as well as its care in the community. They show a deep-seated commitment to the wellbeing of children and their families, a willingness to go the extra mile in helping them form memories that make the pain of parting slightly easier to bear.

Such an attitude imbues the very fabric of The Treehouse. Far from feeling like a clinical environment, it has a homely, welcoming vibe. For the children and young people who visit on a regular basis for treatment or to receive respite care, that ensures a positive experience.

It explains why so many parents of children with disabilities are grateful for the support of EACH: the charity gives them an opportunity to switch off from the pressures of their daily lives, to reconnect with one another and their wider networks, secure in the knowledge that their children are being nurtured by dedicated specialist staff in calming, beautiful surroundings.

Few would deny the beauty of The Treehouse’s extensive grounds. The plot was donated anonymously more than a decade ago, greatly reducing set-up costs. It is a place of calm tranquillity with an accessible play park, landscaped gardens and plenty of nooks and crannies to pause awhile and process, ponder or pray.

Perhaps that is the most striking feature of The Treehouse. It is a place designed to deal with the most painful of situations. And yet, thanks to the beauty of its setting and the faithfulness of its people, it is brimming with positivity.

A place tinged with sorrow, certainly, but with an innate, intangible quality of hopefulness that leaves a lasting impression on all who pass through its doors.

Published: 16 October 2019

© 2019 Just Recruitment Group Ltd

Just Recruitment is sponsoring EACH’s “Happy Christmas Ipswich” comedy evening, hosted by Griff Rhys Jones. To support the event or donate to EACH, please click here.

If you enjoyed this article, you may like: Everything you need to know about “Happy Christmas Ipswich”. An evening with Griff Rhys Jones & Friends in aid of EACH

You may also enjoy: Mental health in the workplace for employers and employees

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