Hand in Hand supporting families of children with cancer

HAND in Hand, the Galway-based national children’s cancer charity, continue to provide personalised care to families affected by childhood cancer across Ireland during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Hand in Hand began in 2006 when a Galway girl was being treated for leukaemia. Since then the charity has grown to provide national tailored support to families affected by childhood cancer, including many in Mayo.

The charity works with 50 to 60 families any given month and regularly provides a tailored package of practical and emotional support including domestic cleaning, childcare, laundry, meals, play therapy, counselling and a hand to hold on their journey.

With Covid-19 the charity’s services have been flipped upside down and they are continuing to adapt to the ever-changing environment in Ireland.

Jennifer Carpenter, service manager at Hand in Hand, said: “Like everyone, the pandemic has been unchartered territory for us. So much of what we do is based on in-person contact, and we’ve had to find new ways of working to still support the families we work with from a distance.

“Childhood cancer is already isolating in so many ways, and families are hyper aware of the risk of infection at the best of times. Unless you’re living it, you cannot imagine what these families are going through right now.”

With face to face services halted, the charity have begun to send out thousands of euros in supermarket vouchers to relieve some of the financial pressure affecting the families they work with.

“We can’t thank you enough for this. It arrived the day before we were heading in for treatment so I was able to go out and buy all the quirky foods that she likes. Chemo does funny things to the taste buds!. It really is a life-saver,” commented one mother.

They have also ramped up their emotional support services to include virtual counselling and play therapy, regular check-ins by telephone and their in-house play therapist is providing families with weekly activity packs to beat the boredom during this phase.

Denise Gordon, Hand in Hand’s in-house play therapist, explains: “Although these are tough and challenging times, we are determined to keep supporting our families in any way possible. We decided to send out our weekly activity packs to help inspire some playfulness without having to search for ideas.

“Linking in with parents and children over the phone has been different, yet I am thankful that we can still connect. Spending time checking in with our families, hearing their voices and helping explore their thoughts and feelings is powerful.”

This time is difficult for everyone, but particularly tough on children undergoing cancer treatment, their siblings and their families.

An 11-year-old child the charity have been providing telephone support to commented: “I feel a lot better after talking, I'm not worried about everything now.”

One of the parents the charity supports stated: “I really appreciate the check in calls, it's good to get to talk to someone outside the home that understands. We are enjoying the activity ideas each week - they keep us busy!”

For information about any of these services or how you can help Hand in Hand continue to provide this vital support to families around the country, please contact Laura Bromley fundraising and development, at laura@handinhand.ie or (087) 329 5395.

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