Meet Emma, and I’m the local Community Fundraiser based in Aberdeen for CHAS. You may have heard of CHAS before, but if not I’ll tell just a snapshot of what they do across the whole country.
You may have heard of CHAS before, but if not I’ll tell just a snapshot of what we do across the whole country.
CHAS is Scotland’s only hospice service for babies, children and young people living with a terminal illness. We do this through our two hospices: Rachel House which is in Kinross, and Robin House which is in Balloch on Loch Lomond. As well as the hospices, we have CHAS at Home care teams based in Inverness and Aberdeen, where we have nurses and support workers visiting children in their own homes and in hospital to provide care and create moments of joy with the family.
I started with CHAS almost 5 years ago, and it blew my mind that children’s hospices weren’t a “thing”. I just assumed that children who required care in this way would receive it from the NHS, as I had heard of adult hospices before. But without CHAS, there would be no children’s hospices in Scotland. And when I thought I of hospices, especially children’s hospices, I was actually a bit nervous of my first visit and thought it would be an extremely sad place to be. I was wrong.
When I visited Rachel House on my first day, I walked in the door with one of my new colleagues and was greeted with a friendly face at reception, before we took a right into the lounge. There was a lovely fire burning in the middle of a curved sofa, with a mum sitting reading her book. We turned right again and looked in to the soft play room where there were a few children having a great time jumping around. The dining section of the lounge is one long table, where families sit together and talk with each other, sharing their experiences and tips. The kitchen staff were busy making dinner, and there was tea and coffee ready for anyone to help themselves. At the other end of the dining table was the Teen Zone – strictly teens only, so we didn’t want to intrude!
Turning back on ourselves, we headed through the long corridor where there are the 8 children’s bedrooms, each set up with a non-medical-looking bed. Rachel House is a home away from home, not another clinical place where there are white coats and hospital beds. The staff don’t wear uniforms, so it’s very relaxed. There’s a quiet room at the end of this corridor, and a Jacuzzi for the children to be able to stretch out, as well as a sensory room where there are lots of lights and sounds. Upstairs there are the 8 parents’ bedrooms, a parent lounge with complementary therapy and a few meeting rooms.
One of the other rooms downstairs that we came back to was the Rainbow Room, which is where children go when they are at end of life or have died. Within the Rainbow Room there’s an air controlled bedroom for the child, a living room and a private outside area. This is where families can meet with the staff who can help them plan for what happens next, or to carry out the plans they had made in advance. Every family is different and so this area can be used in whatever way they like. Until we came to this room, I’d forgotten I was in a hospice – all I’d seen was children having fun, running around, playing music and doing arts and crafts. This room had a different feel and it kind of brought it home for me. I suppose that room is a place of sadness, but also a place where families begin their next steps. These next steps don’t mean leaving CHAS behind, they can be part of CHAS for as long as they like, and many families continue to keep in touch for many years. And for some, this is the start of a journey without CHAS – whatever feels right to them.
And 5 years on, I’ve had experiences that I never thought I would ever have professionally – last summer I was emailing Disney Princesses; I’ve spent a few days working in a car park; I’ve been lost in the Highlands when my sat nav stopped working, and I wouldn’t change it! To know that all of these crazy adventures contribute to making sure that children’s short lives are being filled with joy is enough to get me through the occasional early start, late night, long trip and keep raising money for such a worthy cause.
Fundraising for CHAS won’t change a child’s diagnosis, but it will change their journey.
If you’d like to find out more about CHAS and what we do,
Please visit www.chas.org.uk or @supportCHAS on social media.
Feel free to email me as well: email@example.com
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