A group of remarkable teenagers who cope with complex health conditions have taken part in a weekend of specially organised bake-offs, escape rooms and online gaming as part of a new wraparound virtual hospice service provided by Children’s Hospices Across Scotland - made possible by a unique collaboration with Abertay University, Scottish Gas and Amazon.
Amazon’s Dunfermline fulfilment centre donated pampering kits for the teens, which Scottish Gas engineers then delivered, while Abertay Games Production Lecturer, Andrew Reid, introduced a suite of ground-breaking computer games for their benefit. Rachel House nursing and activities staff meanwhile organised games of Catchphrase, a virtual escape room, mindfulness session and a cake baking competition to round out a unique weekend of support for the families, who hail from all over Scotland.
Lois Speed, mother to twins Kein and Kelsey from Arbroath said: “When Kein and Kelsey opened the door to all the gifts, they felt like it was Christmas; and this built the excitement for the coming weekend. It was nice to know someone was thinking of us and helped to reduce our feelings of isolation. Kein and Kelsey don't always get along, but this gave them something to be excited about together and they both got along and worked together – they were buzzing! As a family, this was very powerful. The weekend also gave me a bit of respite as Kein and Kesley were able to be involved with limited support from me, which made for a relaxing weekend.”
Elaine Liddle, Charge Nurse at Rachel House, said: “We are extremely pleased to have been able to offer this weekend of escapism to the teenagers and work in such a unique way with Amazon, Abertay and Scottish Gas, who have all been tremendous supporters of CHAS both before and during this pandemic. Our thanks go to all of them for the role they played.
“Reaching children and families in the ways we would ordinarily like to has been problematic but our clinical staff and family support teams are rising to the challenge in the physical world and now in the online one too. It has been really heartening to hear the passionate feedback from families.”
Andrew Reid, Games Production Lecturer at Abertay University said: “It has been a real pleasure for Abertay Students to devise and develop CHAS Play – a suite of games for Rachel House children – as part of an ongoing project over the past two years. This weekend of activity was a perfect opportunity for us to speak a bit about the project in a fun environment and see how we can involve the teens in the design of the next one.”
Jamie Strain, Senior Operations Manager from Amazon’s Dunfermline Fulfilment Centre said: “We’ve been working with Rachel House and CHAS since 2015, whether it’s raising funds, donating technology and gift parcels to the hospices or hosting away days for families around our facility. It’s lovely to be involved in this way. We’re delighted to hear that the weekend was so warmly received and that the teens enjoyed themselves.”
David Robertson, Head of Customer Delivery at Scottish Gas said: ““At the start of the year, Scottish Gas made a pledge to support CHAS with a variety of fundraising and skills based volunteer activity throughout 2020. Despite this pandemic, we remain committed to assist in whichever way we can. Most recently our engineers have been able to deliver care packages to CHAS families in the areas they work in. Our team continues to be inspired by the work of CHAS and we look forward to continuing this fantastic partnership.”
CHAS is the only charity in Scotland that provides hospice services for babies, children and young people with life-shortening conditions. The national charity offers palliative care and respite for the whole family via its two hospices, Rachel House in Kinross and Robin House in Balloch. The CHAS at Home service supports families in their own homes across the whole of Scotland and has teams working in communities and hospitals across the country.
Like many other charities left reeling from the COVID-19 pandemic, CHAS has had to dramatically transform the way in which it provides its increasingly important services. They have set up Scotland’s first ever virtual hospice to support children and families who are having to completely self-isolate.
The virtual hospice has now been operational for nearly three months, offering families extensive assistance, whether it relates to clinical guidance, financial advice or bereavement support, by video and phone. CHAS family support teams are also offering an expanding range of interactive activities, art clubs, storytelling and conference calls to children and parents, with more in the pipeline.
Although safeguarding is very much in place as lockdown measures ease, children needing urgent physical and end of life care are welcomed at both Rachel and Robin House, where staff continue to work tirelessly to provide palliative assistance in a comfortable environment.