We have launched a Christmas appeal to ensure we can continue to make short lives sparkle over the festive season. By supporting our Christmas appeal you can help bring joy and laughter in this most difficult of years. Hear from Jenny, one of our amazing nurses, as she tells us the magical story of Naomi House at Christmastime.
I’m one of the nurses here at Naomi House & Jacksplace. I want to tell you about the wonderful Christmases we have at the hospices and ask for your help to give every child in our care a magical Christmas experience – bringing joy and laughter in this, the most difficult of years.
You know, daily life is already hard enough for a family with a life limited child. Many of the little ones we care for need constant, round-the-clock medical care and support – and that usually means Mum and Dad, 24 hours a day. It’s hard, emotional, stressful, exhausting. Other siblings can be starved of attention; ‘normal’ family experiences often just aren’t possible.
That’s why Naomi House & Jacksplace are so precious to these families. We’re a sanctuary, somewhere they can come to hand over the care and just relax and forget the worries, even if only for a few days. So many parents I have come to know say we’re their only lifeline.
The majority of children we’ve come to know and love have been stuck at home, isolating from friends and extended family. We know that many of our families are really struggling. And now, as the restrictions continue, these children and families are facing an extremely difficult Christmas. But we are not going to give up on them. Because, with the help of our supporters, we can still give them a magical Christmas experience they will remember for the rest of their lives.
Christmas is when we all make a huge fuss and put in the extra effort.
It’s when we make the memories that last and resonate in our own families for years to come. For a family with a life limited child, when it could be their last Christmas together, it is priceless, and if lost, can never be retrieved.
And while this year will be different and children will stay with us for respite without their parents, it is still hugely important to make memories that matter.
Every Christmas we turn our hospices into the most wonderful, magical places. In early November we pull out all the decorations and the nurses and volunteers spend days and days making sure a child can’t turn a corner without seeing a tree, tinsel, lights, reindeer, the works.
Then we have the elves – elves everywhere. In the children’s bedrooms, hanging off the curtains, in the nurses’ office making a mess of our paperwork (honestly, you can’t move without bumping into an elf). It’s absolutely over the top and we absolutely love it.
The main attraction though is the sensory story that we lay out around the house – and out into the garden. There’s a train track on the floor – and we follow this as we take the children on an amazing, multi-sensory Christmas journey.
We know from many years’ experience that this is will be the best time our children will have over the holidays; where they will smile and laugh and Mum and Dad will laugh, and cry, and take millions of photos. We’re determined to give children this magical experience again this year, despite all the problems and the challenges. But we’re going to need your help.
Usually a nurse like me (coping with the child’s often complex care and medical needs) and one of our Play Team members (storyteller!) work together to take the child, their siblings and parents around the hospice, telling our Christmas story (which always has the child themselves as the main character). We start in our multi-sensory room and the children just adore playing with the lights, the shapes and the sounds.
We follow the track, making our way through Naomi House, stopping at various places to tell the next part of the story. At one point the track disappears into a dark, scary tunnel – but we emerge the other end to find that Father Christmas’ elves have created a special Naomi House Toy Workshop right in the middle of the hospice!
The elves tell us that they’re busy making toys for every child and sibling and that Father Christmas has given special permission for the child to go and see him in his grotto out in our garden. So, we all put on coats and boots and follow the track to the back door…
We’re outside now and it’s bright and cold (and hopefully not raining!). The Christmas story takes us over to our BBQ Hut – which the elves have magically transformed into a Hot Chocolate and Marshmallow Shop!
We all have a hot drink and a marshmallow – and then we follow the track, past all the lights and decorations up to Father Christmas’ grotto. We find Father Christmas having a nap – and the children have to shout and bash things just to wake him up!
Then, the children get to meet Father Christmas and magically he knows their names, the names of their brothers and sisters and where they all live!
Then Father Christmas looks in his sack and finds he has a present – one for the child themselves (which of course is something fun and perfect for their abilities) – and there’s a present for every sibling too!
It takes around 45 minutes to tell our story from start to finish. Normally, we’d have loads of kids and families in all at the same time and we’d share the experience as a group; but not this year.
This Christmas will have to be different. We can only have one family in at a time. We’ll have to wear masks (the elves will make those for us) and the kids will have to see Father Christmas from a bit of a distance.
But, do you know what, we’re absolutely determined to make sure that every child we care for can come in, take part in their story, see the elves, have a hot chocolate – and meet Father Christmas, pandemic or no pandemic. And this is where we need your help.
Each child will need two members of Staff – a nurse and a storyteller – to accompany them. Dozens and dozens of children will come and see us over Christmas – so that’s a lot of staff time we have to find, rota in and pay for. On top of that, we’ll make sure that every family visiting will have a Christmas lunch provided for them – our chefs and their team will need to be here to take care of that. Finally, we’ll need to clean, very thoroughly, between each visit to see Father Christmas – and that will take extra work from our wonderful housekeeping staff.
But it will take extra money to do all this – and we just don’t have that after having to cancel pretty much a whole year’s worth of fundraising events. Everyone here is ready to put in the extra shifts it will take to make these precious Christmas stories possible. But we can’t do it alone. Please help us by making a donation today.
It will cost around £34.50 to take a child on their magical Christmas journey this year. That would cover 45 minutes of a nurse’s and Play Team member’s time for each family – and also the cost of the food and the extra cleaning in between. Perhaps that sounds a lot; but if you could be here to see their faces when they wake Father Christmas up and he says “Well hello there!” – you’d be completely convinced it was worth every penny.
But, you know, however much you feel able to manage, your gift this winter will bring the joy and magic of Christmas to a family near you who are really struggling. Thank you so much from myself and everyone here at Naomi House & Jacksplace.
Experience a day in the life of Naomi House at Christmas for yourself in this short, feel-good, heartwarming film.