Camp Simcha helps the whole family with whatever is needed, even birthday surprises.
Six-year-old Penina Stern grinned from ear-to-ear and blew out her candles, as she celebrated her sixth birthday with her Camp Simcha Big Sister volunteer.
Just a few days earlier she had been so upset to learn that her mum and dad wouldn’t be with her on her birthday – but in Birmingham with her ten-month-old brother, Ari, for an operation he needed for his heart condition.
Penina had also been unable to celebrate her Hebrew birthday because Ari had been in hospital with an infection. Her mum Rivka had promised they would celebrate her English birthday instead.
But when Rivka got the date for Ari’s operation it turned out to be Penina’s birthday.
‘The operation had already been postponed twice,’ explains Rivka, from Prestwich. ‘But I felt terrible to be breaking my promise. Penina is a such an easy-going child but when she heard the date she was so upset.
‘I happened to talk to my Camp Simcha Family Liaison Officer Daniella Berkeley later that day to tell her when the operation was and mentioned in passing that Penina had been upset. It was literally a throwaway comment but Daniella immediately said Camp Simcha would do something.
‘Two hours later she called back with a list of ideas. When I told Penina that instead of mummy making her a party Camp Simcha was going to, her whole face lit up. With each option we went through Penina got more and more excited.
‘Later she said “it’s really good you are away for my birthday because I get to do something much better”.
Penina’s Camp Simcha ‘Big Sister’ Sara Kachani took her and Rivka’s two other daughters Zehava and Aviva out for dinner, with balloons, blowers, decorations, presents and a birthday cake. All the girls had their nails painted and Penina was made to feel really special.
‘When I spoke to her on the phone in the evening she said she had had an amazing day,’ said Rivka. ‘It’s made such a difference to me to know that, even though I am in Birmingham and she is in Manchester on her birthday, she still had an amazing day.
‘I had felt so horrible that I couldn’t keep my word to her but thanks to Camp Simcha she had the most wonderful time.’
Thank you’s from parents and hospitals
“We are really quite overwhelmed by everything you all do for the Camp Simcha families. Mark was more relaxed than we have ever seen him in a group situation and watching him chatting with the other kids and volunteers made us so happy!”
Rosalie and Gideon – Parents of a child with cancer
I would like to thank you and your colleagues for the very kind donation of gifts in December… Not only did your gifts provide a great deal of pleasure for the children, they also helped allay much of the anxiety and distress often experienced as a result of admission to hospital or attending repeated outpatient appointments. They made such a big difference and provided a much needed “feel good” factor to our young patients!
Liz Wilkinson – Senior Play Specialist at University College London Hospitals
To everyone at Camp Simcha On behalf of all the patients on the Children’s Ward at Northwick Park Hospital, I would like to thank you very much for your kindness and support… The regular balloon drops throughout the year are a brilliant idea! They bring a smile to the faces of all the children, brighten up the cots of tiny babies and even manage to cheer teenagers, a difficult age group at the best of times. It is amazing that no one has thought of this idea before and we are most grateful and very much looking forward to your visits.
Nicky Bowditch – Play Specialist at The North West London Hospitals
Please note that some names have been changed to protect identity.