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Camp Simcha volunteers have been reunited with the children they support – meeting in person for the first time in over six months.

While the charity’s Family Liaison Officers began seeing mothers face-to-face outdoors in April once restrictions lifted, it has only been this past week that volunteers have started to meet up with the seriously ill children and siblings they support.

Camp Simcha Head of Services Daniel Gillis said this is happening on a case-by-case basis, taking into account each child’s circumstances and specific health risks.

“So far it has been a handful of families, but more are planned and it has been wonderful for all concerned. Our volunteers have done a fantastic job of engaging with the children they support virtually but that does not give the same level of respite to parents as a physical visit, especially with younger children.

Volunteer Mira Josephs met up Sari, a teenage girl she supports whose sibling is ill – their first get-together since last summer.

She said: “We have been doing activities on zoom but this was on another level and we were both so excited to see each other. We met up outside, walked, got some food and sat and ate it. Even though we were socially distancing, it just didn’t matter; it was so great to be together again and to see how happy she was. We have already been messaging about plans for next week’s activities!”

As charities follow the Government’s roadmap to opening up, Mr Gillis explains that with the seriously ill children Camp Simcha supports being amongst the most vulnerable to Covid-19, their approach has to be right for the families.

“Over the next few months, we are focusing on safe, outdoor meet-ups and activities in small groups with a view to some hybrid virtual and physical events in the summer, restrictions permitting.

“Our next big programme on the Camp Simcha calendar is our Keshet summer day scheme and the hope is that this will incorporate a few Covid-safe day trips for families and online evening activities.”

Mr Gillis explained that while there was a definite desire to return to physical activities – with families missing being together in person – the remote provision that has been necessitated by Covid-19, has meant that those who have previously found it difficult to attend certain activities due to geography or other commitments, can now take part.

“We have particularly noticed this with services like our therapeutic art sessions and some of our parent support activities and groups.

“It’s one of the small positives to have come out of an incredibly challenging 13-plus months.

“As we carefully work towards a return to physical events, we will incorporate these positive aspects of our remote services into our provision for families going forward – to support everyone in a way that works best for them.”