As Camp Simcha’s hospital coordinator and liaison, I wasn’t really sure how my role would work once the COVID-19 emergency took hold.

Prior to Coronavirus, I was in touch with hospitals regularly, reminding them to think of us and refer Jewish families with seriously ill children so that Camp Simcha could support them. I also regularly sent in outreach deliveries of balloons and teddies to children on the wards.

When everything changed, I knew I needed to find the balance between still making sure we were there to support families but also supporting the hospital staff as well – making their lives easier rather than adding to the pressure.

I messaged all my hospital contacts on the nursing teams asking if there was anything we could do for the staff or children on the wards. I am not sure what replies I expected, probably none if I am being honest, given how much they have going on.

However, it turned out there was a lot they felt we could do.

There has been a big response from the hospitals, who are really appreciating this kind of support at the moment to provide for both the children and the staff.

Sadly, serious childhood illnesses do not stop occurring even though the world is in the grip of this terrible health pandemic. Children are still being be admitted to hospitals for urgent and life-saving treatments and Camp Simcha is still getting the same number of referrals as it did prior to Coronavirus. The difference now is that parents and children are trying to navigate this with the COVID-19 emergency in the forefront, and that is just terrifying and, at times, unbearable for them. In addition, many who would have been treated at their local hospitals are being diverted to GOSH.

Most of the children who are spending prolonged periods in hospital can only have one parent with them and no visitors; that is incredibly isolating for both the parent and child.

Finding small ways to keep the children’s spirits up and occupy them – with a surprise gift or a care package – can make a huge difference to their well-being. Staff are also under a huge amount of pressure so we are pleased to be able to help them in any way we can.

To date Camp Simcha has delivered over 350 cuddly monkeys, as well hand creams, toys, gifts, DVDs, arts and crafts packs and snack bags to the Whittington, Royal London, Great Ormond Street, Evelina, Manchester Children’s, Stanmore Orthopaedic, Barnet and Edgware hospitals.

I have had some lovely feedback and messages from nurses and paediatric team members. Just last week Naomi Joseph, Clinical Lead for the Paediatric Therapies team, Barnet and Chase Lodge Hospitals, messaged saying: ‘We were so delighted to receive a surprise delivery of cuddly monkeys, snack packs and a lovely poem of thanks from Camp Simcha. It made us feel particularly special knowing that we are appreciated for what we do, and receiving the gifts was a real lift for all the staff.’

It’s good to know we are making a difference. I know from some of the mothers I directly support in my other role as a Family Liaison Officer how unbelievably difficult this time is for families who have a child in hospital.

One of my families has a new baby, born after lockdown with a serious medical condition, needing life-saving surgery. Mum and dad are in one part of the country with their baby in hospital while all their other children are having to be cared for by family at home in another part of the country.

On top of that with only one parent allowed to be with their baby each week, the other is feeling very isolated away from home. It is such a hard situation, especially for mum only a few weeks post-partum.

Camp Simcha is supporting them in any way we can, with counselling, crisis meals, household support for the family and liaising with volunteers to support the older children.

We may be in lockdown but as a lifeline for so many families, Camp Simcha is making sure it is business as usual.

Thank you to the Jewish News for featuring this article as below.