Julia from White Stuff Dorchester volunteered with the shop’s local charity, Mosaic, supporting children who’ve experienced bereavement. She joined them on a weekend away. Here’s her account of a lively and emotional weekend.
“I didn’t really know what to expect when I turned up on the Friday evening at Leeson House - a big, old house in the middle of nowhere. I had my bag packed with wellies, a teddy bear, torch, tissues and a big smile. I felt ready for the weekend ahead!”
“The volunteers met and were put into groups. I was with the older children and was so excited to meet them. We were given an agenda and set to work straight away making beds for the 21 children and 15 helpers.”
“When the children arrived, we gave them a hoodie, name badge and handmade quilt (all provided by Mosaic) and a White Stuff bag from Casa del White Stuff. Every child brought a photograph of their lost one which was put onto a communal board. We had a tour of the house and did several team-building activities, including an obstacle course and craft session. Each group had a counsellor and these activities were designed to bring the children out of their shells and enable them to talk to us if they wanted to. As you can imagine, many tears were shed over the weekend.
It was encouraged that we did everything in our groups which really helped us to get to know the children. After lunch, we had time to tell ‘our story’, identifying strong emotions, how to manage them and generate questions for the Doctor. When he arrived, everybody sat together on beanbags and cushions. I found this session very difficult as the younger children asked questions like "Can you catch cancer?" and "Does it hurt to die?" This was a very peaceful but emotional time. Afterwards we played games outside to let off some steam!
The whole team came back into the hall after dinner where beanbags had been placed in a big circle. The lights were off and a big candle was lit in the middle. We each had an unlit candle and took turns to say who we were remembering. When we were done, we lit our candle from the person next to us. When we were ready, we blew out our candle and left the room very quietly. The children got to take their candle home.
The wellies came out for a couple of hours of orienteering afterwards with the older children, which was great fun. A cup of hot chocolate and a well-deserved leap into bed after an eventful night.
“After breakfast, everyone was in the hall at 9am as an aerobics teacher arrived to get us energised for the day. We also did an anger workshop where we got to write or draw what made us angry. We explained our reasons before going outside to put the papers onto a big tarpaulin and threw clay at it until everybody's picture fell down. This was great fun, very therapeutic!
When their parents arrived mid-afternoon, the children gave a presentation in their groups, in front of everybody, discussing what they had done over the weekend. Finally, we all went outside with labels about our loved ones and attached them to a helium balloon. We let these go altogether and watched as flew away. This gave a great sense of closure for the children.
A few hours after everyone left I was tired, emotional, proud of myself and ready to see my own children. We were advised not to work the next day as the weekend would take its toll on us. Now I understand why!
The experience was exhilarating, having seen first-hand what a massive impact Mosaic have on these children, I would like to thank White Stuff for their support in choosing this charity and hope there are many more years to come.”