When members of the Provincial Team accompanied the Brethren of Neyland Lodge to the Sandy Bear Bereavement Charity in Milford Haven, it was clear that the charity was a very worthy cause in need of a bit of assistance. Charity comes in many forms, but perhaps the most precious thing we can give is our time.
Time and expertise were what was needed in the case of Sandy Bear. Some of the areas used for meeting with bereaved families needed some TLC and the whole upstairs of the building needed completely redecorating. After a few phone calls, Old Priory Lodge and Past Master Ian Barnes, came to the rescue. Ian contacted key members of the lodge to get involved with the renovation project.
The first phase of the project was to redecorate and renovate the kitchen area and one of the fire doors. Ian used his contacts at Howden’s Joinery in Neyland and they very kindly donated a new fire door and associated fittings to the project. James Ross, Head of West Wales Freemasons, who had been at the original meeting asked the Trustees of the West Wales Grand Charity to sanction the funding of the required materials and Ian Barnes, Gary Solomon, Stuart Harris, Doug Snape and Neil Johnson provided the labour and the decorating knowledge.
With phase one now complete the Old Priory Team are now moving on to tackle the much larger task upstairs, but many hands make light the work and they are hoping that the whole project will be completed by the end of March.
About Sandy Bear Children’s Bereavement Charity:
We believe that every child and young person should have the opportunity to thrive and to be the very best that they can be. For some children and young people, the death of a loved one will turn their world upside down in an instant, leaving them bereft. Sandy Bear is a not-for-profit charity dedicated to improving and strengthening the emotional health and well-being of young people aged 0-18 (and their families), who have experienced the death of a loved one. We aim to reduce emotional difficulties in later childhood and the prevalence of mental illness in later life that can result in a decreased quality of life, poorer educational attainment, social and health problems and increased vulnerability. We achieve this by working closely with children, young people and families to support them through their grief, and by educating relevant professional bodies to enable them to know what to do when they are dealing with bereavement.
Sandy Bear – The History
In 1996, following an identified need by School Nursing and Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) – NHS, a Sandy Bear child bereavement service was established by those professionals in their own time, working as volunteers. The service was dependent on the work of those volunteers. A formal application was made for Welsh Government grant support via the Local authority which enabled the Health Board to employ two dedicated children’s professionals, allowing the service to become more structured. This helped the service develop further and demand for it increased. By 2006, approximately 60 children were referred to the service annually, by 2009 this figure had reached 158. In 2016, following a review of grant funded children’s services in Pembrokeshire, Sandy Bear was decommissioned due to government funding becoming more limited. However, the service was still very much needed! Before decommissioning, the Sandy Bear service had supported a significant number of children and their families through some of the most difficult times. Knowing how much the service was needed, a dedicated group of children’s health professionals, past users and interested parties met to discuss the next steps. In 2017, a trustee board became established and founded an unincorporated charity with our status as a registered company coming into place in 2018, followed by registration with the Charity Commission in 2019. A key milestone was achieved on the 10th June 2018, 2 years after the grant supported Sandy Bear had to stop. We held our first therapeutic day as a newly formed charity at Scolton Manor and started accepting referrals in the October of that year. We were supported with accommodation provided by Pembrokeshire Frame, until we could move into our own premises in May 2019. Since opening our doors, we have already supported over 100 children and their families through the most trying of times, supported by the generosity of our fundraisers and volunteers. We have a new base in Milford Haven at Europa House where we run our charitable operation from. A special mention goes to all our supporters and in particular, to Valero, whose assistance through their Charity of the Year programme was pivotal to the charity being able to function and support so many vulnerable children and families.