Dragonflies to help bereaved children

AT ANY one time, there are around 150 children who need bereavement support in the Hastings and Rother area.

And until now, there has been no group support service available to help these youngsters in their time of need.

But the situation is about to change as the Fellowship of St Nicholas (FSN), on London Road, has announced it is opening a bereavement service called Dragonflies to help young people aged five to 16.

Annette Hardy, manager of the project, said: "Our research has shown that there's a real need for bereavement support in the area. It also shows children who get group support fair better than those who get one-to-one support.

"A high proportion of children who don't get any support end up with mental health difficulties later in life."

The FNS announced its latest project after receiving a 135,000 grant over three years from the Big Lottery Fund.

The money has been used to appoint a manager and group leader who are already putting the innovative plans into place.

The project is based on the Winston's Wish peer support group, who founded one of the first and most successful bereavement support services in Cheltenham.

Dragonflies will operate three age groups, with six to eight children per class, offering age-appropriate help depending on the age of the children. The group is named after a famous book on bereavement for children called 'Waterbugs and Dragonflies' by Dorris Stickney.

The project will use activities and question and answer sessions about death and bereavement and the children will be encouraged to remember the person and talk about their memories.

Karen Aylward, the bereavement services co-ordinator at the Conquest, will work closely with Annette Hardy to ensure the children get the best possible support.

A further aim is to enable parents and families to develop their own support networks by holding coffee mornings for adults while the children are busy in their groups. Ms Hardy said: "It's an exciting time and we can't wait to get started. We hope the weekly groups will be up and running by December."

FSN would welcome any new volunteers to help with this much needed new project. For more information about Dragonflies call Annette Hardy on 01424 423683.