Think treats, not treat­ment

Putting the fun back into the lives of fam­i­lies with a crit­i­cally-ill child

The Jewish Chronicle - JC Magazine - - Camp Simcha -


N MOST of our com­mu­ni­ties, there are fam­i­lies who have a child with a life-threat­en­ing ill­ness. From can­cer to mus­cu­lar dys­tro­phy, th­ese fam­i­lies face high lev­els of stress and anx­i­ety and it is our re­spon­si­bil­ity to be there for them. Camp Sim­cha’s vi­sion is that “no Jewish child, wher­ever they are in the UK, should have to suf­fer se­ri­ous ill­ness with­out our sup­port”. It be­lieves that the best way to im­prove qual­ity of life for the sick child is to change the life of the whole fam­ily, in­clud­ing sib­lings, of­ten the for­got­ten suf­fer­ers. In Fe­bru­ary 2011, six-year-old Tami was di­ag­nosed with a brain tu­mour. She has en­dured years of surgery, chemo­ther­apy and ra­dio­ther­apy while her par­ents, Dawn and Jonny, watched their daugh­ter change from a bun­dle of en­ergy into a shadow of her former self.

Dur­ing a rou­tine visit to Great Or­mond Street Hospi­tal, Dawn no­ticed the huge bunch of shiny Camp Sim­cha bal­loons that had been de­liv­ered to the chil­dren’s ward ear­lier that day by a Camp Sim­cha vol­un­teer. She con­tacted Camp Sim­cha and our Big Brother and Sis­ter vol­un­teers quickly be­came part of Tami’s life and that of her brother Joshua. They vis­ited Tami reg­u­larly and took her to par­ties and out­ings, pro­vid­ing re­spite for Dawn and Jonny as their ded­i­cated fam­ily li­ai­son of­fi­cer pro­vided them with 24/7 prac­ti­cal and emo­tional sup­port.

The whole fam­ily came on Camp Sim­cha Re­treat, where they met other fam­i­lies who could really un­der­stand. Both Tami and Joshua were made to feel really spe­cial; they went on heli­copter rides, en­joyed pri­vate film screen­ings, and ex­pe­ri­enced an amaz­ing ar­ray of out­ings and ac­tiv­i­ties. Ev­ery child was paired with a vol­un­teer giv­ing one-to-one at­ten­tion, so Dawn and Jonny were able to re­lax.

While most peo­ple lined the streets or watched the Queen’s Ju­bilee cel­e­bra­tions on TV, the whole fam­ily en­joyed Camp Sim­cha’s Mad Hat­ters Tea Party, with hu­man “bunny rab­bits” play­ing games and a real Alice telling sto­ries. One evening, straight af­ter chemo, Tami and Joshua went with Camp Sim­cha to the X Fac­tor con­cert at the O2 cen­tre and even met

Camp Sim­cha helps all mem­bers of the fam­ily feel bet­ter and stronger

all the stars. When we spoke to her a few weeks later, Tami didn’t even re­mem­ber the treat­ment she had re­ceived that day — all she could think of was meet­ing her heroes.

Camp Sim­cha ser­vices are free to fam­i­lies from all sec­tors of the Jewish com­mu­nity. Last year, it placed over 3,000 fam­ily li­ai­son calls, fa­cil­i­tated over 2,000 vol­un­teer vis­its and pro­vided al­most 1,000 hospi­tal trans­ports — just a few of its ser­vices, pro­vided as stan­dard, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, com­pletely free. Camp Sim­cha re­ceives no government fund­ing and re­lies on the gen­er­ous sup­port of the com­mu­nity.

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