How sis­ter act was a boon to Sam

The Jewish Chronicle - - COMMUNITY -

WHEN EIGHT-year-old Sam Starr was go­ing through his sec­ond round of treat­ment for acute lym­phoblas­tic leukaemia, Camp Sim­cha ap­pointed then vol­un­teer Hay­ley Phillips as his “big sis­ter”. Six­teen years on, Ms Phillips was the first name on the list for a party to celebrate his grad­u­a­tion from Leeds Univer­sity, where he achieved an in­te­grated master’s de­gree in maths.

It is an ex­am­ple of the bonds formed be­tween the chil­dren with se­ri­ous ill­ness sup­ported by the char­ity and their Camp Sim­cha big brother or sis­ter, who are aged be­tween 18 and 25 and trained to be a spe­cial friend. Well over 200 are on call.

Ms Phillips, who now works for Camp Sim­cha as re­treats co-or­di­na­tor, re­called that “we had lots of fun to­gether, de­spite what Sam was go­ing through. We have stayed in each other’s lives ever since, long af­ter my role as big sis­ter of­fi­cially ended. You be­come close to a fam­ily at a very s t r e s s f u l a n d fright­en­ing time in their lives.

“Wa t c h i n g Sam come out the other side of that and then grow up to be such a fine young man is very spe­cial.”

Mr Starr, 24, from Chelms­ford, said that he had im­me­di­ately got on with his Camp Sim­cha sis­ter. “When you are sick or in hos­pi­tal and sur­rounded by fam­ily mem­bers who are wor­ried and also suf­fer­ing, it’s re­ally up­lift­ing to have some­one out­side of it to come in to keep you com­pany. Hay­ley made me feel bet­ter be­cause we would talk about dif­fer­ent things and she’d bring a dif­fer­ent per­spec­tive to my daily life. She was also some­one I felt I could con­fide in when I needed to. It’s hard to talk to your fam­ily when you are feel­ing re­ally low be­cause you feel guilty about up­set­ting them but I could tell H a y l e y a b o u t things. “She also re­ally helped me with the school work. I had loads to do — not just h o m e - work but all the s t u f f I h a d missed by be­ing off school. It was quite lonely and iso­lat­ing do­ing it on my own, but Hay­ley would come to the hos­pi­tal and work through it with me.”

His mother, Jo, added that “at one point Sam was hav­ing lum­bar punc­tures ev­ery month but he hated hav­ing a gen­eral anaes­thetic. He used to in­sist on be­ing awake for them, even though that was not stan­dard prac­tice at his age. He wouldn’t let me be in the room be­cause he knew it was hard for me to see him in pain, so Hay­ley sat with him ev­ery time talk­ing to him while they did it.”

He fin­ished his treat­ment two years later and has since been in re­mis­sion.

Camp Sim­cha chief ex­ec­u­tive, Neville Gold­schnei­der, said: “Our big broth­ers and sis­ters play a huge part in the lives of the chil­dren we sup­port, bring­ing a ray of sun­shine in dark times. It’s won­der­ful when they — and we — get to see those chil­dren re­turn to good health.

“If the worst hap­pens and a child we are sup­port­ing dies, Camp Sim­cha is still there to help the fam­ily while they need us. This ap­plies to the big broth­ers and sis­ters and also to the fam­ily li­ai­son of­fi­cers and other rel­e­vant ser­vices. Ini­tially there would be a cri­sis sup­port set-up and then on­go­ing sup­port.” Hay­ley Phillips ( with Sam Starr and his mum, Jo — and ( Hay­ley with Sam, when she was his Camp Sim­cha big sis­ter

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