Woodland wellbeing day

Rockinghorse funded woodland wellbeing day brings fun and adventure to children with ongoing health conditions....

Rockinghorse funded woodland wellbeing day brings fun and adventure to children with ongoing health conditions.

Earlier this year we agreed to fund some Woodland Wellbeing Days for children with long term medical conditions to be run by the psychotherapists in the Paediatric Psychological Support Service (PPSS) at The Alex.

These sessions are aimed at helping to build self-esteem, promote emotional resilience and give children a fun day out that helps build their confidence. They are also a great way for young people to meet others living with chronic medical conditions, helping to reduce their sense of isolation and difference.

These sessions are more important than ever after Covid and the isolation from lockdowns, especially for many of the participants who were classed as vulnerable so had no contact with their peers during lockdown.

After having to postpone this event a few times due to the pandemic, the session took place last week in the wilderness site at Stanmer Park, Brighton.

Stone painting in Stanmer Park

The site is surrounded by nature, in a secluded spot that the group had all to themselves. There was a large canopy under which the young people had been able to roast marshmallows and damper bread over a fire pit, along with lots more space to create nature inspired artwork, paint stones and enjoy the great outdoors.

Charlotte Savins, an Arts Psychotherapist who organised the day along with Clinical Psychologist Lana Jackson, felt that it had been a real success: “It’s been wonderful to be able to come together to enjoy nature and practice some mindfulness to help manage our feelings.

“Often for children with long-term conditions it can become all about what’s wrong or what medical intervention they need, but today has been about them as people and what they need to feel safe, happy and normal.

The group of ten young people came together from across Sussex to try their hand at lighting fires with flints, creating personal mandalas (a circular structure that radiates out from the centre) and play games.

Everyone had a great day with children commenting: “I really enjoyed making new friends,” and “I liked everything, especially roasting marshmallows!”

Charlotte was especially pleased that despite some of the participants having a lot to deal with, they were able to come along for the whole day: “One child’s parent said they thought they would only last an hour, but they manage to stay all day. And this is the first time they’ve been out for that long in about two years, so that in itself makes the day so worthwhile.

Some of the finished stones

“We hope that everyone who has come along today has not only been able to spend a little time forgetting about the things that cause them stress but also go home feeling proud of their achievements and happy to have made some new friends.”

Lara was greeted by a big smile when she came to collect her 13-year-old daughter Rose from the session: “Look at the smile on her face! That makes everything worthwhile. Rose struggles to talk about and understand her feelings and she’s been through a lot medically, but she would definitely love to come to another of these sessions if there are any more.”

Katy* collected her son 12-year-old son Zak* who has chronic fatigue syndrome and said: “This has been a huge step in the right direction for Zak, helping him with his self-confidence, both physically and socially.”

“Zak said that he thought he had lost all his social skills whilst being stuck at home but they pretty much all came back to him during the day, and he felt more confident.”

Charlotte and Lana are hoping to be able to organise more of these sessions as Rockinghorse have agreed to fund a total of six. After asking the group their thoughts about when to do the next one, there were lots of suggestions about pumpkin carving at Halloween or lighting fires in the winter so watch this space!

A finished mandala

Alex Marshall, PR and Communications Manager at Rockinghorse who went along to meet the group said: “When we’re in the office we hear about the wonderful equipment and projects that we have been able to fund but don’t always get to see them first-hand – especially in the last 18 months. So being able to meet and speak directly to the young people and some of their parents about how important sessions like this are, it really brings our support to life.”

To find out more about the projects that Rockinghorse are currently supporting, click here.

*Not their real names