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The following is an article from the latest issue of the CHICKS Magazine.
In just one week, your support changes a childhood forever.
"I can't sleep," whispered eight-year-old Lily* to CHICKS Respite Break Leader Alice, as she padded down the stairs of our Daleside retreat. Lily was spending her first night away from home ever, and her first night away from the bed she normally shared with her sisters in their busy home. "I want to go home," she went on. "I'm homesick."
"I've got an idea," replied Alice. "Let's go on a bear hunt!" A few minutes later, the pair were creeping around the retreat, picking up all the teddy bears they could find, before returning to Lily's room. Alice tucked Lily into bed, this time nestling the teddies around her. "Thank you," smiled Lily. "I don't feel so lonely now."
Children are referred to CHICKS services for so many reasons, many of which are too sad to bear. For even the strongest characters this can mean feeling lonely, sad, angry and afraid. Thanks to your support, a CHICKS break gives a cluster of moments that build belief and confidence, become memories that are treasured forever, and have an impact that can last forever.
"Coming on two CHICKS respite breaks made a huge difference to my life," said Josie, who came to CHICKS as a child. "I have done so many amazing things thanks to the confidence and self-belief that CHICKS gave me." Naomi, who also came on a CHICKS break when she was younger, added: "CHICKS inspired me and helped me change my whole perspective on life."
Last year, CHICKS began investigating how to truly measure the difference a week of support and encouragement can have on a vulnerable child. Led by the Head of our Young Person's Hub Sheryl Dago, the project has looked in depth at what it means to feel happy, hopeful and positive, and how we can make sure this is the lasting impact a CHICKS break will have.
Sheryl explained: "Ensuring the impact of our breaks is measured is central to us as an organisation. It allows us to help the UK's most vulnerable young people in a way that is significant and relevant, and enables us to prove to those who support CHICKS what a difference their efforts are making."
She adds: "As a result of this work, a new questionnaire has been introduced for every young person to complete before and after a break to measure and compare the difference or change in their wellbeing. The positively-worded questionnaires use robust scales that measure emotional and psychological wellbeing. These results are combined with conversations with volunteers and those who refer children to CHICKS services, to get their perspectives on the changes breaks have on the young people we support."
Combined with measurement tools are regular communications between the CHICKS Respite Break Teams and the Young Person's Hub, who accept referrals of children who need the charity's support. This insight has demonstrated the effectiveness of CHICKS support, but with additional information will also drive new projects and initiatives.
Whilst the team continue to gather data into the impact of CHICKS breaks, they are driven by shared memories and stories of children like Lily, who by the end of her week was snuggling into bed with a Horrid Henry book and many, many teddies!
"My son and daughter were immediately put at ease by the gang on their CHICKS break, especially my daughter who was a bit apprehensive at first. They helped to build my daughter's confidence and support her, as she struggled to express all her feelings." – Mum of Jake* and June*
"I just wanted to let you know that Samantha* has been a different girl since coming back from CHICKS! She was so excited to show me, her teacher and others the pack that she came home with. It was so nice not to be able to get a word in – she just didn't stop! Her confidence has grown so much, and is sustained." – Charlotte, social worker
"I wanted to feed back to you all what a fantastic time Liam* had on his CHICKS break this week. I have never seen him either smile or talk to me so much! All of the staff did a fantastic job helping Liam overcome his shyness and take part in all of the activities. As a result, Liam has now agreed to meet with a youth worker who hopefully will be able to continue increasing his confidence and self-esteem!" – Tom, teacher
*Names changed to protect identities