Siblings Together: Still Full Steam Ahead

Sunday, April 1st, 2012 by Delma Hughes

A response from Delma Hughes to our question about the impact of the recession on Siblings Together, a charity which gives separated siblings the chance to share activities and keep in touch.
There have been a number of very exciting new developments and we have made
great progress in the realms of siblings. To tell you the truth I don’t think much about the recession; children need care whatever happens!

I’ve little to lose and don’t need much to get by; I’m passionate about recycling. Since I’m mainly a volunteer for our charity, my time and skills has been the best investment I could make, and it has brought good results. It’s all worth it. We are managing things incredibly well despite these hard times.

Our work, as you know, is all about fundamental, pure & simple, relationships! There are hundreds of theories about them but few which actively get to work on them.
We can analyse all we want about the what ifs, the fears and doubts, but essentially we’ve found our way to supporting children, to tackle the delicate job of preservation and reconstruction of these fundamental relationships.

It costs nothing to care but does cost to have the place to care at, and we’ve been extremely fortunate to have attracted some incredible staff to work alongside us, and generous people to host our groups, as well as some funding we managed to find.

People truly do sign up to make a long term commitment with us, they get hooked and become part of our family; perhaps that’s part of the modelling. I sometimes
think we are the luckiest charity in the world; it feels like the best job!. There’s much wonderment to being there; seeing those smiles and hearing the laughter of children
as they play and just get on with the profoundly complex and difficult task of being a child with their siblings. Facilitating this is what we do best; yes, it’s often tricky too.

As you know, we ran the very first pilot siblings residential camps and have been continuing for more than five years now. We’re committed to continuing these. However I want to share with you news about our new branches which, I’m very proud to say, have been blossoming in the form of our Monthly Activity Days (MADs), which we first piloted last year in Hackney. Now we are running a new centre in Camden Town; we are already full to capacity! We have siblings joining us just one day a month for a fun day together.

We are currently looking at another new venue for our second MAD in central London for easy access, for the children to have adventures, enough facilities for arts to flourish, and space which offers the much needed tranquillity which the children thrive on … so a garden preferred. We’re visiting the venue next week and I cant wait!

We developed these MADs as a continuation - a sort of stepping stone - from our camps. Most if not all siblings wanted more contact throughout the year so we developed a way to make this happen. Again, it’s never been done before. Using all of the skills of art therapy, social work and youth work combined, a kind of Art Pedagogy approach has leapt forth - if there is such a thing.

A number of our siblings have moved to different placements, yet our MADs continue to be there for them, offering a bridge more than anything else. We’ve become the consistent place with consistent faces, we knew them earlier and we share some of the history for them and have helped make plenty too!

From this excellent work in progress, we have developed an entirely new concept and model of siblings mentoring/befriending, and have been successful in our bid to fund a three-year pilot project. We have chosen a large national voluntary organisation to partner with us for delivery of a large scale programme, working alongside four children’s services, with an extensive and thorough evaluation of this pilot being carried out by one of Britain’s top universities.

We are also running a creative connection programme, the first one being a film week at the Roundhouse Theatre, London, at Easter, with others to follow. We have a sailing holiday donated to our siblings, as well as a barge holiday in the pipeline for this year too. We are arranging a week for young writers in/from care in partnership with the Arvon Foundation, which we are still fund-raising for … and many more on their way!

Delma is the founder of Siblings Together. For more information see www.siblingstogether.co.uk

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