Our hospital unit gives unwell girls chances to have fun

Being unwell doesn't mean girls miss out on guiding thanks to a new hospital unit. Development Worker Wendy tells us how four dedicated volunteers and funding from UYSAF made it happen.

It feels really rewarding to be able to help young people and their families and offer some light relief during tough times.

I’m one of four experienced volunteers who work on the ward at the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children, with girls aged 4 to 14.

We’re helped by play specialists from the hospital - they work with the children one to one, adapting activities depending on their needs. Over the time the unit has been running, over 50 children have been involved and some have gone on to join weekly Girlguiding units outside of hospital when they have been well enough.

We first came up with the idea of starting a hospital unit when we heard about another Girlguiding group who had done something similar. We contacted the hospital to discuss the activities and programme we had in mind. They were enthusiastic about the idea and we went from there.

So far we’ve made masks and windmills, and created towers out of marshmallows and pasta. Some of the children are very unwell, can tire easily, or are using medical equipment, so this is all taken into consideration. It’s been great working with the hospital and we are indebted to the play specialists for their ongoing support and enthusiasm.

It feels really rewarding to be able to help young people and their families and offer some light relief during tough times.

I volunteer with Girlguiding as I really enjoy working with young people and bringing some brightness into the days of those in hospital and seeing them smile is wonderful. The parents are really glad to see us and I really feel the work we do really does make a difference. - Maureen Swinton, volunteer at the unit

Having a Girlguiding volunteer undertake sessions also gives parents a chance to grab some food or take some time to themselves. Parents also enjoy sharing pictures of their child’s creations with other family members, including siblings and grandparents who may not be able to visit. The children also receive a badge and certificate for taking part.

Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children has enjoyed the input from the Girlguiding unit. We know that the hospital situation is very different from any other - as very little can be planned and ages and numbers can change constantly, and we have appreciated the adaptability of the Leaders to cope with this situation.
We are aware that the visits by the Girlguiding volunteers have encouraged our patients to  think about joining  the organisation or have brought someone ‘familiar’ in to visit. We look forward to continuing with Wendy and the team in the future and also developing links with Girlguiding to create a focus group for children’s opinions with regard to the planning of the new Children’s Hospital, ready in 2022. Jenne McDonald, Play Development Coordinator at the hospital

What is UYSAF?

The Uniformed Youth Social Action Fund (UYSAF) brought guiding to girls who had never had the opportunity before.