The aim of CREW – Challenging Recreational Experience Weekend – is to promote positive rehabilitation of children and young people cared for in Peanut Ward at Queen Victoria Hospital (QVH) East Grinstead. Many of the children bear scars from burns and plastic surgery injuries as well as birth defects. Children with burn scars often require numerous operations throughout their childhood and into their late teens. Some are able to cover their scars with clothes but only when they participate in activities such as canoeing and swimming are they willing to expose their scars to others.
The camp on the Isle of Wight accommodates around 30 children and young people aged between 7 and 16 years. QVH Charity, the charity dedicated to supporting the hospital, has to raise £8.000 every year to fund this camp. CREW is run by QVH staff and past patients now too old to attend but come as volunteers. The volunteer team also have the support of East and West Sussex firefighters. The children attending do not have to pay anything to attend ensuring that this vital camp is open to everyone. Our Club has been funding one participant on the weekend for a number of years but Covid has meant a two year break in the activity. This year, however, the camp has been able to take place once again and the impact it has had on the participants has been tremendous. The following is an extract from a report written by one of the nurses on Peanut Ward who organises the event each year.
‘After two years of CREW being on hold, we set off for an amazing weekend, the volunteers as excited as the children. As well as all the usual challenging activities – climbing, archery, beach fun and zip wire etc – we introduced a ‘Diamond Jubilee’ biscuit decorating competition. By bedtime on Friday night they were buzzing on red, white and blue icing, all that sugar! Seeing these young people overcome their fears, not dwelling on their disabilities and putting 120% into every activity however tricky for them as individuals was both awesome and humbling. Watching a child with only one strong hand do the ‘leap of faith’ twenty feet in the air was utterly amazing with lots of wet eyes both adults and children. Hearing them discussing and helping each other to make sense of their fears and feelings and the camaraderie and encouragement is fabulous. These young ones have so many hurdles to overcome one way and another and to witness them spending three days just being kids, not paying heed to their injuries and disabilities is truly priceless.’
We are delighted to be able to contribute to this life-changing experience for these young people, all the more so since Margaret Duncombe MBE, a founder member of the Club and chosen in SIGBI’s centenary year to be celebrated as an outstanding Soroptimist, was instrumental in opening the Peanut Ward with a private room allowing parents to stay with their children.