Cancer Fund for Children: The Power of a Jar

With NI's share of the charities finance package agreed but not yet delivered, we asked Cancer Fund for Children (CFC) to tell us how they're coping financially while still hanging on to their core values.

Cancer Fund for Children supports some of the most vulnerable groups of children in Northern Ireland. What you might not know is that it also supports children whose parents have been diagnosed with cancer. So, whether you're a child with the disease or sitting back helplessly watching a parent struggle, Cancer Fund for Children is there, either way.

We caught up with Neil Symington, Community Services Manager, and asked him to tell us about the lockdown's biggest impact and what, if anything, they could do to mitigate it.

"We had a group of young people aged between 8-11 and 12-17 who were supposed to go on a series of residential breaks, as part of their group work programme, so they could understand that they weren't alone with cancer and share their common experiences with each other. But then lockdown happened and all of these residential trips had to be cancelled."

While finding out more about the emotional and psychological benefit to these residential breaks, we learnt that CFC did something extra special and actively went out of their way to encourage families to talk about feelings; particularly for one another.

"In between the second and third residential breaks, young people are invited to design their own jar, with positive and uplifting messages about themselves and statements from one another. These are then presented back to during their final residential. Also inside, there's a message from their families saying all the things they find truly amazing about them - and this is all done without the young people knowing. Many families often don't take or find the time to say how they really feel, so our 'Power Jar' is a really positive way of affirming how much we love someone."

We asked about an alternative to the residential breaks and how some of their core activities can now continue with social distancing. What we learned was that while we are all doing our best to flatten the coronvirus curve, emotional exchanges at CFC certainly aren't under lockdown. In fact, they're at a peak and thriving, thanks to the efforts of a much reduced team, as the charity has been forced to take support from the Government's Job Retention Scheme.

But CFC's group work, Care Free Choir, and other support has continued on, as has the 'Power Jar' initiative; just behind closed doors and thanks to the technicalities of Zoom. Here's what one family had to say about the words they exchanged as part of this critical healing process.

"It was really therapeutic to write to my daughter. It gave me the opportunity to say all the things I wanted to say, without getting upset. It allowed me to plan what I wanted to say, so she knew how I thought and felt, as well as my hopes and beliefs. I found the whole exercise was positive and gave me the opportunity to tell my daughter how I felt about her. I was able to answer many of the questions I know she has been too frightened to ask me in the past. I am so glad I've done this."  Anon mum

"It felt really good to receive my letter from mum. I loved how positive it was and it made me remember stuff that I had previously forgotten about..." Anon daughter

If you would like to learn more about Cancer Fund for Children and how you can support them or you are looking for support, please visit their website for more information.


The opinions, views or comments in this article do not necessarily reflect any views or policies of NICVA.

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