The incredible work of Claire House
Last semester, LJMU students raised an incredible £10,000 for Claire House Children's Hospice, after the University pledged to make a donation for every student survey completed. £10,000 is enough to cover the running costs of Claire House in the Wirral for one day, so LJMU chose 26 September 2017, to mark the 25th anniversary of becoming a university.
I visited Claire House with Rachael Smart, Vice President of Activities at Liverpool Students' Union, to find out about the amazing work the charity do and what the £10,000 covers for a day.
The tour began in a room called The Hub. On the floor and the wall was a sensory projector screen. We were introduced to Rosie – a member of the Play Team – who explained how the sensory projector screen makes experiences such as a One Direction concert or Bonfire Night more accessible to children at Claire House. For example, on Bonfire Night, a child can be immersed in the colours of fireworks while eating toasted marshmallows – an experience that isn’t possible for many of the children who visit Claire House.
We were amazed by the huge selection of projections available. From Backstreet Boys to Peppa Pig, there is something to suit every child. For every bit of specialist equipment, Claire House ensures there is a portable version that can be adapted to children who can’t perhaps can’t leave their room or bed.
Next we went into an art room. I apologise to the Liverpool School of Art and Design but Claire House’s art room looked like the most fun art studio imaginable! The team at Claire House are always coming up with imaginative ways to support the children in creating, whether it’s painting, making a card for their parents or even making music. The room was full of artistic materials of all textures; we spotted Rice Krispies, shaving gel, Play-Doh, golf balls, and bubble wrap along with pencils and paints of all colours.
Rosie explained how some children can use golf balls to paint with as they can be easier to move around than a paintbrush. There was even a machine called the eye-gaze that calibrates with your eye so you can communicate, draw or make music using just the movement of your eye. This means that children can draw and create pictures for their families to proudly display on the fridge at home, something that a child with restricted mobility may not usually get to experience.
'Every single moment that is spent at Claire House is a precious memory created for the whole family; whether it’s splashing around in our hydrotherapy pool, a chilled hour spent relaxing their achy muscles in the sensory room or a child coming for respite which allows mum and dad to have a date night for the first time in years.'
Avril Parr, Community Fundraiser at Claire House
Claire House also caters for teenagers and young adults up to the age of 23. There is a separate wing complete with a sound system, games consoles and a bar serving beers, cocktails and mocktails.
There is a newly refurbished bathroom meaning children get the opportunity to relax in a safe and comfortable environment. Many of the children who visit Claire House do not have access to a proper bath at home so, for them, being able to use this facility is a rare treat. There is also mood lighting and music to add to the calming ambience.
As we walked along the corridor from the bathroom, we could see disco lights coming from the room next door. Naturally, we were all drawn in and we weren’t disappointed by what was inside: in the sensory room there were disco lights, glow in the dark carpet, a mirror ball and interactive sensory equipment, but the room was still dark and cosy with a large heated water bed – the ultimate relaxation den.
The outside areas at Claire House are just as special. There is a play area with a wheelchair-accessible set of swings and roundabout so children can play with their siblings. There’s also a huge house which they call the Hideaway House. It’s another area which children and their families can use, whether it’s to have some quiet time or a party with friends.
'Claire House is there 24/7 for all families when they need us the most and to help them smile through the toughest of times, it is thanks to amazing supporters such as all the students at LJMU and their incredible generosity that we are able to care and support for children with life limiting and serious illnesses in our local area'
From just one morning spent at Claire House, it is evident how important the work they do is for families who visit. Claire House not only cares for seriously ill children, but also makes it possible for these children to create, have fun and relax, and also provides important support to the parents, siblings and families. We all left feeling inspired and moved by the brilliant work they do, so thank you again to the students who helped raise £10,000.