Children and young people in Norfolk, including some who have lost loved ones during the COVID-19 pandemic, will be offered bereavement support in the form of sport and physical activity at UEA Sportspark.
This is thanks to a new partnership between Sportspark and Norfolk-based charity Nelson’s Journey, assisted by funding from Sport England via Active Norfolk.
Nelson’s Journey aims to support children and young people in Norfolk with their bereavement needs and supports professionals in the county who work with children, such as teachers and health workers, to help raise awareness of issues affecting bereaved children.
Since the start of the pandemic, the charity has been unable to offer its usual face-to-face bereavement support services and has experienced a significant reduction in fundraising income. However this project represents a return to the programme of stress reducing activities, which improve wellbeing and encourage social interaction that Nelson’s Journey provides to the young people they support.
As part of the programme, children are split into groups and follow a timetable of activities, including sports like archery and football, as well as activities such as crafts, walking, and reflective sessions.
Julia Robathan, Course Director of the PE, Sport and Health degree courses at UEA and Nelson’s Journey trustee, said: “UEA Sportspark has successfully supported NHS workers’ children throughout the pandemic and with Nelson’s Journey having been restricted in delivering their vital work over the last 18 months, using the guise of sport and physical activity to facilitate support for these young people seemed an opportunity not to miss.
“Sportspark has a tried and tested COVID-secure model of delivery that will allow the young people to come together and take part in a range of activities that will include some therapeutic bereavement work.
“Sport and physical activity has been identified as a mechanism to reduce stress and enhance relationships in support of bereavement work and Active Norfolk have been very helpful in aiding us to meet the requirements of Sport England funding to tackle inequalities escalated by COVID-19.”
The programme is being run by Nelson’s Journey throughout the school summer holidays, and is facilitated by UEA Sportspark staff. Nelson’s Journey volunteers are also supporting the programme, along with UEA’s School of Education and Lifelong Learning students.
Beth Coombs-Hoar, a UEA student and previous Nelson's Journey service user said: “I know first-hand the vital support that Nelson’s Journey offer young people experiencing loss of family or friends. It is amazing that UEA will be able to host this work and I hope students will be able to volunteer their time for such an important project which will help many young people in Norfolk.”
UEA Sportspark is open to liaising with other organisations or charities that have been restricted from supporting members of the community during the last 18 months. Anyone interested in working with the Sportspark to offer community support via sport and physical activity should contact UEA’s Community Sport Development Coordinator Sean Pasque on S.Pasque@uea.ac.uk.