balloons_footerlogoHow did Balloons start? By Clare Selley, trustee.

I was first made aware that there wasn’t a local charity that could support bereaved young people, when I was working as a staff nurse on an Oncology ward. This was in 2005.

Two things happened to make me realise that a children’s bereavement service was needed.

  • The first was when I tried to identify support for a father who was facing the difficult challenge of soon having to bring up his two young daughters on his own.
  • The second was listening to a colleague, who even though she was in her fifties, had never really come to terms with the fact that she had been denied the chance to see her father at the end of his life. She had also been shielded from the truth, not given the opportunity to attend his funeral or been helped to build memories or keepsakes. She had lost her father more than 40yrs previously.

The turning point for me was being allocated a place on a course entitled  ‘Enhanced care of the bereaved child/adolescent’. This long-standing, accredited course was run by an inspirational lady called Jill Rose. Jill, along with a health visitor colleague, Jeni Braund, had for many years been responsible for delivering this bereavement training and providing on-going support to school nurse and other healthcare professionals throughout Devon.

Jill and I decided to join forces and make it happen! We couldn’t, of course, turn our dream into a reality without the help of all the dedicated trustees and volunteers who shared the vision with us.

By February 2007, we had secured our first grant from the ‘Local Network Fund’ to carry out a pilot project, which confirmed the need for this service. Our name was created from an idea planted by a young girl whom Jill had done some bereavement work with. Releasing a balloon at the end of her sessions with Jill had made a big impact. From the letters in ‘Balloons’ we came up with ‘Bereavement and Loss – Looking onwards’.

The next big break was securing 3 years funding from the Big Lottery Fund for a full- time family worker and a full-time project manager. We have continued to move forward from there.