Work to start on new £600,000 headquarters for Norfolk charity Nelson’s Journey

The guests at the Nelson's Journey annual meeting. Picture: Denise Bradley The guests at the Nelson's Journey annual meeting. Picture: Denise Bradley

Sunday, May 18, 2014
11:24 AM

There were smiles all round at Norfolk charity Nelson’s Journey this week after it was revealed work would start on its new £600,000 headquarters on Monday.

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The guests at the Nelson's Journey annual meeting all received a potted bulb to plant in memory of a special person. The Youth Panel with their pots, from left, front row, Maisie Green, 15, Megan Greaves, 14, and Sammy Woods, 16. Back row, Aidan Blythe, 14, Jeremiah Humphreys, 13, and Kathryn Evans, 17.The guests at the Nelson's Journey annual meeting all received a potted bulb to plant in memory of a special person. The Youth Panel with their pots, from left, front row, Maisie Green, 15, Megan Greaves, 14, and Sammy Woods, 16. Back row, Aidan Blythe, 14, Jeremiah Humphreys, 13, and Kathryn Evans, 17.

The child bereavement organisation started fundraising for its new home, Smiles House, in 2012 – to create a purpose-built welcoming environment where children and young people could receive support.

Based at the Octagon Business Park in Little Plumstead, the building will also have space for support groups and families and provide accommodation for training professionals who work with children and might need bereavement guidance.

“We exchanged contracts on Monday, so there is no going back,” said Colin Lang, chief executive of Nelson’s Journey.

“This stage of the project means so much to the charity and all the staff. Nelson’s Journey has needed this facility for a long time now. We have been told we will get the keys for the building on September 12 and plan to move the team in on September 16.”

‘100 times better’

Jody Baxter’s little sister Maisie committed suicide in 2012 at the age of 13.

A family counsellor visited after her death, but the teenager decided it was not for him.

It was Jody’s girlfriend’s mother who suggested he get in touch with Nelson’s Journey – and child bereavement support worker Ryan Doubleday went to the house to meet him.

“Although I like to think our family is particularly close and capable of talking openly about our emotions, Maisie’s suicide left me with such a complicated array of emotions,” he said.

“I began to internalise my feelings, and it was Ryan who managed to drag them out of me.”

Jody, now 18, then went on a residential weekend with the charity, where he met other young people who had suffered a bereavement.

“I felt good after seeing Ryan and after the weekend I felt 100 times better,” he said.

“Going on the weekend has made me want to get involved with the charity. I wish the Smiles House had been there for me.”

The ground floor will be dedicated to services supporting young people and their families and will include two one-to-one therapy rooms, a resource library and a “chill-out” area.

The first floor will accommodate the administration, fundraising and marketing teams and the chief executive.

But after announcing the news at its annual meeting at The Forum on Tuesday, the charity still needs help to get Smiles House up and running.

“We are inviting individuals and companies to sponsor rooms within the house,” said Mr Lang.

‘Really helpful’

Jess Delany’s mother died from sudden adult death syndrome in 2011, aged 44.

A few months later, the teenager, now 17, spoke to Nelson’s Journey, and Debbie Winterington from the charity came out to see her at the family home in Framlingham Earl.

Jess then went on a residential weekend with the charity.

“I thought it was really helpful – talking about how I felt and talking to other people,” she said.

“Me and another girl who met up on the residential weekend are still friends.”

The teenager has taken part in the charity’s annual memorial walk.

“They range from £1,000 upwards – but we still have a lot of small items people can support us with, from crockery and kettles to beanbags and an Xbox One for the young people.”

The cost of these items ranges from £10 to £12,000 and the charity hope people in Norfolk will continue to show their support.

“We are proud of where we are located and are very grateful to all those who have supported us since 1997,” said Mr Lang. “This next stage is an exciting one and I would encourage anyone who wishes to contribute to the contents of the building to contact us for a sponsorship pack.”

Last year, Nelson’s Journey saw a 25pc increase in the demand for its services, following a 67pc rise in 2012.

It believes this is largely due to local government funding cuts and the scaling-down of support services. In 2013 it received 506 referrals, with more than 200 so far this year.

It has been operating for 16 years and provides a service for local children up to the age of 17 who have experienced the death of a significant person in their life.

It aims to improve the emotional wellbeing of bereaved children by increasing their confidence and self belief, providing education about the causes of death and letting families talk openly about bereavement. It also gives chances to remember those who have died and help children to express and understand their emotions.

One in 29 school-aged children is estimated to have experienced the death of a parent or sibling; in Norfolk this equates to 3,825. This figure is significantly higher when including pre-school children and 17-year-olds.

• To support the project, email enquiries@nelsonsjourney.org.uk or call 01603 431788.

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