Woking Hospice is a place that is very dear to my family. The team there have cared for two of our good friends in recent years and helped their families cope with the heartbreaking loss of their loved ones.
I have been so impressed by the counselling that is provided for the bereaved children particularly by a rather charming lady, Julie Cole, Children’s Services Manager.
Several years ago, a specialist counselling group was set up by the hospice in memory of a young man (and friend of my stepson) called Tom Di Felice who was tragically killed in a road accident on 15/12/2009 – he was 17 years old. Through tireless fund raising by Tom’s family and friends, the “Tommy D Project” was launched. The group is there to help young teenagers, who have lost someone close to them, through their bereavement.
I had the great pleasure of meeting Julie last year and was in awe of the work she does with this group and the “Footsteps” group for the younger children too.
In 2012, Julie had the idea to plan a trip to Kenya to take the Tommy D group to volunteer at The Children of the Rising Sun Orphanage in Malindi, Kenya, which is home to 60 orphaned and abandoned children.
Each member of the group had to fund raise to cover their £2,000 travel costs. Endless car boot sales, car washes, quiz nights, mufti days, sponsored walks etc followed as they all worked hard towards their targets.
Following a fund raising event I organised for the hospice in August last year, I was invited to meet the team and offer some basic face painting training to give them the skills to offer the service at various events to help add to their fund raising efforts. One sunny but chilly day in Woking in October we spent several hours spreading paint; glitter and smiles around the room; set them up with some mini kits and sent them on their way to raise valuable funds.
12 months on and I received the most wonderful email in my inbox. A message from my young friend Megan, just back from Kenya, full of emotion and excitement about her trip and attaching photographs that made me shed a few tears. The teenagers had all taken their face paints to Kenya with them and had had an opportunity to paint the orphans who had never experienced face painting in their lives.
It was so moving to think that just a few hours training a year before led to something happening 6,641 miles away that will no doubt be a memory they treasure for the rest of their lives. (Loving the fact that I now know, thanks to Google Maps, the exact mileage from my home to Malindi, Kenya!)
Total respect to Julie Cole, Kate Whyatt, Nick Di Felice, Lisa Jones, Megan Lowe, Joe Plume, Liam Grant, Andrew Baynham, Francesca Sleet, Rafaella Barratt, Lucy Braithwaite and Robin Guy who made up the team.
Most importantly, the kids self confidence grew, and they pushed themselves to limits they didn’t know they had!
FUN FACT!! – as a group they lost 71 lbs in weight! Result! Wish I’d joined them!
The team hope to return next year, with some possible new Tommy D members who have joined in recent months as well as those from the previous trip!
If anyone would like to help by contributing to next years funds, they should specify, Tommy D, or Tommy D Kenya when donating. See links below.
To read more about their adventures please click here.
To make a donation: