Sandy Bear

Why I volunteer…Janine’s Story


Janine became a volunteer for Sandy Bear in 2006 when she was approached by Anita, our Clinical Lead and Co-Founder, when they both worked together at Hywel Dda Health Board.

Janine, an experienced Community Nursery Nurse, talks openly about why she became a volunteer for Sandy Bear.

“When Anita first asked me about becoming a Sandy Bear volunteer, it seemed a natural step alongside my passion for working with little children as a Community Nursery Nurse. I was also bereaved as an infant myself, when my mother died when I was just 11 weeks old.”

Both Janine and her older brother were adopted by her grandparents, which Janine feels very fortunate for the love, security, and stability this provided in her childhood and teenage years.

“My grandparents were very open and honest about the way in which my mother had died, something we also believe is essential at Sandy Bear when working with bereaved children. I know that this helped me immensely in my journey through life without my mother”.

Janine loves working with children who come into the Sandy Bear service and loves seeing the progress they make by attending the 1:1 and groups sessions at Sandy Bear House.

“It is a privilege to hear them sharing their stories and their grief – and to share my own story with them”.

Janine has continued to support Sandy Bear throughout the pandemic as both a volunteer and secondee from Hywel Dda Health Board Flying Start Service, where she has been instrumental in developing the new Sandy Cub pilot, aimed at children under 5 who have lost a significant person in their lives.

“Knowing the difference that a loving and supportive environment can make for very young children who have been bereaved, Sandy Cubs is a vital service to support those children to have meaningful bonds and a sense of belonging despite the significance of the bereavement. This service, currently being piloted by Sandy Bear in Pembrokeshire, could have such positive outcomes for many small children”.

Volunteers Week 2021

Volunteers Week 2021

To mark the start of #VolunteersWeek, Sandy Bear Children’s Bereavement Charity wants to highlight the importance of our volunteers and the positive impact that they make to the lives of bereaved children, young people and families right across Pembrokeshire.

Join us this week to learn more about the work of our fantastic volunteers!

Hannah Underwood appointed as new Charity Coordinator at Sandy Bear, funded by BBC Children in Need

Hannah UnderwoodHannah Underwood has recently been welcomed into the Sandy Bear team as a new Charity Coordinator. Hannah joins at an important time for Sandy Bear to support the growing need for the service due to the challenges presented by Covid 19. Hannah will be supporting the development of the charity that works closely with children and young people who have lost a significant loved one.

Passionate about working with children and young people, Hannah qualified as a primary school teacher and worked in Pembrokeshire until the Covid 19 pandemic hit. Having herself experienced bereavement at a young age, Hannah acknowledges the importance of child bereavement support and early intervention.

The role of Charity Coordinator has been created following the successful application by Sandy Bear to BBC Children in Need’s Covid-19 Next Steps funding programme, resulting in an award of £53k to increase staff resources at the charity.

Hannah says “When I saw this position advertised online, I jumped at the opportunity to work within such a role. I am really pleased to have been offered the position. I feel very passionate about the work Sandy Bear carries out and I know I will thrive within a position which supports children, young people and families within our county. I am really looking forward to developing within this role and making a positive impact for those who need it during such a difficult time.”

Ceri Crichton, Charity Development Lead at Sandy Bear states that “We are delighted to welcome Hannah into the Sandy Bear family and I am sure that Hannah will make a significant difference to bereaved children, young people and their families within Pembrokeshire. We also would like to thank BBC Children in Need who have fully-funded this post so that we can continue to develop our charity and advocate for the need for child bereavement to vulnerable children”.

Meleri Jones, Wales Regional Officer, BBC Children in Need commented: “BBC Children in Need is committed to improving the lives of those children and young people who need it most by supporting projects like this which work locally to make real and lasting changes to young lives.”

Children in Need Logo

Sandy Bear announces new Ambassador, Maya Sonvico

Maya SonvicoWe are proud to share that Maya Sonvico has accepted the new role of Charity Ambassador to highlight the importance of child bereavement services and inspire others to support the Sandy Bear Children’s Bereavement Charity cause.

 Maya is a part of the Sandy Bear family and was one of the first children to be referred into the Sandy Bear service following the death of her father from cancer in 2007. She believes that the service was instrumental in helping her in later life when her brother died unexpectedly when she was just 20 years old.

 “As a teenager it is very difficult because you’re going through a lot of change,” says Maya, “there is a lot of heightened emotion at that age. Grief can fester if it is not dealt with…it was so different with the loss of my brother… I didn’t have to think ‘how am I going to get through this; how will I do this?’ as I did when my dad died.”

 “Sandy Bear gave me space to be a normal teenager whilst also helping me deal with the loss. They said: ‘this loss is a big part of you but there is so much more to you as well. I am delighted to be able to give something back like they helped me when I needed it too”.

 Ceri Crichton, Charity Development Lead said “We are over the moon that Maya has chosen to support Sandy Bear, both as Ambassador and group volunteer. She has accomplished so much despite having faced some of the most challenging circumstances in a young life and we are proud that she is our Ambassador. I very much look forward to collaborating with Maya and we would welcome more young people to join alongside her too”.

Sandy Bear and author Jess Childs join forces to support bereaved young people

Jess Childs

Sandy Bear and children’s author Jess Childs, who writes about ‘big issues for little people’ have joined forces to support increasing numbers of young people affected by bereavement.

Visitors to the Sandy Bear Children’s Bereavement Charity website can now access a virtual reading of Jess Childs’ picture book, Ivy and the Rock, read by the author herself – the video is below this article.

The free resource is the result of a new partnership which came about after Jess published the book based on her own experiences of love and loss, and as increased numbers of children continue facing bereavement in light of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Jess, whose mother Olwen died in November after her cancer treatment was delayed by the first UK lockdown and who then also tested positive for Covid, said: “My two children have lost a Grandma they adored during this pandemic, as well as a much-loved Great Grandmother after she also contracted the virus and sadly died in January.”

“We are just one of hundreds of thousands of families in the UK that have had to try and cope with the loss of a loved one whilst also trying to explain that loss to small children whose lives have already changed significantly as a result of the pandemic,” Jess added.

“So, I’m absolutely delighted to have been given the opportunity by Sandy Bear Children’s Bereavement Charity to try and support others through the sharing of Ivy and the Rock, which is a colourful, age appropriate story looking at love and loss in an honest, yet child friendly way.”

With more than 120,000 deaths connected to Covid-19 in the UK alone since the pandemic began, services supporting families in grief have been busier than ever, with referrals to Sandy Bear Children’s Charity rising significantly within a similar timeframe.

Anita Hicks, Clinical Lead at Sandy Bear Children’s Charity said: “We are excited to be collaborating with Jess following the launch of Ivy and the Rock. We know that conversations about death with children can be challenging and this book provides a good starting point to have those difficult conversations. Our approach is always to be honest with children about the death of a loved one in an age-appropriate way.”

Sandy Bear Children’s Charity runs bereavement groups and other support services for younger children, teenagers, parents, guardians and carers, as well as professionals working with bereaved children. It is also launching a ‘Sandy Cubs’ group to support parents telling very young children that a loved one has passed away, among other new services, too.

To the Port of Milford Haven team

Thank You

On behalf of the children, young people and their families, our volunteers, our trustees and the team at Sandy Bear, we wanted to say a huge thank you for voting Sandy Bear Children’s Bereavement Charity as your chosen charity in 2021.

Your support this year will change the lives of many families who are suffering a significant bereavement and will help vulnerable children and teenagers in Pembrokeshire to receive much needed support through their grief journey.

You have already got off to a fantastic start through ‘Beat the January Blues’ and the photos of your efforts were brilliant. We hope the rest of the year will be fun and uplifting and we want you to feel valued for supporting Sandy Bear. We are working closely with Lauren and the team to do just that.

There are lots of ways you can help us in the meantime and in doing so, make an incredible difference to the lives of so many children and young people who have suffered the death of a loved one.

Please follow us on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn – like and share our posts and describe why  you voted for us… this is important because it raises awareness of our service.

You can even set up a Facebook Fundraiser on your birthday to support us.

And if you need our support, please pick up the phone and call us on 01437 700272. Hopefully later this year, we will provide Port staff and their families with an opportunity to meet the Sandy Bear team to learn and talk about how to support a toddler, child or teenager who has experienced a bereavement.

Whatever way you to choose to support us this year, we are delighted that you are, and look forward working alongside you because we couldn’t do it without your help – thank you so much!

Sandy Bear is recruiting a Charity Coordinator

Join Our Team img
Sorry, applications for this post are now closed

Sandy Bear Children’s Bereavement Charity believe that every child and young person should have the opportunity to thrive and to be the very best that they can be in the most challenging of circumstances – the death of a significant loved one.

We achieve this by working closely with children, young people and families, providing them with therapeutic, evidence-based support to help them through their grief; and by educating relevant professionals to know what to do when they are dealing with bereavement.

We are looking for a talented individual who can use their skills to support the development of our charity. Reporting to the Charity Development Lead, you will support the day-to-day operation and administration of our charity alongside contributing to events and marketing efforts. The role is diverse and will suit a flexible and motivated individual with a passion for supporting children and young people.

National Framework For Bereavement Care Consultation

welsh government

Welsh Government has launched its consultation on a National Framework for the Delivery of Bereavement Care in Wales and is seeking views on how we can respond to those who are facing or have experienced a bereavement.

The framework is for both commissioners and providers of bereavement services, but will also be of interest to Registrars,  Funeral Directors, Medical Examiners and anyone who is supporting someone who is bereaved, or who is bereaved themselves.

Sandy Bear Children’s Bereavement Charity is working closely with our Board of Trustees and the wider Pembrokeshire Bereavement Network to provide a response to this consultation.

The public consultation is live now and ends on 17 May 2021. You can have your say on the link below.

Sandy Bear staff become Mental Health First Aiders

MHFA Wales

Ceri and Louise from Sandy Bear have recently completed the eAMHFA Wales course and become Mental Health First Aiders.

The course teaches adults how to provide Mental Health First Aid to friends, families and co-workers and is designed to allow learners to help a person who is developing a mental health problem, experiencing a worsening of an existing mental health problem, or in a mental health crisis. The course focuses on depression, anxiety, psychosis and substance misuse.

The first aid is given until the appropriate professional help is received or the crisis resolves.

Sandy Bear is committed to providing our staff with the skills and knowledge to help children, young people and families but also the wider community (and themselves). In doing so, we want to support children, young people and their families in the best way possible following a bereavement.

More information about the course can be found at MHFA Wales.

Sandy Bear named Port of Milford Haven’s Charitable Cause of the Year

Sandy Bear named Port of Milford Haven’s Charitable Cause of the Year

Staff at the Port of Milford Haven have chosen Sandy Bear Childrens Bereavement Charity to be their official charitable cause of the year throughout 2021. Each year employees vote for a Pembrokeshire-based charity to receive both financial and in-kind support for twelve months.

Ceri Crichton, Charity Development Lead for Sandy Bear is delighted with the news, commenting “We want to thank the team at the Port of Milford Haven for voting for Sandy Bear and the children and young people that we support. Through this partnership, we will be able to make a positive difference to their lives following a significant bereavement. We very much look forward to our partnership and working with the Port team…it will be an exciting year”.

Lauren Williams, Community Engagement Assistant at the Port, is looking forward to working with the charity over the coming year. She said “Sandy Bear provides such an important service to those affected by bereavement so we’re really pleased that we’ll be able to help them, whether that’s financially or through fundraising and volunteering activities.”

Last year, Get The Boys A Lift, a mental health charity based in Haverfordwest, received over £16,000 from the Port as a result of donations and a range of fundraising activities including a challenge to run, walk, row or cycle 6,140 nautical miles – the same distance that an LNG ship travels from Qatar to Milford Haven.