Demelza House was set up by Derek and Jennifer Phillips and named after their daughter who had worked at a children’s hospice prior to her death. After visiting the hospice facility she had worked in her parents wanted to establish a place to bring cheerfulness and affection to children in similar need in their local area. Demelza House was formed in December 1994 and opened in 1998.
The ethos of Demelza is to “add life to days when days cannot be added to life” and they aim to help the families make the most of each moment while creating precious memories. Hospices are no longer about lives without hope.
Demelza supports hundreds of families across Kent, SE London & East Sussex whilst providing specialist expert care for babies, children and teenagers as well as their families. They work hard to take away the stress that the families feel and bring fun back into family life
Having a child with a disability can mean that families miss out the things that others take for granted so, for example, the family can swim together in the wonderful hydrotherapy pool. It’s important to support siblings and to help them realise that there are lots of people who have a sick brother or sister and they can still have a childhood.
“I was one of the first to try out the new hydrotherapy pool. I love the pool as it is the only way now I can manage to walk by holding onto the bars. The warm water really relaxes me and helps me to feel free.“
The staff work closely with the children and young people during the transitional period between childhood and the teenage years. They support them on shaping life after Demelza and offer advice; what shapes the support is the wants and needs of those young people.
Unfortunately the young people who are referred to Demelza are not expected to reach adulthood and their families are supported through bereavement as well as treatment if they need it.
“We stayed for seven days completely smothered with care and understanding. Staff were there to talk us through the worst days of our lives. They made phone calls, dealt with about 200 visitors, brought us tea, sandwiches, crisps, cakes, they never grumbled. They organised everything, it was astounding.”
A bereavement weekend is held in the summer and families come back to remember their child or children, share their experience with others and have fun.
Care doesn’t stop for high days and holidays and is free of charge. Apart from a small amount of Government funding, the people of Kent supply most of the money needed for Demelza to function on a daily basis.
Dan O’Connor who took part in a Polar Circle Marathon in Greenland said this about why he was raising money for them:
“I chose Demelza as it is a brilliant charity which does not have the financial and marketing capability of larger multinational charities. Every small donation will directly help a child and their family as they fight a battle that no child should have to fight.”
In order for Demelza to keep on supporting children and their families they will continue to rely on public donations. There is a charity shop in West Wickham on the High Street so if you’d like to make a donation you can do so there. If you’d like to know when the shop is open to accept donations (or buy something!) then you can ring them on 020 8776 2333.