A story by Team Jak Foundation
Mini Denners provided regular bespoke creative sessions for children under 5 at Jaks Den and online allowing them the chance to play and socialise reducing the loneliness and isolation of a cancer journey, enabling fun once more, whilst allowing carers the time and space to be themselves and relax.
What Mini Denners did
Team Jak proposed to offer weekly two-hour creative sessions in Jak’s Den and also backed up via online Music storytime and activity for those in outlying areas or in hospital who cannot come to Jak’s Den but can enjoy and still feel part of proceedings.
The Mini Denners sessions were tailored to meet the interests of the children in the group and the overview plan incorporated creative aspects of the calendar year including the seasons, special dates, and general themes that suit this age group, with each week having a different theme either seasonal and/or relating to the children’s requests.
Activities will include safe messy play, musical activities- singing, dance and percussion instruments along with toys and other pros required for songs, drama games, storytelling (with props) arts and crafts, safe outdoor play experiences, construction activities, Lego, dressing up, small world play, IT, playdough and personal and social development opportunities including snack time and ongoing seasonal activities. The sessions were two-hour sessions with a balance of activities and led by Creative Coordinator and Play Worker.
During this time parents/carers were able to relax in the Family Zone with a coffee in a lidded flask mug for safety and chat with other parents knowing their children are safe in the next Zone.
Carers can take advantage of alternative and relaxation therapies or just relax and socialise with others and staff. The activities took place weekly in Jak’s Den Livingston on a Tuesday and or Thursday afternoon 12.30-2.30pm and will take the form of two-hour creative sessions in Jak’s Den and will also be enhanced via online Music storytime and activity for those in outlying areas or in hospital who cannot come to Jak’s Den but can enjoy and still feel part of proceedings.
Please note: the online sessions has come as a direct response to COVID-19 outbreak and the way we had to adapt to ensure continuity and creativity for our young people and their families and as the whole year has been very unpredictable we kept this going also which meant a much larger number of children could engage online due to covid and cancer rest safely.
What Team Jak Foundation has learned
Reaching out to and engaging with new families- we have been able to do this and use Mini Denners as an introduction to Jak's Den and all our forms of support as it's been a perfect setting for them to come and bring their under 5s and learn what further support we can offer whilst receiving support and fun for their family at the same time.
Dealing with unexpected challenges or opportunities- Covid has certainly given us loads of these!!! It's also made us look even more closely at our stats and geographical areas and in turn the cycles that our ages and stages go through in order to ensure we have the right activities in the right places and at times that suit the families especially with under5's and maybe older siblings at school etc.
Partnership Working- in relation to Better Breaks- we have project officers for Lottery and Robertson trust and do keep in touch however it has been fantastic to work closely with Alison Brown and take advantage of some of the other strategic support on offer in relation to a strategy day for our Board post covid and also creating a video for both parties to showcase the work of Mini Denners thanks to Better Breaks funding.
How Team Jak Foundation has benefitted from the funding
Team Jak have benefitted in so many ways from Better Breaks funding thankyou. As mentioned above through partnering with yourselves for some extra practical support we have been able to have an outsider look at and help facilitate moving our strategy forward, and also create a video to showcase Mini Denners. This has been invaluable especially at a time when even more so than normal we have to think before spending anything unnecessarily and to get a video completed to showcase is fab! Skills knowledge and capacity have also been increased through this years funding and through some limitations put on by hospitals as a result of covid we have had the time having run this directly from Jaks Den and online to think of other ways times and places we can indeed reach as many families with under 5s with cancer as possible and as a result are about to start monthly Mini Denners sessions in Jaks Den and also weekly in Aberdeen as soon as we open our Den there hopefully by Summer.
20 children will regularly attend direct sessions in Jaks Den and many more online and in hospital and at CLIC and gain confidence in socialisation and feel more confident experiencing a variety of creative activities with peers
We have surpassed our online targets for attendees however due to covid and the usual issues over children with cancer being too ill to attend in person or be neutropenic we haven't managed as many in person on a regular basis however if we took the overall number of different children age under 5 who have attended a Mini Denners session we would have surpassed 20 in person. There have been 11 regular under 5s at the Den for Mini Denners and well over 70 online session. We have not been allowed into hospital or CLIC (now YLVC) since the onset of covid sadly which has impacted on our projected stats. That said the children and families who have attended have benefitted greatly from the sessions and programme. A number of the families have said their little ones are far more confident and able to socialise better as a result of the Mini Denners session due to spending long spells in isolation in hospital during treatment.
One little one has been left with severe sight and balance issues after a brain tumour. One of the parents suffers from severe mental health issues and sometimes the other parent or grandparent bring the child. The child had been unable to attend Nursery due to treatment and as a result Mini Denners became their nursery session for a number of months. When covid hit the child enjoyed watching Aimie on their "big tv screen" and when they got back to in person thought Aimie was a film tv star! Thanks to Mini Denners this child was less isolated, enjoyed social interactions with others under 5 and took part n creative activities within a safe and sterile environment. The parents were able to relax and chat informally and receive a nice pamper when able due to covid also.
We will have a regular group of attendees – at least 15 carers regularly at Jak's Den and more at hospital and CLIC sessions. Carers will attend Mini Denners regularly and receive support in form of coffee and chat, pamper and relaxation therapies.
As above our numbers were lower than expected due to covid and our online sessions were more geared towards our children however we also provided Parent Patter sessions online where parents could log on and chat and share with each other. That said we still had 15 parents engage in person or online on a regular basis all of whom have said they felt more able to cope with normal life as a result of having that down time and sharing with others during the session. We have been able to provide Coffee and chat during each Mini Denners session in our Family Zone facilitated by Den Manager/Coordinator, Pamper sessions in form of massage, nail painting and relaxation, mindfulness in our Pamper and counselling pods during this time also although this hasn't been able to happen regularly as we had hoped due to covid however we have given the regular parents vouchers for beauticians nearby that they can use when they can which has been greatly appreciated.
One of our regular parents has been receiving counselling whilst her little one was in Mini Denners in one of our counselling pods which has greatly helped with her mental health and in turn allowed her to participate in more general activities as a result in turn allowing her to be more able to cope with the worries of her child's journey.
60-80+ Carers will feel less isolated. They will share with others about the benefits of the sessions, and be more confident in their everyday journey having a safe place to relax and be themselves
15 carers in person and over 70 online have engaged in our sessions throughout Scotland. Coffee and chat during Mini Denners and other drop in sessions and activities within Jak’s Den and online and through outreach that can be accessed in order to provide further support eg Parent Patter and Chat during Mini Denners in person sessions. Further opportunities were provided if required for 1:1 support either through Befriending or Counselling if required and Pamper sessions, group facilitated activities and home visits if requested.
We have one family in particular who have been so grateful for our support and who have participated in all our Mini Denners under 5s activities online, but have also been able to reach out to us and come to Jak’s Den recently when there was a worry their wee one had relapsed, indeed phoning us even before family to seek comfort. We have been able to hold a session over Zoom with the child and speak to the parents at the same time – and even this week met them at the park – allowing us to just provide that listening ear which is vital at that point of crisis. This relationship wouldn’t be there if it hadn’t been for the Mini Denners sessions which allowed the safe space to build that special relationship and in turn allowed them to feel comfortable enough to contact us day and night when feeling low and worried. The children now call us "Aunties" and the parents class us as family!
80+ children and their carers will have attended our sessions in person and online and as a result be more confident in themselves and have built a wider social group and developed knowledge and experience of activities available within Jak’s Den and online
We have met the target number above however not with as many in person as we would have liked to due to covid and not being allowed in hospitals or CLIC houses. Many of our families are worried enough about taking their child anywhere due to their fragility due to cancer never mind adding covid into the mix. However that said the feedback through discussions and questionnaires have proven that families and children and adults carers have all most definitely had an increase in wellbeing as a result of our Mini Denners project.
One family in particular had become quite lost as a result of the child's cancer diagnosis with 3 children under the age of 4. The parents are quite young and jobs have had to go as a result of diagnosis. The little one with cancer is just a baby and one of the older siblings age 3 has been struggling with the separation from one or both parents and also the baby. As a result the older child has almost ignored the little one. Coming to Mini Denners as a family allows this older sibling to see other children playing and also gives them time to play with the baby in a bright child friendly environment in turn giving the whole family time to bond once again and in turn improve their overall wellbeing.