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Friday, 25 September 2020


Axel Scheffler illustrations helping sick children fight the fear of PPE

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THE role of Chestnut Tree House’s nurses and care support workers changed dramatically with the outbreak of COVID-19. While the children’s hospice has remained open for emergency and end-of-life care, respite breaks and day visits have not been possible for the last two months, and many families are shielding at home, which can be very isolating.

The care team have been staying in touch with families and visiting them at home when possible. But some children find the sight of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) daunting – something the care team have been proactive in addressing.

Cathy Stone, Clinical Director at Chestnut Tree House explained:

“Seeing carers wearing PPE can be daunting to people of all ages, so it’s understandable that some children really struggle and find it overwhelming when they see our care team wearing it. Helping to reassure children and families is very much part of our job, especially now, and if we can help to reduce the fear surrounding PPE then we will do everything we can to do so.”

Keen to help fight the fear of PPE among children and families, Chestnut Tree House sought the help of one of their Ambassadors, children’s author, Julia Donaldson; along with illustrator, Axel Scheffler. Loved across the world for their collaborations on books like The Gruffalo and Stick Man, Julia and Axel recently created a series of coronavirus-themed illustrations linked to the books. From an illustration of The Gruffalo social distancing to one of the Smartest Giant in Town washing his hands, they have covered some of the key themes of the 2020 pandemic.

Included in the series was a variation of an image from the book, Zog and the Flying Doctors, where the doctors and Zog are pictured wearing face masks. When Axel learned about the issues facing the Chestnut Tree House care team, he took this one step further, creating two bespoke illustrations for the charity with the characters from Julia’s book wearing PPE. The team are now able to send these out to children as colouring sheets, in the hope that it will help reduce their fear.

Cathy Stone added:

“We are incredibly grateful to Axel Scheffler and Julia Donaldson for this generous gift. We hope that sharing these illustrations with children and families will help reassure them that it is still us under the PPE, and why it is important for us to be wearing it for their safety. While not all children will have the ability to comprehend this, the familiarity of Axel’s illustrations and Julia’s story will undoubtedly help reduce anxiety.”

In addition to this, the Design Technology team at local school, Christ’s Hospital have been busy making face shields for both Chestnut Tree House and adult hospice, St Barnabas House. When they heard about the issues surrounding children and PPE, they created some custom-made child-friendly shields complete with cartoon animals.

Julia Donaldson also sent a special message to Chestnut Tree House at the start of lockdown and is sharing a selection of her books in a weekly broadcast at 4pm every Thursday on The Gruffalo Facebook page and Scholastic website.

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