When the coronavirus crisis began, Camp Simcha’s Manchester art teacher, Chava Erlanger, was working flat out. In her role running therapeutic art sessions for seriously ill children and their siblings, she was sending out arts and crafts packs and running virtual sessions to entertain isolated families in stressful times.
Then Chava became one of those terrified family members, isolated and in need of Camp Simcha’s support: “My son suffers with ulcerative colitis in a particularly severe form, which can be life-threatening if not managed. During a flare-up he needs morphine for the pain and 24-hour care with heavy-duty drugs to manage the condition.
“Unfortunately, he had a flare-up a few weeks into lockdown. Things became so bad that he had to be admitted into hospital for nearly four weeks, where he was kept in isolation and treated with the same kinds of drugs used for leukaemia and organ transplants.
“I was the only person allowed to be in the hospital with him. As a single mum there was no respite, but this was where Camp Simcha came in. They provided hospital transport so I could quickly go back and forth when needed to avoid leaving him alone for too long. When no-one can come to visit the days seem endless, but the excitement of going online and choosing some books and then the lift each time one arrived was a great distraction from everything he was going through. And when we got home, they sent meals for me, so I could focus on his needs.”
Thankfully, Chava’s son’s condition has stabilised, but he is still in pain and on drugs which suppress his immune system while he waits to try a new treatment. This means, like the majority of the Manchester families Camp Simcha supports, they still have to shield, especially with infection rates rising again.
Daniel Gillis, Camp Simcha head of services explains how the organisation has maintained contact with families since lockdown began: “Our family liaison officers are working round the clock to offer bespoke practical and emotional support. Parents have found themselves in an impossible situation where as well as living in fear for their very vulnerable child, a lot of their usual support network is unavailable due to COVID-19, so they are full-time carers to their seriously ill child as well. Meanwhile their well children are all at home, also needing their attention.
“Over the weeks we have sent in arts and crafts, baking kits, garden and window box seeds sets, pampering boxes for mums, picnic boxes and other treats to counteract the boredom. Our new parent portal has also helped keep families entertained with magic shows, exercise workouts, story time and more, and we have organised regular virtual activities such as bake-offs, treasure hunts and talent competitions. We have also been running some virtual parent support groups and events.
“Throughout all of this, the Camp Simcha volunteer Big Brothers and Sisters who support children directly, have been finding inventive ways to have virtual fun with the seriously ill children and their siblings. Our families may be isolated, but Camp Simcha is making sure they are not alone.”
Sharing the Care
The Fed and Feinmann Trust join forces to tackle mounting calls for support in the south of the city.
A new partnership between The Fed and The Feinmann Trust will provide an increased level of community-wide social care support for the Jewish communities. In response to escalating demand for help in the area, The Feinmann Trust will provide additional funding to The Fed for the recruitment of a registered social worker specifically focused on South Manchester.
Bernie Yaffe, Chairman of The Fed’s Board of Trustees, was delighted with the announcement:
“This ground-breaking and exciting partnership finally brings together the two primary Manchester Jewish social care organisations and will provide a unified approach for the benefit of the whole community.”
Based for two days a week at Belong Morris Feinmann’s Didsbury care home, the partnership will also offer a new advice, assessment, and support system. Building on the work of The Fed’s South Manchester volunteer coordinator, Avital Gilbey, the new social worker will continue to strengthen relationships between The Fed and local synagogue leaders and their care groups across Didsbury, Hale, Wilmslow, Stockport, Wythenshaw, Cheadle and Gatley.
Together, they will ensure members have access to a professional social work service, while continuing to offer practical support for those experiencing issues of loneliness, financial concerns, poor mental health or who need support in planning their care in later life.
The Fed’s extensive network of contacts and clients in South Manchester has soared in recent years, with more than 100 clients being supported by almost 90 volunteers. Coffee stops and seasonal parties, such as at Chanukah and Purim, offer a lifeline to those isolated, while volunteer befrienders assist with essential tasks including shopping and transport to hospital appointments.
Ian Paul, chair of trustees of The Feinmann Trust, commented: “The Manchester community is living in unprecedented and frightening times. It is only right that the two major communal care organisations work together for the good of the entire community. Demand for support is rising and between us we aim to meet that demand.”