This summer, UEA Sportspark has hosted a summer bereavement programme to offer support to young people who have lost someone to the Covid-19 pandemic. After a heartbreaking year for all those who have been bereaved, it is hoped sport and physical activity will help to improve the mental health of children and young people in Norwich.
Along with Norfolk-based charity, Nelson’s Journey, and funding from Sport England via Active Norfolk, the Sportspark created a programme in which children could interact with one another in groups, following a timetable of activities such as football, dodgeball, archery, crafts, walking and reflective sessions. Julia Robathon, Course Director of the PE, Sport and Health degree courses at UEA and a Nelson’s Journey trustee, explained: “Sportspark has a tried and tested Covid-secure model of delivery that will allow the young people to come together and take part in a range of activities that will include some therapeutic bereavement work”.
Nelson’s Journey has been unable to provide its usual bereavement support during the pandemic and has also suffered from a significant reduction in donations. However, the partnership with UEA Sportspark has allowed the charity to reignite its programme of stress-reducing activities and encourage both mental wellbeing and social interaction to some of the children across Norfolk most in need of it.
A representative of Nelson’s Journey, Simon Wright, said: “Many of the young people taking part just haven’t had the same support networks around them over the last 18 months due to the pandemic.” He went on to explain the summer programme at UEA would have a “powerful impact” on the young people struggling with a “sense of isolation”.
In 2020, UEA Sportspark also came forward to help do what it could in the country’s fight against Covid-19. The children of local NHS staff were welcomed to UEA so they could be provided with a day-care facility in which they would be able to remain both physically active and socially distant.
However, in the summer of 2021, with slightly less pressure on the NHS than at the very start of the pandemic, it was understood UEA Sportspark’s biggest priority should be in supporting the young people who have become isolated over the last year as a result of bereavement. Robathon said: “Sport and physical activity has been identified as a mechanism to reduce stress and enhance relationships in support of bereavement work, and Active Norfolk have been very helpful in aiding us to meet the requirements of Sport England funding to tackle inequalities escalated by Covid-19”.
UEA has been able to host this incredible programme with the help of Sportspark staff, Nelson’s Journey volunteers and UEA’s School of Education and Lifelong Learning Students. UEA Sportspark has also expressed they would be willing to work with other organisations or charities recently having been prevented from supporting the Norfolk community the way they normally would in the past 18 months.