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Helping hand ... Peggy Waite is the co-ordinator of the Oceans Grief and Loss programme in Oamaru. PHOTO: TYSON YOUNG

Oceans Grief and Loss is a peer support programme based in Oamaru that is designed to help children between the ages of 5 and 15 deal with grief and loss.

The programme was started by Dunedin-based organisation Anglican Family Care.

After seeing an Oceans programme in Timaru, social worker Peggy Waite believed the same programme needed to be based in the Waitaki area.

Following negotiations – and community funding from the Tindall Foundation – Anglican Family Care set up the programme in Oamaru.

Oceans, which has been running in Oamaru for about two years, is the only peer support programme that Mrs Waite knows of in the Waitaki area that helps children deal with grief.

Mrs Waite, the co-ordinator of the programme, said children most often joined the programme because of a parent separation or a death in the family.

“They set it up so we could bring this programme here and run it in a sustainable way in our community,” Mrs Waite said.

A few schools around Oamaru had also jumped on board with the idea, and Mrs Waite was keen to encourage more to join up.

Each nine-week course involved between three six children around the same age group, Mrs Waite said.

On average, about 30 children joined the programme every year, and a team of 10 trained volunteers helped run it.

The name of the programme was chosen to reflect the ups and downs of life.

“That’s why it’s called the Oceans – sometimes it’s calm like a pond and sometimes it’s really stormy. Grief is like an island that pops up in the ocean and life has to go on around it.

“We’ve even had some children who grieve the loss of pets that they just can’t get over.”

An important part of the programme for Mrs Waite was encouraging children to keep “enduring bonds” with loved ones by preserving and maintaining important memories.

“There’s always that bond there – they always remain part of your life – even if they are not here any more.”

Since it began, the programme had been funded by the Tindall Foundation. However, at the end of this year, the funding for the programme would be cut.

Although Mrs Waite had no idea how Oceans would be funded next year , she was hopeful the programme could find funding from another source.

“I think it’s proved its worth in the community.”