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Support system . . . Anglican Family Care team leader Sue Dundass (left) and Oceans programme co-ordinator Maria Johnson are calling out for more volunteers for the programme in North Otago. PHOTO: KAYLA HODGE

The Oceans grief and loss programme has hit a wave.

Anglican Family Care is desperate for more volunteers to help run Oceans sessions for children, teenagers, and adults. They are designed to provide tools to help people experiencing grief, change and loss.

North Otago Oceans programme co-ordinator Maria Johnson said there were only six active volunteers at present, and at least six more were needed.

Two volunteers were required to run each session. The sessions, which were mostly for primary schoolchildren at present, involved four to six people in a group, sharing stories.

Through the nine sessions, volunteers ran introductions, spoke about emotions and words to express what people were feeling, and helped participants make connections between their emotions and physical body. Participants also wrote their own stories and shared them with the group.

‘‘A lot of children feel that they’re the only one going through this and no-one understands. To hear stories from other children with similar things going on in their lives can be really reassuring,’’ Mrs Johnson said.

Children used the programme for different reasons, including their parents separating, friends or family moving away, a death in the family, or even the death of a family pet.

They were split into age groups — 5 to 7-year-olds, 8 to 10-year-olds and intermediate children — for the sessions.

‘‘It’s more or less the same content but we present it differently depending on the age.’’

Last year, 33adults and children took part in the programme and Mrs Johnson had a large waiting list of children needing support this year.

Volunteers would be trained through a two-day workshop, with reading and reflection time, to decide if they wanted to continue. The workshops were beneficial and people could also join for personal development, as a teacher, or counsellor.

Volunteers needed to have a ‘‘heart to help’’, compassion, and empathy, and be able to listen. All volunteers would be put through police checks, she said.

Schools were supportive of the programme, and if there were enough children within one school who needed support, and they were of a similar age, then sessions could be run during school time. Otherwise, the one-hour sessions were held after school.

‘‘They’d love us to run more groups by the main problems are lack of facilitators.’’

Volunteers could benefit from the programme just as much as participants, Mrs Johnson said.

‘‘I think being about to see the change in the children from the start of the programme to the end of the programme.

‘‘Being able to give them the tools to speak about all those emotions that they’re feeling and being more confident in sharing. The hope is that if we give them these tools as children, then it will enable them to deal with those emotions when they’re teenagers, and as adults as well.’’

Anyone interested in volunteering or wanting to know more about the programme can contact Maria Johnson on 020 459-6900 or at oceans.oamaru@familycare.org.nz.