The Holiday Club: fun therapy for children supported by HOSPICE Casa Sperantei

Gina Vlasceanu, social worker, HOSPICE Casa Sperantei, Bucharest, Romania, concludes our series of posts from Romania. Gina explains how Romanian and UK volunteers contribute to a unique holiday club for children affected by terminal illness.

Gina and Marianne

Gina Vlasceanu, hospice social worker, with volunteer, Marianne

Working as a social worker in palliative care at HOSPICE Casa Sperantei since 2009, I have become more knowledgeable about the essential role of play therapy in the life of a child suffering from a terminal illness or some other disability. Art and play therapy help children to express their emotions. These techniques create a feeling of safety that enables the children to cope with the traumatic events they have experienced and to learn how to cope with the issues that face them and modify their behaviour in a positive way.

Start of the Holiday Club
In June 2011, we organised the first ‘Holiday Club’ at HOSPICE Casa Sperantei in Bucharest for children who are looked after by the hospice team and their siblings. We had UK and Romanian volunteers working together to help the children discover themselves in the most fun and elevated type of ‘research’, as Einstein liked to call games. At the end of the holiday club, the children were asking the staff why it was not possible for the activities to continue for the rest of their vacation. And what were they supposed to do in order for the time to pass faster until the next year?

Making craft work at the holiday club

Making craft work at the holiday club

Holiday Club 2012
So, at the beginning of the 2012 school summer holiday, we started again with fun, games, songs, crafts and drama. Nine brave and generous volunteers from the UK, along with 12 dedicated Romanian volunteers, made up the team of entertainers for 34 children, including children with terminal illness, their siblings and children of our adult patients. As people in the UK were celebrating the jubilee of their queen we chose ‘kings and queens’ as a theme for the holiday club with the children playing the roles of kings or queens, princes or princesses and dukes or duchesses. Every day during the week of the holiday club they danced, sang, told jokes to each other, made craft work and learned about kings and queens whose lives and characters were played by the volunteers in different dramas.

Some of the children enjoing outdoor games led by sixth-form students from Nower Hill Secondary School

Some of the children enjoing outdoor games led by sixth-form students from Nower Hill Secondary School

The children also played outdoors with a group of  sixth-form students from Nower Hill Secondary School in the UK in the UK who came to help with our new children’s hospice inpatient unit (currently being constructed in Bucharest), and to meet and play with some of the future residents of this facility.

One four-year old child expressed the experience she had at the holiday club:

“I liked very much the Holiday Club, because even if I was there for the first time, it seems like I knew everybody already, I have made a lot of new friends, we have played with people that even if they didn’t speak our language, we understood each other perfectly. I loved the interesting games we played, the kind people I have met and the gifts I have received. I hope we’ll have a vacation like this again, soon. Love, Alina.”

Watch our short video…
Click here to listen to volunteers describing their experiences at the holiday club: Fiona, a specialist palliative care nurse from Ayrshire in Scotland; Constantin, a civil engineer from Bucharest and Marianne a sixth-form teacher from London.


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