1 February 2015

Cholmondeley provides a welcome reprieve


“Most of the children who stay with us are experiencing stresses in their home life. Regardless of what’s brought them to us, these children don’t need to be “fixed” – but they do need to have the opportunity to develop their resilience and to believe in themselves,”

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Cholmondeley Children’s Centre is a home away from home for Canterbury children in times of stress. Cholmondeley is unique in New Zealand. It has been positioned, carefully, to be accessible for families who may never have reached out for help before.

Children from three to twelve years stay at Cholmondeley for, on average, three to five days. Many children stay several times a year, while their families get back on their feet.  With such short visits, the team are often asked what sort of a difference they can make to a child.  Shane Murdoch, General Manager, is passionate when he explains what a difference a few short days can make.

“Most of the children who stay with us are experiencing stresses in their home life. Regardless of what’s brought them to us, these children don’t need to be “fixed” – but they do need to have the opportunity to develop their resilience and to believe in themselves,” he says. “Children come to us as many times as they need but in many cases, families are noticing a difference even after one visit.”

Such is the case with brothers Ben and Dylan who are eight and six years old. Both boys live with their father, Mike who also cares for his elderly mother, recently diagnosed with dementia. The boys have very little contact with their mother. Mike works long hours as a farm worker and relies heavily on his employer’s family to assist with the care of the boys. Money is tight but Mike works really hard to spend time with the children and to provide them with positive experiences.  

The children were referred to Cholmondeley by the family doctor after Mike sought medical advice following a farm accident. Mike told the doctor that he was feeling very low and was very tired and overwhelmed by the responsibilities of caring for his boys and his mother.

The children initially came to Cholmondeley for a weekend to give Mike some time for recovery. They now come to stay regularly either during the week, weekends or some school holidays.  Both love their time here and Mike welcomes that time when he can be more relaxed and feel less pressure and can recharge his batteries ready for when the boys return.

Ben has discovered that he loves fishing, climbing and kayaking. He has grown in confidence and loves to help the other children during the activities. Dylan has discovered that he has natural leadership skills and during Discovery Time he has enjoyed devising new sports games which he then organises with the other children.

Both boys have begun to talk about how they miss their Mum and are now getting support around this from their school.

The boys say that since they have been coming to Cholmondeley they are getting on better. Mike has noticed that things are calmer at home and that the time he now spends with the boys, whether it’s fishing or in the veggie patch, is growing their relationships with each other. The team at Cholmondeley is working closely with the family, their own school and other agencies to get further supports for the whole family, including Mike’s mother.  

Mike is very clear that these breaks and the support that Cholmondeley is giving have been crucial to the whole family’s wellbeing and ability to cope.