11 March 2020 at 6:45 pm

Read the Williams Family Story - Canterbury Children need You -

Tragic events can happen in an instant BUT the trauma that follows can last a lifetime.
Imagine losing your nine month old brother in an earthquake, your parents have separated and you are adjusting to a blended family of five children.

Cholmondeley holds the hands and hearts of these children and their
families, to support them and create opportunities for them to thrive.

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As I sit here with Jessica and Emma, nine years since the devastating earthquake that took the lives of so many in Christchurch including their baby brother Tyler. I am reminded trauma lives on for many children and families. For some, the devastation of the Christchurch earthquakes is a distant memory, but, for the Williams family they are reminded of it every day. Yet despite the trauma they have experienced, they continue to put one foot in front of the other, working tirelessly to emotionally and financially support their five children.

This is the reality for the Williams family – they put one foot in front of the other to give their five children the support and the opportunities they need to grow, be safe and to feel loved. This family is not alone in this journey. Cholmondeley is here for this family and has been for the past 7 years, and with your ongoing support we can be here for many more years to come. 

We first met the Williams family seven years ago, a few years following the tragic loss of Tyler. They are a blended family, which in itself can be a challenging road to navigate. Mark, father to Tyler, Jessica and Emma met Jane not long after the earthquake and together they had three more children.  To make ends meet they both work hard in shift work roles and for the most part are like ships in the night. Yet they remain 100 per cent committed to their children, supporting them through the emotional ups and downs that go with losing their much loved little brother and ensuring they receive the love, support and opportunity that every child deserves. Cholmondeley is an integral part of this support system.  When you meet this lovely family you are instantly drawn to how connected they are and how mum and dad would do anything for their children to ensure they are given the best opportunities to thrive and grow. Despite the challenges the children are full of life, joy and all uniquely themselves.

Jessica and Emma have at times struggled with the different emotional elements of understanding the impact of losing their brother. When they first came to Cholmondeley Jessica would spend most of her time in her room with her books, enjoying the quiet and the opportunity to just be by herself. Emma was the opposite, she spent time expressing herself through dress-up and play times and being social with children around her. Both girls loved their time at Cholmondeley but in the early days coping with the trauma of the earthquakes and the loss of their brother was understandably a very real struggle for them.

As time has passed for Jessica and Emma, their two sisters and little brother, the change in them has been beautiful to watch. By walking alongside and supporting this family the children have all grown in confidence, have made special connections and are beginning to flourish.

Cholmondeley provides the ongoing planned respite care this family desperately seeks. “Cholmondeley is a place the kids can be themselves” Mark tells us. “They’re happy to go and sad to leave – knowing how much they love it and knowing they are growing each and every stay really matters to us. They really know our children and for us that means the world”.  Mark talks about how Cholmondeley supported Jessica in particular in by providing her with a safe environment to reflect and books to read when she needed it, but also the listening ear to let her share her emotions and feelings.

Isn’t this what every child deserves, a place for them to grow in their confidence and build resilience.

At Cholmondeley we believe in creating a safe haven for the children of Canterbury. We remove some of the accessibility barriers in order for the children to participate in new experiences and provide them an opportunity to grow. Our dedicated team utilise child-led activities to allow the children to build resilience through challenge by choice and working towards their own goals. For the Williams family, giving their children new opportunities is something they are extremely grateful for. “As a working family who is just trying to make ends meet we don’t have either the time or the money to give our children these opportunities that seem simple for most.  An outing where the children can experience adventures together as siblings with new friends is priceless for us” Jane tells us. They are supported in creating goals each stay and they bring these home. You can see just how proud the children and parents are of their goals as the family home is covered with the children’s strength and positives charts from their many stays at Cholmondeley.

Providing respite care is the core of what Cholmondeley does, but it is also the relationships we develop with the family over time which makes the difference. We know our families, where they have come from and some of the trauma they hold. Mark and Jane say, “When Cholmondeley calls us it really feels like we matter as a family” Asking for help can sometimes be difficult.  Cholmondeley understands this and so works hard to stay connected with families and provide care and services as they are required.

Take a moment and think, who would be there for you and your family if a tragic event struck you. Hopefully you are surrounded by loving family and friends that would be your support. However not every family has the support they desperately seek and it’s in these times of need Cholmondeley is here for you.

Thank you for your ongoing support of Cholmondeley Children’s Centre, it means a lot to so many and it means we can continue to support the families of Canterbury, just like we will continue to do for the Williams family.


* Names have been changed to protect the identity of our family