A UNIQUE bereavement service for children and families is back - 17 months after it was closed due to funding cuts.

The Sandy Bear service, which helped hundreds of families in its 20-year existence, has been re-established by a small group of volunteers.

Early donations of more than £8,000 from Pembrokeshire Cot Death Support Group, and £700 from Milford Haven Ladies’ Circle, will provide a springboard for the future.

Now in the process of registering as an independent charity, Sandy Bear hopes to work with the local health board and social services, to plug the gaps in grief support for young people.

Among its nine trustees are Karen Codd and Anita Hicks, who both worked with service while it was operated by Hywel Dda Health Board.

Chairman Isobel Hall said the new-look service will help children and families whose needs are not met by bereavement counselling services currently available in schools.

This will include group sessions aimed at under-4s, who are not currently provided for by the school counselling service.

“These children, although young, experience feelings of loss and bereavement to the same extent as older children,” she said.

“These sessions will work to focus children’s feelings through play and craft, enabling them to express themselves, and help them improve communication with their parents or carers.”

Sandy Bear will also provide therapeutic fun days, enabling families to share their experiences with others who have experienced loss.

“This will help break down family isolation and the feeling of being alone with what they’ve suffered,” said Ms Hall.

“It will also give people permission to have fun and enjoyment without feeling guilty, or feeling they should behave in ‘a certain way’.”

As a charity, it will also provide an education awareness programme to partner agencies who staff have contact with children day-to-day.

“Staff need to know how to recognise a child who is struggling to cope with their emotions, and when or if they will need extra support.”

It’s still early days for Sandy Bear 2.0, and the service is not yet currently able to accept referrals.

But trustees hope that – with enough support – it can build a solid network of funding and volunteers to help it meet the needs of struggling families across the county.

“Unlike when it was part of the health board, now Sandy Bear will work exclusively for the people of Pembrokeshire,” said Ms Hall.

How you can help

If you want to help, either through a donation, or by becoming part of Sandy Bear’s fundraising committee, email Karen Codd at sandybearco-ordinators@hotmail.co.uk

With Christmas just around the corner, you can also help raise money every time you shop online by registering here, and it won’t cost you a thing.

The EasyFundraising service means you can shop at more than 3,000 sites, and a small commission will go to the charity of your choice.

More than £500 has already been raised for Sandy Bear this way.