Simon Wright is the chief of Nelson’s Journey, the Norfolk-based charity which aims to bring back smiles to bereaved children. Here he talks about running in every colour of the rainbow and why he’ll be eating beetroot during next week’s Purple Picnic fundraiser
For a while, it looked like no Purple Picnics would take place this year, so I’m delighted that we can now encourage people to host an event! We’ve got a number of schools on board which is brilliant as they’ve already had so much to think about. Families are now able to host small gatherings in their gardens, and businesses who’ve been bringing back staff from furlough or into the office after working from home are also now able to have a picnic involving their workplace. It’s a chance to bring people back together after being apart this year, and gives people something to look forward to.
It’s been the most challenging year that I’ve faced at Nelson’s Journey! All charities have been affected, but I have the privilege of leading a hugely creative and innovative team whose focus is to continue providing support to bereaved children and young people no matter what challenges are put in their way. While our plans for the year were torn up in April, the team quickly came up with other ways to provide support to families and professionals in Norfolk.
At a more personal level, my wife Anna and I are keen runners and almost every day since April we’ve been putting our trainers on and exploring the Norfolk countryside. It’s given us an enormous sense of freedom at a time when so much focus in the news has been on what we can’t do!
In early April we ran each day of a week a colour of the rainbow in support of the NHS – a little corny maybe, but we delved into the depths of our running wardrobe to make it happen!
Our services have been carefully developed over many years as very personal and face-to-face in their approach, so we had to go through a process of redesigning our services even though we can’t meet up with children. We also needed to consider that the bereavement needs of families have changed due to the restrictions in place, with many bereaved children and young people losing out on being able to attend funerals and memorial events. Our team has developed new resources that are relevant to the current circumstances, and have learned new skills so that they can effectively deliver support online to children and young people.
Unfortunately, at the same time we are having to respond to a huge impact on our income from Covid-19. Much of what we raise comes through voluntary fundraising efforts, and almost all planned activities and events have been cancelled since April. We’ve had to review our fundraising activities and goals, and this process will continue next year. We’re extremely grateful to those who have been able to find ways of fundraising towards our work, as they’ve helped to keep us going through this!
Our young volunteers came up with the idea for Purple Picnic in 2015, and since then nearly £35,000 has been raised towards our work with bereaved children and young people. It’s more than just a fundraiser. For families and groups, a Purple Picnic can bring people together in memory of someone who died, and we do encourage those who are able to host an event to talk about bereavement if they can. More than 28,000 individual people, many schoolchildren included, have taken part in a Purple Picnic, and many may have taken time to reflect and talk.
The purpose of Purple Picnic will remain the same, but organisers of events may come up with different ways of delivering their picnic appropriate to the current circumstances. For example, with so many people working from home, it’s likely that workplaces will consider ‘virtual’ Purple Picnics to bring staff teams together from homes and other work locations. People are much more comfortable now with video meet-ups, and this could mean opportunities to include people who’ve previously been unable to attend a physical meet-up. Family members from outside Norfolk might join their family members over a laptop screen in their relatives’ gardens! Schools we know will set their picnics up in bubbles. There is the additional consideration this year, which is for organisers to keep an eye out for government guidance, which we know can change at short notice!
People of all ages talk to us about the things that they find comforting or otherwise helpful following a bereavement. The most important for many is talking about the person who died and the memories that they have, and to know that it’s ok to ask for the help they need from those around them. There’s no right or wrong ways to grieve and it will be different for everyone, often even in the same family. Accepting that, and not putting pressure on to feel a certain way, often helps people to understand that they can and need to give themselves their own time to grieve.
I’ll be marking the week by wearing purple and eating purple food throughout. Fortunately, I like beetroot, aubergine and blueberries!