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Hospital Story Chair To Provide Comfort For Children Thanks To Newcastle Building Society Grant

Pauline Baldwin, manager at Newcastle Building Society's Northumberland Street branch, reading in the story chair to (left) Theo Cane and Indi Grace Watson. Also featured are (back centre) Sean Soulsby, CEO of The Children's Foundation, with (back right) Helga Charters, associate director of nursing at the Great North Children's Hospital, and other members of the GNCH team.

A much-loved North East children’s charity is using to power of story-telling to help improve the lives of youngsters visiting the Great North Children’s Hospital thanks to a four-figure grant from the Newcastle Building Society Community Fund.

The Children’s Foundation is testing the benefits of having a special ‘Story Chair’ to help relieve anxiety for children visiting the hospital’s busy Outpatients’ Department.

Custom-built from solid oak, the story chair is over a metre wide and has been created to a special design featuring a lion that has now been revealed.

As part of the unveiling event, local storyteller Elena christened the chair by telling the first tales form it to an audience of children and their families.

The chair also comes along with a matching wooden box full of books that are suitable for different ages, with new books to be added on a regular basis.

The Children’s Foundation was awarded a £3,000 grant via the Newcastle Building Society’s flagship Northumberland Street branch to cover the cost of the project.

The funding has been provided by the Newcastle Building Society Community Fund at the Community Foundation, which has been set up to provide grants to charities and community groups located in or around the communities served by the Society’s branch network, and put forward for support by its customers.

Based in Newcastle, The Children’s Foundation was established in 1990 in response to a Government Report which showed the North East region had the worst child health levels in the country.

Its first campaign, The Yellow Brick Road Appeal, raised more than £11M to build The Sir James Spence Institute of Child Health in Newcastle, and it continues to work to improve the health and well-being of children and young people in the North East through a wide range of activities.

Based at the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle, the charity receives no statutory funding for its work and identifies gaps in provision impacting on the health of children and young people, with a particular focus on the development of emotional resilience and mental well-being.

Dr Sue Vernon, Trustee of The Children’s Foundation, says: “Visiting hospital can cause children great anxiety – the environment and medical procedures are often unfamiliar and this can add to feelings of helplessness.

“The Story Chair is a special place where youngsters can be captivated and comforted during what can be a daunting time. It’s somewhere they can bond with the parent or carer who is supporting them during their visit to hospital and is created from a beautiful natural oak to enhance the feeling of escapism.

“We know how important reading is in terms of language acquisition and developing literacy skills. Stories also help children make sense of the world, they can be full of magic and wonder and encourage communication. All of that is particularly important for children within a situation, like a visit to hospital, where they feel uncertain.

“If the story chair works as well as we believe it will, we hope to expand the project into other environments and are very grateful to the Society for their generous support in helping us make it happen.”

Since its launch in 2016, Newcastle Building Society’s Community Fund has contributed over £494,707 in grants and partnerships with the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation and the Princes Trust. The grants are so far estimated to have had a positive impact on more than 151,000 people.

The most recent application period saw 40 projects that had been nominated by Society customers, receiving a total of £94,982 between them.

Grant applications for a maximum of £3,000 can be made in any Society branch or via the Society’s website by customers who wish to support their local communities. There are larger grants of up to £50,000 also available to assist groups in improving or maintaining community buildings.

Pauline Baldwin, manager at Newcastle Building Society’s Northumberland Street branch, adds: “The Children’s Foundation makes a massive positive difference for children and young people in our region, and we are very proud to support organisations like this that share our commitment to benefiting local communities, especially around such an inspiring, creative and exciting project as this.”

The Newcastle Building Society Community Fund is run in association with the Community Foundation Tyne & Wear and Northumberland.