The best medicine: Giggle doctors dispense laughter on children’s wards

3 Sep 2013 02:22 PM

A project that trains ‘Giggle Doctors’ to bring music, magic and laughter to hospital wards where children are long-term patients, has received a grant from the Big Lottery Fund. It is one of 122 organisations across London sharing a total of £1.1m in good cause funding today.

The Theodora Children’s Trust in Islington will deliver their weekly giggle programme at St Mary’s Hospital in Paddington, through their grant of £2,536, which will help to improve the mental wellbeing of young people and make their stay in hospital less stressful. Giggle Doctors, who are usually actors, musicians or puppeteers, will undergo one year’s training with the Trust to learn about issues such as child psychology and how illness impacts on families. Then they will shadow a senior giggle doctor for six months at a hospital and begin interacting with the young patients, hoping to raise some smiles.

Sarika Brown, Executive Director at The Theodora Children’s Trust, said: “A stay in hospital can be daunting for a child but the Giggle Doctors really help them to forget their situation.  For a few magical moments they are no longer a patient, but a child, who can enjoy a spot of laughter and silliness with a funny character there simply to help them smile during a difficult time.  Our grant from the Big Lottery Fund will allow us to bring giggles to children at St Mary's Hospital in Paddington, London.”

Giggle Doctor Jimmi Jammi (Jamie Woods), who has worked for the Theodora Children’s Trust for nine years, said: “I'm so happy at the prospect of visiting children at Saint Mary's Hospital as a Giggle Doctor. I've been very lucky to share wonderfully magic moments with thousands of children, families, doctors and nurses in hospitals throughout the country. Sometimes in a hospital everybody is so worried about a child's illness that they forget to play. They might also not know that they are allowed to play. That's my job, to find the game we will have most fun playing.

“Everybody likes to play but playing can mean lots of different things. Sometimes the best game is a quiet one, like blowing bubbles and singing gentle songs about flying and rainbows, sometimes the best game is pretending you're a tiger and roaring at Dr Jammi so he runs squealing out of the door. Sometimes a game can be a story with imagined creatures and lands or it might be a chat about your favorite band or best friends from school. When a child plays they are transported away from worrying about their illness, anxiety is exhausting. When they stop worrying, they save energy. Energy is very valuable in getting better.”

Sammy Clowes, a parent said: “I had to rush my son Thomas to hospital and he was admitted to the children's ward via A&E where we had the pleasure of meeting Dr Faffy.  I recorded footage of her and Thomas and how she touched his life in one single moment with a smile, music and lots of magic bubbles. She made our stay on the ward easier and helped us forget about why we were actually there. Even now, two weeks on my son is still talking about Dr Faffy and believes in magic and it not just being in Harry Potter movies".

Alison Rowe, Big Lottery Fund spokeswoman, said: “Through the Giggle Doctors, the Theodora Trust will make a huge difference to the happiness of children, who may be forced to spend extended periods of time in hospital due to chronic illness or disabilities. While their stay may be unpleasant, painful, worrying and boring, providing a simple tonic of play and laughter can make all the difference to how a young patient feels.”

Also receiving funding is Hazelbury Junior School, which will be seeking the X Factor through teamwork in extra-curricular singing clubs across 13 primary schools in Enfield. The Edmonton Glee project, which has been awarded £9,700, will focus on boosting confidence and aspirations among the young people rather than singing ability.

Setting The Milestone Limited in Tower Hamlets will be running youth engagement provision and day trips for local young people at risk of involvement with gangs, through their grant of £9,950, aiming to improve their employment, CV and interview skills.

Tisas Youth Club in Shoreditch, London, will use their £9,689 funding to run a series of community panels discussing gang culture and attraction. This will provide all the young people with insight and an understanding of the implications of gang culture to try and deter young people from joining gangs.

Cubitt Artists Limited in Islington will use their £7,793 funding to run photographic treasure hunts for disadvantaged families and engage them in using local facilities of parks and public spaces.

Clapham Park West Residents Association will use their £7,020 funding to refurbish an outbuilding at Agnes Riley Gardens to provide a community cafe, purchase bee keeping equipment for a social enterprise and install fencing around the community garden. This will provide facilities and equipment to make it a social focal point and accessible for the local community.

Carefree Kids in Waltham Forest will use their £1,578 funding to purchase life-like baby dolls for teenage pupils to take home, as part of an after-school course about the emotional aspects of good parenting. This will develop empathy and an understanding of parenting.

The No Way Trust Limited will use their £9,966 grant to train ex-offenders as part of a crime and safety awareness programme for young people in Lambeth and Brixton secondary schools. This will provide the young people with valuable training and skills while aiming to discourage them from getting involved in crime and anti-social behaviour.

And Camberwell After School Project will spend their £9,930 grant on delivering health-related activities throughout the year for children during after school sessions and one Saturday workshop each term for parents and children. This will encourage healthy lifestyles and eating through researching a balanced diet, by taking the children on shopping trips to markets for example.

Through grants ranging from £300-£10,000, Awards for All aims to bring real improvements to communities most in need.

A full list of awards is available here.

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Notes to editors

  • Big Lottery Fund’s Awards for All programme aims to help improve local communities and the lives of people most in need. You can apply to Awards for All only if you are a community group, not for profit group, Parish or Town Council, health body, or school.
  • Grants ranging from £300 to £10,000 are available to fund a specific project or activity.
  • The Big Lottery Fund, the largest distributor of National Lottery good cause funding, is responsible for giving out 40% of the money raised for good causes by the National Lottery.
  • The Fund is committed to bringing real improvements to communities and the lives of people most in need and has been rolling out grants to health, education, environment and charitable causes across the UK. Since its inception in June 2004 the Fund has awarded close to £6 bn.
  • The Fund was formally established by Parliament on 1 December 2006.
  • Since the National Lottery began in 1994, 28p from every pound spent by the public has gone to good causes. As a result, over £30 billion has now been raised and more than 400,000 grants awarded across arts, sport, heritage, charities, health, education and the environment.