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File photo. child in hospital via Shutterstock
children in hospital ireland

This charity wants to make a child's stay in hospital more bearable

Volunteers with Children in Hospital Ireland help hospitals with play schemes, allowing the children a chance to play.

A LENGTHY HOSPITAL stay for a child is hard for them, their parents, and even the trained medical staff.

Spending weeks cooped up in a hospital ward, with little stimulus and their parents fretting over their every move, is no easy task.

One charity aims to help with this, using trained volunteers to provide an opportunity for children to play, and for their parents to take a break from the bedside.

However, like all charities, they are struggling, with massive gaps in their services.

Children in Hospital Ireland (CHI), known for a period as YooBYoo, is a 44-year-old charity involved in setting up, running and equipping hospital play schemes nationally, while also canvassing for changes in how children are cared for in hospital.

Few hospitals have play specialists, who use fun activities as a way of keeping children entertained while also aiding their therapy. This means that in some hospitals, it’s up to the parents, who could be exhausted and worried themselves, to keep the children happy.

“It’s aimed at keeping the children happy and occupied,” CEO Mary O’Connor told

“Parents are able to take a break from the beside as well. Sometimes you find parents who won’t leave the bedside, scared of even going to the loo, or that the child doesn’t want them to leave.

When the volunteer is there, children are usually very content, and absolutely happy to be left for a short period of time, even just time for the parent to grab a shower or a cup of coffee.

This is known as the PlayWell programme, and O’Connor said that it can quickly become part of the routine of a children’s ward, even if it just a brief visit.

“You’ll often see  them queuing up for the playroom. If the volunteers aren’t there, they’re really missed, and the staff absolutely love to have the the service in their ward. It takes some of the pressure off them.”

O’Connor said CHI is now looking to increase the number of volunteers.

They currently have a steady number of between 300 and 400, but by doubling that number they could fill widespread gaps in the service.

Currently there might only be enough volunteers assigned to a hospital for one visit a day, but there are still opportunities in the afternoon and evening.

“We’re particularly looking for people in the Dublin area who are available to visit during daytime hours,” O’Connor said.

PlayWell isn’t the only service CHI provides. JustAsk is aimed at helping parents find out more about the local area and the hospital, as well as putting them in touch with support groups, and assisting visitors in the hospital.

So how can you get involved?

All applicants must be garda vetted before they can work with CHI. Once this has been achieved, CHI will assign you to a short training course when a position becomes available. Once this is completed, you are then assigned to a hospital. More info is available here.

Read: “The ward is built around babies, but it has to be used by people up to the age of 18″ >

More: “What’s the fuss about?”: Children’s Hospital architect says project won’t be a problem >

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