Young people supported by the charity joined CLIC Sargent Chief Executive Kate Lee to cut the ribbon on the new home, named Amy’s House, on Thursday 21 January 2016.
The opening capped a £3.7million fundraising campaign, launched in 2012 with the aim of providing greater support for children and young people with cancer in Northern Ireland.
Amy’s House, located within walking distance of Belfast City Hospital, will offer free accommodation and support for families while a young person undergoes cancer treatment.
This saves families from the physically and emotionally exhausting impact of regular travel to and from hospital, as well as the financial costs, while enabling them to spend more time together.
Facilities include five large en-suite bedrooms, a shared lounge and kitchen space, a quiet room, a young people’s room, outdoor space and a roof terrace.
Amy’s House is the second new Home from Home to be opened by CLIC Sargent in Belfast. Paul’s House, which provides accommodation for families of younger children being treated at the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children, was opened by the charity in February 2014.
Kate Lee said: “I’m delighted to formally open CLIC Sargent’s second new Home from Home in Belfast. Every week two children and young people in Northern Ireland are diagnosed with cancer, meaning they will require treatment in specialist hospitals in Belfast.
“This can result in families having to travel huge distances, with an average journey of 95 miles, sometimes every day. Amy’s House will provide vital respite and support for families of young people being treated in Belfast City Hospital.
“The Northern Ireland Home from Home Appeal has been a huge success and we are incredibly grateful for the support and donations provided by our dedicated fundraisers, donors and supporters. We would like to thank everyone for their support.”
Cecilia Milburn, CLIC Sargent UK Home from Home Manager, said: “This is the first CLIC Sargent Home from Home which is specifically for teenagers and young people. We are only a ‘slipper walk’ from Belfast City Hospital, and Amy’s House will provide a warm, homely environment, helping families stay together as much as possible during this difficult time.
We have provided support for more than 100 families at Paul’s House since it opened and we are looking forward to doing the same here.
Danielle McGriskin, 19, from Lisburn, was 14 when she was diagnosed with a brain tumour and hydrocephalus. She was supported by a CLIC Sargent Social Worker and her family stayed in the charity’s Bristol Home from Home, CLIC House, after travelling there for vital treatment.
She said: “The house was a godsend to us and it meant the family could stay together. I can’t imagine how much worse my experience would’ve been without it.
“This new home is going to have a huge impact on patients and families in Northern Ireland. It is a fantastic place.”
John James Fisher was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia in 2011 soon before he was due to sit his GCSE exams.
Throughout his intensive treatment, his mother Brenda had a 65-mile round trip whenever she wanted to visit him or come home to look after her other three children.
He said: “It was really difficult. I felt very cut off from the family in that sense because the travelling didn’t make things easy for my family and it was very tiring.
“You can see the difference a place like Amy’s House will make. Parents and families will be able to spend more time with their children and it will really help with the costs as well as the stress.”
Amy’s House is the 10th Home from Home opened by CLIC Sargent, which provides emotional, practical, financial and clinical support to help children and young people with cancer cope with the disease and get the most out of life.
The charity is there from diagnosis onwards and aims to help the whole family deal with the impact of cancer and its treatment, life after treatment and, in some cases, bereavement.
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