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Gun crime: helping children deal with grief

A teenager who lost his father to gun crime has become the first Bermudian to benefit from an internationally acclaimed US programme designed to help children deal with grief.

The 15-year-old boy and his mother travelled to Boston at the end of last month to take part in the Comfort Zone bereavement camp for children.

The trip was funded through donations to Gina Spence's Champions Programme and was the culmination of more than four years of preparation work by the charity.

Dr Spence now hopes that other children who have lost fathers to gun crime will be able to travel to Boston to take advantage of the programme. She also told The Royal Gazette that she plans to ultimately set up a chapter of the Comfort Zone camp in Bermuda. “A huge amount of preparation went into enabling this first child to take part in the camp by all the team, including our administrator Kara Lang,” she said. “It was a long process that took four years and required a great deal of work from us to abide by their very high standards. It also required us to recruit a clinician as well as a lawyer.

“Now our focus is on establishing a Comfort Zone chapter in Bermuda because there is not really anything available that specifically deals with young people's grief, especially those who have lost parents to homicide.

“The next step will be for Comfort Zone's lead person to come to Bermuda, hopefully in January, and assess how suitable that is. From that assessment, they will be able to make a programme specifically tailored to Bermuda. In the meantime, we have been asked to speak with people from across the community who deal with grief and loss, and set up a think tank.”

Statistics collated by Gina Spence Productions reveal that since 2009 24 boys and 26 girls have lost their parents to gun and gang crime, of whom six are residing overseas while 44 live in Bermuda

Dr Spence, as well as clinician Carrie Tucker, accompanied the mother and son on their trip to Boston on Thursday, August 27.

The young man was dropped off at the Comfort Zone camp on Friday afternoon where he stayed with about 80 other children, including some who had lost family in 9/11, until he was picked again on the Sunday.

The programme sees participants paired with an older “buddy” who has experienced similar trauma in their life and over the course of three days they take part in a wide range of trust-building and counselling exercises as well as healing circles.

“We did a lot of work to help prepare the mother and son for the trip,” Ms Tucker said. “It was our job to make sure they were emotionally ready for the trip and what it involved.

“We were also given a tour of the beautiful campus to see the cabins where participants stay prior to leaving the young man. That helped reassure the mother that her son was being left in good hands.”

Dr Spence told The Royal Gazette that both mother and son found the whole Comfort Zone experience extremely helpful and positive.

“This was a pilot project for us and we were very happy at how it went.

“It was extremely successful,” she said.

“We hope there is scope in the future for other children who have lost parents to take this trip.

“This young man is still in touch with his buddy from the US and the whole process showed the importance of mentorship again and again and again.

“In Bermuda we have not really acknowleged the scale of the problem we face and the grief faced by our young children. We have to do this in order for the healing to begin.”

To find out more about the Champions Programme and how to donate visit ginaspenceproductions.com

Force for good: from left, Carrie Tucker, Gina Spence and Kara Lang display the charity's logo (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

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Published September 21, 2016 at 9:00 am (Updated September 21, 2016 at 1:35 pm)

Gun crime: helping children deal with grief

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