An internationally recognised programme to support children traumatised by gun crime has thrown its weight behind an island charity’s plans to establish the island’s first bereavement camp for youngsters.
Comfort Zone representatives visited Bermuda last December and met several groups to see if the model used for its grief camps in the United States could be duplicated in Bermuda.
The non-profit organisation in a review backed Gina Spence Productions’s proposals to launch a bereavement camp to support the scores of grieving youngsters who have lost family members to violence.
Ms Spence told The Royal Gazette she was excited by the development and had already won “in principle” funding from a local business.
She said: “A programme like this is obviously going to cost money but I am happy to say we have identified a sponsor who would like to help launch this programme and then sustain it.
“We are very excited that one of our local businesses has come on board and we have also established a group of local experts who will work alongside the sponsor and help us work on the planning stages and deliver timetables.
“Agencies we have worked with are already saying that they will send their children to the camp when it is established.
“There’s ongoing conversations to have and time-lining as we put together our plan, but this is another step in the right direction.”
Ms Spence added: “It’s also important to note that as part of the initiative to get Comfort Zone here we conducted a data-driven assessment of the grief situation on the island looking at a range of different issues around gun crime and gangs.”
In December, two representatives from Comfort Zone met with 200 local professionals, many on the front line of the battle against gangs and violent crime.
Alesia Alexander, chief executive of Comfort Zone, and Abby Moncreiff, the group’s director of strategic partnerships, were invited to Bermuda by Ms Spence to explore how a bereavement camp could work in Bermuda.
Comfort Zone was impressed during its visit by the island’s determination to tackle the scars left behind by violence.
The assessment report said: “The strength of this community collaboration is evident in the responses given to the presentation and the proposal implementation potential.
“There is also strong evidence to support resource development and movement towards preliminary preparation and timelines towards programme implementation.”
Comfort Zone is a non-profit bereavement camp based in Virginia designed to transform the lives of children who have experienced the death of a parent, brother, sister or caregiver.
The free camps include confidence-building and age-based support groups aimed at breaking the isolation grief can bring.
The first Comfort Zone Camp was held near Richmond, Virginia, in 1999 and since then the organisation has expanded its services to California, Massachusetts, and New Jersey. It is now the largest bereavement camp in the US and provides programmes to children of all ages.