By Sophie Andrews OBE, Chief Executive of Noah’s Ark Children’s Hospice
As you arrive at The Ark, our state-of-the-art children’s hospice building in north London, you’re greeted with a red sign. As well as the usual parking and entrance information, visitors can see the phrase ‘Making the Most of Every Day’.
And you’ll find this phrase all over Noah’s Ark. Whether it’s in our leaflets, on reception, or being spoken by one of our carers – these six words are a common part of interacting with our hospice. We’ve also chosen it as the name of our new three-year strategy.
But what does ‘making the most of every day’ really mean in the context of supporting a child who is seriously unwell, and their family? And why have we decided to put this line at the centre of so much of what we do?
To answer this question, it’s useful to think about why a children’s hospice exists in the first place – something that is commonly misunderstood. Unlike hospitals, hospices do not exist to help children recover from their conditions. We do not treat illnesses, nor do we aim to extend a child’s prognosis.
Instead, we welcome those we support as they are – providing a safe space for them to enjoy life as children and families, rather than as patients and carers. Indeed, the word ‘hospice’ derives from the latin hospitum, meaning ‘hospitality’, or ‘a place to rest’. We do everything we can to improve the quality of life of the children we support as they live with their condition. And, if the time comes, ensure that they have the highest quality of death – in comfort, surrounded by family.
Making the most of every day means savouring the moments that matter amongst the chaos that typically comes when your child receives a life-limiting or life-threatening diagnosis.
It’s Precious celebrating her 9th birthday at The Ark
It’s brothers Samuel and Freddie playing in our Soft Play Room with their parents
It’s Isabella playing with the drums during music therapy
It’s Fahim singing to ‘Three Little Birds’ at The Ark’s Family Day
And it’s Baby George going for one last pram walk with his parents after his death, around The Ark’s nature reserve.
At Noah’s Ark we are able to give children and families the opportunity to experience these moments. Some are small, some are big. Some happen on happy days, some happen on sad days. Noah’s Ark stands by children and families every step of the way.
Due to medical advances, children who are seriously unwell often live far longer than they would have in the past. It is the duty of a caring society to ensure that these children and families have access to expert and compassionate palliative care – where they have the opportunity to play, where they will not be defined by their condition and where they can join a community of people who understand.
As Noah’s Ark enters the next phase of its journey, scaling further and doubling the number of children and young people we support, we need to grow our team and recruit even more specialist nurses, carers, therapists and social workers. As a result, our annual expenditure will grow to c£6m in three years. Our three-year strategy outlines how we are going to make this a reality.
There will always be babies, children and young people who need our care. With the support of our community, Noah’s Ark will always be able to be there for those that need us the most.
As part of our strategy, we hope to significantly increase the understanding of what a children’s hospice is. To help people understand that it’s not just about end-of-life-care, or clinical interventions – but a place filled with care, kindness and joy. And in today’s difficult times, making the most of every day and relishing those small moments could help us all.
You can read our three-year strategy by clicking here. Thank you for everything you do for Noah’s Ark. I encourage you to join us for this next important stage of the journey.