Jackie Barker, whose husband died in 2011, has been supported by Child Bereavement UK with her three young children. She has been chosen to receive a Child Bereavement UK 21 Champions Award in recognition of her passion for raising funds and awareness for the charity so that other families can find the support they need after the death of a parent.
Four years ago in April my husband Matthew was killed in a car accident by a lorry driver on the A41 near Hemel Hempstead. We had three young children, Mia, 10, Sam 7, and Cory, 3 at the time, and the kids took it very hard. It happened in the Easter holidays so the children were at home when the police came round. It was such a shock. Our Police Liaison Officer told us about Child Bereavement UK; they were able to offer support with each of the kids and I couldn’t have asked for anything better. We joined the Children’s and Young People’s group (CHYPS). One of the exercises they do involves the children creating a tree; leaves are added to a drawing of a tree and the children make leaves for all the people who have been there for them – their friends, family and school. It helps them through the loss of their dad.
Mia was in transition going up to senior school and it was quite a lot for her to take on – she was very clingy at that time. She did very well and it’s thanks to Child Bereavement UK who have helped her get through that. My son, Sam, has special needs. He’s been poorly since 2007 and he got very angry after his Dad died. At CHYPS he was able to talk on his own if he didn’t want me to listen; he found it hard but didn’t want to say because he didn’t want to upset me. Cory doesn’t remember it as well, he tries to join in with the other two and he has been helped as well; he would often sit there, eating biscuits, talking to the cuddly toys and joining in when he could. Mia is one of the oldest in the group but they wanted to go together so the group accommodated her. It’s nice for me too to know it’s not only me and that there are others with partners who have died, some through illness. It’s good for us to know we’re not on our own.
Mia said to me: ‘It’s nice to know there are other children like us because the others who are separated or divorced still see their dad but I won’t be able to see my Dad any more.’ Kids can be really cruel as well, and the change to secondary school meant she moved from a school of 200 children to 1200. She met lots of new people, it was a big transition, and some of the kids were not very nice and she had to stand up for herself. They would ask ‘What does your dad do?’ She would say ‘He’s not here any more.’ The schools have been brilliant – I don’t have one bad word to say about them. Cory’s nursery set up a table with flowers on it and would ask if he wanted time out. Sam was at infant school – he had his little space and didn’t have to talk about his dad if he didn’t want to. On Father’s Day he made a card for his Grandad instead.
We were just talking to friends one day and saying how we wanted to give something back. So two years ago I made 200 fairy cakes, went to an office block and sold them myself and raised £200. In 2013 I decided, over a glass of wine, to walk from Chingford in East London to Aylesbury, where Matt and I used to live. It was 44 miles non-stop and we set off at 10pm on the Friday. I looked on Google maps, which said it would take professional walkers 14 hours, and we did it in 18. We finally arrived at The Plough on the Tring Road at 4pm on Saturday. Mia, two of her friends, and Bev, the landlady of the pub, joined us for the last 4 mile leg. A lot of people were cheering; I could barely walk – I don’t know how I did it – it nearly killed me! We organised a disco, raffle and a fun evening. Sadly I couldn’t last the evening – some of the walkers had the bright idea of going home to get changed and have a bath – but I had to go home at 8pm! I set up a Justgiving page and got sponsorship. We raised £7000.
We then put our heads together and organised a Midsummer Madness Fun Day at The Plough, who offered the pub for the day. My partner made stocks and we had wet sponges and threw them at my friend Jill. We held an auction – one of my friends said ‘If you get £150 I’ll get my chest waxed!’ I set up a Justgiving page to get my head shaved and that raised £1500 – it seemed like a very good idea at the time, but never again – I’m still growing it back! We had a tug-of-war, a bouncy castle and stalls, a disco and a raffle. Pam from CHYPS helped with the raffle, and the day raised another £6000.
I’m not done with fundraising but I’m having a year off! A friend of mine works for Usborne books and she is organising a collection and a raffle, another friend did a sponsored walk – I’m putting my feelers out to get everybody fundraising! My family and friends have been really good and supportive.
I recommend Child Bereavement UK every time I hear of someone who needs it. My next door neighbour’s best friend died just after Christmas and I told her to get in touch with CBUK. In Mia’s year, two other children lost a parent, a mum and a dad, and they went to get support from Child Bereavement UK as well. Mia made some posters about CBUK and put them up in school so people would be aware, because until it happened to me, I didn’t know about them. I think most of Aylesbury know about Child Bereavement UK now though, as I put 1000 flyers through doors, and I share information on Facebook and by word of mouth. Child Bereavement UK has supported my family from the beginning right up until now, so we, as family and friends of Matt, have vowed to do what we can to help this wonderful charity support other families through very dark and hard times.