Helping children live life after burns

A CHARITY which supports children and their families after burn injuries is looking for people to help its work.

Frenchay After Burns children’s club (FAB) is entirely run by volunteers, receiving no government support for its work to help young burn survivors make friends, build confidence and self-esteem through free activities, from days out, parties and pantomimes to international residential camps.

Any child aged under 18 with a burn injury can join and the charity aims to support them “from injury through to adulthood”.

Lizzie Evans is one of the founders of FAB, and her own personal experience inspired her.

She said: “I had a burn injury myself when I was eight, and when it happened there weren’t support groups.

“I was in a school with a thousand pupils and I was the only one who had had a burn injury.

“I had support from my mum and dad, which helped me through.

“These days, with the pressures of social media, living with disfigurement can be very challenging.”

Lizzie was visiting family when she suffered her injury; her dress caught fire as she dried it in front of an open fire, after playing out in the snow.

Her older sister put the flames out but she suffered burns to her legs and was treated for ten days in Birmingham Children’s Hospital, before going home and undergoing operations and skin grafts at Frenchay Hospital’s burns unit.

Lizzie would go on to become a nurse and work on the same ward were she was treated at Frenchay, and it was while there in 2000 that she met Julie Scott, one of the charity’s other founders and current chair.

The group started small, with Lizzie and her fellow volunteers taking three girls away to a national camp for children with burn injuries.

Over the years support has expanded to include events to support the whole family of the child who has had the injury.

But Lizzie, who lives in Almondsbury, says the residential camps remain a vital part of the charity’s work, and in recent years the group has taken children to camps in Canada, South Africa and Lapland.

She said: “It’s a brilliant opportunity for children to meet up with others who have had the same experiences as them.

“A lot is about the child being accepted. Their injury isn’t the focus, what they might look like and any disabilities from scarring – it’s about peer support and having fun.

“The residential camps offer activities like rope climbing, archery and windsurfing that families wouldn’t be able to provide.

“It’s very rewarding – you see people that, before they come to a camp, are not confident enough to express their feelings. By the end of the camp that’s disregarded. It’s a fantastic opportunity.”

Although Frenchay Hospital has long since closed, Lizzie now works as a burns outreach nurse at Bristol Children’s Hospital, looking after children across the region following injuries.

She uses her own experience in a positive way and tells the children she helps about it.

Lizzie said: “It can happen to anyone.

“It’s made me who I am, helped me develop my role and given me the ability to empathise.”

FAB relies entirely on fundraising to meet its costs of about £25,000 a year, and as well as volunteers to help on camps it is looking for people to help raise money, from shaking a bucket at a garden centre or a Rovers or City match.

It also needs administrators, event organisers and support with its online and social media presence.

Anyone who would like to find out more about volunteering for FAB and the charity’s work is welcome to attend its annual meeting at Christ Church Hall in North Street, Downend, on February 7 at 7.30pm.

More information can be found at the charity’s Facebook page, website, by emailing or by calling 07821 989845.