Pre-loved furry friends help hospital patients

CARE BEARS: The Frere Bear Project ensures that every child admitted to Frere Hospital receives a soft toy to keep them company during their stay at the hospital. Pictures: SUPPLIED

We chat to Frere Hospital staff about the Frere Bear Project which provides children with soft, second-hand toys.

When did the Frere Bears Project start?

It started in June 2023.

How did the project come about?

Frere Bears started with a chance meeting and a request for help to upgrade the Frere paediatric orthopedic ward. Seeing the children in these wards who were there for long stays, with nothing to comfort them was very touching and this is where the idea of Frere Bear project was born. We thought, what would make a child’s long, lonely stay a happier one? A teddy bear was the simple answer.  The vision is to supply every child admitted to Frere Hospital with a soft toy, that we may spread love and comfort one furry friend at a time.

What are the criteria for the toys?

We accept any donations of pre-loved soft toys, preferably a huggable size.

What challenges have you encountered?

We did have two challenges with the very small and very large bears. Some of the children are unable to take the large bears home and the tiny bears seemed unfair to give when others were getting bigger bears. But now we give the large bears to a cerebral palsy home, where they use the bears to place the children in a more comfortable position. The tiny bears are given to the paediatric outpatients department where they are handed out to the children who visit.

How does the project affect the emotional wellbeing of the children?

The bears bring so much joy. It is such a privilege to see the children’s faces light up when they realise they are getting their own furry friend to keep. Some of the children are admitted to hospital for many weeks, some are not able to have a caregiver with them all the time. For these children, soft toys are a comfort and keep them company.

Are there measures to ensure the safety and cleanliness of the toys?

Each donation that is received is checked first to see if it needs fixing or new stuffing. We do repairs and brighten up soft toys. After repairs are done the toys are washed, dried and ribboned with a Frere Bear logo ribbon. All measures are put into place to ensure the toys are clean and germ free before they are given to the hospital. This is done weekly. Excess soft toys are kept in the Bear Bank, which is a locked cupboard on the hospital’s premises.

What are the project’s future plans?

We are currently collecting beanies and bed socks which are distributed throughout the hospital from neonatal and maternity wards to adult wards. This is a wonderful add on for the winter months. We are also partnering with Angel Outreach on their annual pyjamas drive. We will be giving a furry friend to the younger children in some of the orphanages, as donations allow.

Is there anything else you would like our readers to know?

We are thankful for how this project has grown and been supported. Since June 2023, we have given out more than 2,000 toys. Special thanks to all the individuals, schools and businesses who have supported us, done collection drives and served as collection points. Without the community we would have no project.

How can our readers donate?

Collection of pre-loved soft toys is an ongoing project. We have numerous collection points throughout East London. Readers can contact us directly or through our Facebook page.

Liesl Kumm: 072-105-1566, Desire Korff-082-821- 6957, Adri Kepler: 082-828-7770.

Our collecting points are: Gonubie Laundry, Nahoon Medical Practice, Nahoon Step-up Education, Hello Gorgeous Hair Salon, Pediatricians Rooms Life Beacon Bay, Cure Day Hospital, Aesthetic Laser Centre, FamCare Beacon Bay & Southernwood, Vicky Gaylard Optometrist, Happy Tails, Hands on Gonubie and Dutch Reformed Church Gonubie.


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