Grace Kelly Childhood Cancer Trust

Grace Kelly Childhood Cancer Trust

An interview that delves into how the charity uses AV1 robots to support children with cancer

The Grace Kelly Childhood Cancer Trust is committed to providing holistic support to children diagnosed with cancer and their families. Recognizing the profound emotional and social challenges faced by these young patients, the trust sought innovative solutions to mitigate the impact of physical isolation during treatment.

No Isolation's AV1 robot emerged as a promising tool to address this need. Designed to support children and young people during school absence, AV1 enables children undergoing cancer treatment to maintain their education, participate in school activities, and socialise remotely, thereby fostering a sense of belonging and connection despite physical absence.

We spoke with Sophie Blount, Communications Officer for Grace Kelly Childhood Cancer Trust to learn more about how they support children and young people with AV1.

About the charity and Sophie's role

"I joined the charity in July last year as a Communications Officer. My role involves producing and curating content from our families and supporters and promoting the AV1 project through our digital channels. The Trust supports families facing childhood cancer by offering various services, including family support, financial assistance, funding research into rare childhood cancers and educational publications. Our mission, instigated and led by our founder and CEO, Jen Kelly, is to ensure families facing childhood cancer have comprehensive support during their challenging journey. Jen sadly lost her little girl Grace at aged 4 to a rare form of childhood cancer, which then motivated her to set up the charity to support other families going through similar situations."

About Grace Kelly Childhood Cancer Trust

Why they started working with AV1

"The AV1 project is now managed by Kerry Grindon, our Office and Project Manager. But it was instigated by our founder initially, who wanted to ensure that children still had access to education while they were poorly, as well as making sure they still had some connection with the social side of school and their classmates. We often see children experience isolation during long stints of treatment, especially if it's a stem cell transplant where they have to stay away from their family for weeks at a time. AV1 robots help children stay connected with their classmates and maintain a sense of normalcy during treatment."

"Our services complement the AV1 project by proving that circle of support."

Aligning AV1 with the values of the charity, and other support they offer

"Grace Kelly Charity offers a range of support services, including family support, financial assistance, and educational resources. Our family support workers provide emotional and practical support to families facing childhood cancer, while financial grants help alleviate financial burdens associated with treatment. Additionally, we provide these lovely ‘Ladybird Bags’ which contain all sorts of practical items that you may need when staying in hospital for prolonged periods of time. Families might have to stay in hospital unexpectedly when they receive a diagnosis. Items include things like cutlery, coffee cups, soft toys and activities for children.

The charity provides a range of helpful items in their Ladybird Bags

"We also foster social connections among affected families in Facebook groups, and have published information booklets to explain to children what cancer is and some of the associated issues such as receiving medication. Our services complement the AV1 project by proving that circle of support and addressing the various needs of children and families facing childhood cancer."

Finding children and working with schools

"We promote the AV1 project through various channels, including social media and direct outreach to families and schools. Typically, schools or families reach out to us expressing interest in the project. We then liaise directly with schools to facilitate the deployment of AV1 robots. While challenges such as Wi-Fi connectivity may arise, we work closely with schools to overcome them and ensure smooth implementation. General feedback is that once it’s up and running, and you’ve had a basic introduction, it runs very smoothly after that."

Sustaining their service

"Funding for the AV1 project primarily comes from grants secured by our fundraising team. These grants cover the initial costs of acquiring and deploying AV1 robots for a set period. Additionally, we rely on donations and fundraising efforts to sustain ongoing operational expenses."

"There are some lovely comments from parents from the surveys we send out."

Impact and feedback

"To date, our 15 AV1 robots have supported 29 children. We’ve currently got nine out actively being used. Some children use them for a long time, some use them intermittently. It’s different for each child.

"We use surveys and feedback from beneficiaries to evaluate the impact of AV1 in the community we are serving. While response rates may vary, feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, highlighting the social and educational benefits of AV1 robots. Testimonials from families and support workers further attest to the project's effectiveness in reducing isolation and supporting children during their cancer journey.

"There are some lovely comments from parents from the surveys we send out, saying how the robots really helped their child during treatment and kept them positive with regards to getting back to school and supporting that transition. Obviously a lot of children struggle with that transition back into mainstream school, so the robot is a way of encouraging them to get excited about going back in again. So a lot of the lovely comments have been about the social benefits of the robot from children of all ages, some in primary school and some about to sit their GCSEs. There are also comments about the educational benefits, that AV1 has really ensured that they didn’t have that gap in knowledge in preparation for important exams."

Testimonials from parents

“The AV1 really helped Gabby feel like a part of the class again after so long away. Her classmates loved it too, I think it took away some of the fear for them of what she was going through. Even just being able to answer her name on the robot was lovely for her.”
“We were most concerned with her isolation and not being with friends. The class have really enjoyed having the robot and ask every day for Emilia to log in. This has had a very positive impact on Emilia’s confidence and mental health whilst being stuck at hospital and home.”
“It's been great and has really boosted Ryan’s confidence. It helps with the child being able to have contact with school friends/teachers and not feel isolated. I observed Ruan being able to do partner work with a child at school through the robot.”

Sharing success

"We leverage digital platforms to share success stories and testimonials, including social media and digital newsletters. Our goal is to raise awareness of the AV1 project and inspire support from the community. Additionally, we are exploring new strategies, such as video testimonials from teachers, to showcase the project's impact and encourage wider adoption.

"Coming from a teaching background, I think a big barrier is that teachers will be really anxious about using new technology that they don’t know how to use. So our idea is to go out and do some of these video testimonials with teachers that have been really positive about them, hopefully to encourage other schools to contact us.

"I would definitely recommend AV1 to other charities. As a children’s charity, we are all on the same mission, and I’d like to think we want to support all children as much as we can."

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