The Larch Group is a ground-breaking schools project designed to tackle taboos around death.
School children are invited to visit the hospice once a week for a month and take part in group activities with day care patients. Together, they explore issues such as death, hospice care, bereavement, disability and loss.
Pupils are able to ask the patients any questions about their illness and experiences, and taboo subjects are explored openly with the support of skilled Hospice staff. The project provides a source of therapeutic group work for the patients.
The pupils and patients then work together to express the stories they have heard in a creative way such as through song, art, scrapbooking or drama.
At the end of the four weeks the children and patients celebrate their journey at a presentation party attended by family members, school staff, Hospice employees and volunteers.
Since the Larch Project began in December 2011, pupils from Cedarwood Primary School in Kesgrave, St Mary's Primary School in Ipswich and Alde Valley High School in Leiston have taken part in the initiative.
Cedarwood Primary School pupil Enya said:
"I realised that people who are ill and may be dying aren't necessarily upset. The Hospice is a place for living."
Pupil Rochelle Scoulding said:
"The Hospice is a really fun place and if other schools get a chance to come here then they definitely should."
Day care patient Angela Bennett used to work with children before she became ill. She said:
"I think this project is a good idea for children of all ages and I hope it makes future generations feel more comfortable talking about these issues. I used to work in schools but had to give it up and missed it so much so this has really helped me."
Cedarwood Primary School teacher Mel Youngs said:
"Initially we were not sure how the children would respond and deal with the issue but they have been brilliant and really enjoyed working with the patients. They have got so much out of it; they have grown in confidence, learned about others and dealt with some difficult issues. Death is a fact of life and we hope they will be less afraid to talk about it."
If your school or college would like to get involved please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01473 707014.