Creating memory boxes to help children and families dealing with cancer.

Today the Big Lottery Fund Scotland announced a £3.3 million boost providing inspirational support for communities across Scotland. One charity to benefit is the Aberdeenshire-based CLAN Cancer Support which has received a £400,000 grant. In a guest blog, Dr Colette Backwell, chief executive, gives an insight into the difference the money will make:

A cancer diagnosis can affect children, young people and their families in many ways. At CLAN, we offer a dedicated and confidential service through a team of fully qualified support workers that provides tailored emotional support during what can be an extremely difficult period in anyone’s life.

We work with young people and families at CLAN House in Aberdeen, through our 11 support and well being centres across north-east Scotland, Moray, Orkney and Shetland and out with CLAN centres in clients’ homes and schools.

Our experienced team of six offer one-to-one support and family sessions allowing clients to explore difficult feelings in a safe and secure environment. Staff run a children’s group and a teens’ group monthly and also provide advice and support to other professionals including health, social care and education professionals.

Children creating a memory box with one of CLAN's Children and Families Support Workers.
Children creating a memory box with one of CLAN’s Children and Families Support Workers.

During one-to-one work, we use a variety of emotional support techniques and activities. One of the activities we use with children and young people, to encourage them to express how they feel, is creating stores for memories such as a memory jar or box. These simple activities help children think about happy memories while creating a beautiful keepsake to help them remember a loved one. When creating a memory jar, children fill a jar with layers of different coloured salt and chalk – each colour is assigned to a different fond memory.

Memory boxes are a key part of the bereavement support work carried out by CLAN.
Memory boxes are a key part of the bereavement support work carried out by CLAN.

A memory box can also be a helpful record to keep memories alive. What children put into their box is completely up to them; it can be anything important to them or their family or something that helps them remember a memory that they would like to treasure for a long time. Memory boxes can be helpful records for children who are too young to understand information which they will come to cherish as they grow older.

CLAN seeks to provide as many ways as possible to support children and young people at during a difficult time, helping to build their confidence and resilience. The creation of a memory box or jar is just one of the many methods that we use to try and do just that.

CLAN CFS image 3 - children playing a game to help them relaxThe Children and Families Service has continued to grow in the last 12 months and to support this, CLAN has been awarded substantial funding from the Big Lottery Fund which will aid us considerably in helping individuals and families strengthen relationships and become more emotionally resilient during a testing time. The funding is a fantastic investment in cancer support for children and families in Scotland and one that is warmly received by all associated with the charity. For more information on CLAN Cancer Support and its dedicated Children and Families Service, please visit

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