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Working full-time as a School Services Officer (SSO), studying to be a drama teacher, and volunteering with AnglicareSA’s Star Bear program, Seb is passionate about working with children and making a positive impact in their lives.

“A lot of people ask me why I would work five days a week with children and then volunteer to spend all weekend with them too,” Seb laughed.

“But I enjoy working in schools. Children are so fascinating, and teach me a thing or two.”

Funded by donors and almost entirely run by volunteers, AnglicareSA’s Star Bear program provides free weekend camps three times a year to support children and their families experiencing grief and loss.

The Star Bear camp provides grief support for children aged from six to 13 years, while Star Bear Family camps cater for families with children and young people aged from five to 17 years.

Seb is a trained volunteer mentor and works one-on-one with a different child at each camp to help them in their journey through grief and loss.

“I love that the camp teaches children that everyone goes through grief and they are not alone in their emotions,” Seb said.

“While everyone is there because they’ve lost someone, how they process grief differs.

“I hope each camper I mentor has a great time on camp, but also takes that positive experience and makes it a permanent mindset after the camp.”

With the support of volunteers like Seb, the Star Bear program has supported around 1,100 children and their families since 2002.

Seb said the program was about more than simply providing a safe environment for children and young people to process their grief – it was also about helping them feel like kids again. 

“While there is a serious side to the camp, the campers are also there to have fun with activities such as sports, games, arts and crafts, and tubing. I’ve done my fair share of running and tiring myself out,” he said with a laugh.

Seb said volunteering at Star Bear had been transformative and encouraged others to give it a go.

“Volunteering has been such a wonderful experience so far,” he said.

“I’ve met so many amazing volunteers who I am lucky enough to call my friends, and it is rewarding to know that I have been able to create a positive experience for the campers.”

From 20-26 May 2024, it is National Volunteer Week – a time to celebrate and recognise the amazing contributions volunteers make to our community. At AnglicareSA, we’re proud to have around 300 volunteers who give their time to support people in need.

AnglicareSA is looking for volunteers like Seb to join the Star Bear program and make a difference in the lives of families experiencing grief and loss. To be a Star Bear volunteer, you do not need to have experienced grief or loss, but you will need some security checks to complete training modules. AnglicareSA will support you in obtaining these.

To register your interest in volunteering or to seek further information, please email [email protected]

Jo lost her soulmate Davide to cancer in January of 2020 – he was aged 45.

Through a monthly bereavement support group, Jo heard about the unique work of AnglicareSA’s Star Bear loss and grief camps.

She attended one of the camps with her two young children in June 2021. Immediately after, Jo knew she wanted to share her own grief journey and support others as a Star Bear volunteer.

“Star Bear helped me to open up to like-minded families who experienced the same or similar emotions for the loss of their loved ones,” Jo says.

“It was a short, but amazing time to reflect and acknowledge the loved one in a supportive and comfortable environment away from day to day-to-day distractions.

“I felt like I could actually grieve without my kids seeing me being vulnerable and upset and was able to share the experience with others.”

Star Bear camps are free weekend camps for bereaved children, young people, and families who have lost a parent, sibling, or other significant person.

Jo says being able to go through the stages of grief with a group was not only helpful for herself, but also for her son and daughter, who were 13 and 11 at the time of Davide’s passing.

“We cried, we listened, and we learned a lot of coping skills and strategies. So I really appreciated the time and space we were given to talk to others – adults with adults, and kids with kids.

“It was like we were speaking the same language. At times, I thought certain emotions were out of the ordinary, but by talking to other adults and mentors, it helped to normalise things for us.

“I love the fact that every child was paired up with a mentor for the weekend and it was great to see them bond and not be afraid to ask questions about grief.

“And being out in the nature and being present in the moment was amazing.”

After the camp, Jo says she was empowered to reach out and help others in need knowing how much Star Bear had enriched her own family’s life.

She says having come from being a camp participant to volunteering at future camps brought her inner peace knowing she can help bring a smile to someone on their grieving journey.

“Following the death of Davide, I thought I had to push through it to get to the other side as the lead up to special days or events was the hardest pain to deal with.

“I soon learned that there is no other side,” Jo explains. “There is no pushing through, but rather there is absorption, adjustment, and acceptance.

“Grief is not something you complete, but rather endure. It is an alteration of your being and seeing things through a new lens – a new definition of self and a new way of living.”

Three boys sit holding colourful boxes.

AnglicareSA is looking for volunteers like Jo to join the Star Bear program and make a real difference to the lives of children and their families who have lost a significant family member.

Volunteers can help through a variety of roles:

  • Mentor – support one child for the duration of camp
  • Rover – assist wherever support is needed
  • Group leader – lead activities with breakout groups of children
  • Craft – set up and help facilitate several activities

To be a Star Bear volunteer you don’t have to have experienced grief or loss, but you will need some security checks and to complete training modules. AnglicareSA will support you in obtaining these.

To register your interest or to seek further information, please email [email protected]