A man who spent much of his childhood in hospitals by his sister’s bedside is channelling his experience to help the siblings of children supported by Bluebell Wood Children’s Hospice.

Owen Jenkins, 31, from Mosborough, has been helping to run Bluebell Wood’s popular sibling support workshops for just under a year.

The sibling workshops offer children whose families are going through difficult times the opportunity to spend time with others in a similar situation.  They are available to any current or bereaved family.

Ranging from one-to-one sessions to group work, Bluebell Wood’s sibling support service caters to the unique needs of each child.  Workshops are lightly structured sessions with an opportunity for free play and peer support.

Owen, who is a global account manager for Sheffield-based technology firm Insight UK, began volunteering with Bluebell Wood on a corporate volunteer day two years ago - and he’s not looked back since.

“On the first day I visited I just saw how happy everyone is, it’s really not the place that you expect it to be,” said Owen.

“I genuinely thought I was going to a hospital, but it’s not what I expected at all and is one of the happiest places I’ve ever been to.” 

Starting out volunteering with Bluebell Wood’s housekeeping team, Owen was thrilled when an opportunity to work with siblings arose.

“When I grew up my sister was very ill and I spent a lot of time in hospitals,” he said.

“It was all touch and go for a while. I was in a position where I’d return from a Bank Holiday weekend and while other children at school were talking about what they’d done, I’d say I’d been to the hospital.

“That’s not to say I had an unhappy childhood, just different.”

Thankfully, Owen’s sister made a full recovery after undergoing ground-breaking surgery.

“It helps you to understand what the families might be going through,” he said.

“I know how difficult it can be and I like to think that it helps me to connect and make friends with the groups.

“It’s also quite a female-dominated environment too so I think it’s good to have a male influence. I’m happy to sit and play Xbox with them for a few hours if that’s what they want to do.”

Owen’s most recent group involved making pizzas and watching a movie in Bluebell Wood’s cinema room with some of the older siblings.

Amy Panton, Bluebell Wood’s Sibling Coordinator, said: “Owen is fantastic to work with and the children always have lots of fun at the workshops.

“His experience has given him a valuable insight into what life can be like for the siblings of children with life-shortening conditions and children who have sadly experienced the death of their brother or sister.

“We rely on volunteers like Owen to provide these support services for our families so a huge thank you to him and the many others who give up their free time.”