Northern Ireland news

Video: Children's Cancer Unit Charity launches Robotics Programme

Digital staff

A CHILDREN'S charity has launched an initiative to help combat social isolation and support the educational needs of young patients receiving treatment for cancer.

A first for Northern Ireland, the special robotics introduced by The Children’s Cancer Unit Charity will allow children too unwell to be in the classroom to participate in lessons and interact with friends.

The robot which is controlled by the child from home, sits in the classroom and uses a live video link to offer the next best thing to being there in person.

Charlie Craig (8) who is from Lisburn, Co Down, piloted the scheme and was the first child to bring the new piece of equipment to the classroom. Having spent the last six years receiving specialist care for leukemia, including two bone marrow transplants, Charlie has missed out on several years at school due to the isolated nature of his treatment.

Speaking about the impact of the robot, Charlie’s Mother, Cliodhna said: “At the beginning of the week we set a schedule with the school. Each day, Charlie gets up, gets ready and sits down to join his class for particular lessons. Using the iPad, he controls the robot which sits at his desk and can take part in the lesson like anyone else in the class.

 Charlie Craig with his mother Cliodhna and sister Nancy

“Charlie’s intense and isolated treatment had made us worry about his emotional wellbeing, so this robot has already changed our lives. Charlie is happier now that he can see his friends again and he gets excited by all the antics they get up to in the classroom. He is smiling and laughing more than we have seen in a very long time and that is impacting everyone in our family.” 

The Children’s Cancer Unit Charity has plans to fund a fleet of robots so that more children living with cancer can get back to normal school life as soon as possible.

Anna McDonald from the Children’s Cancer Unit Charity added: “Through our work in supporting families across Northern Ireland, we discovered that some children really struggled with missing school for extended periods– not only for the educational benefits, but in seeing their friends and looking after their mental health through every day social interaction.

 Anna McDonald with Charlie Craig and his sister Nancy

“We are really looking forward to seeing more and more children affected by cancer in Northern Ireland availing of this new service and ultimately getting back to school as soon as possible.”

For more information on the Children’s Cancer Unit Charity or to find out how you can support the work of the Unit visit www.childrenscancerunit.com

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