Children, parents, staff and dignitaries came together for a celebration today to mark the opening of the Noah’s Ark Garden.   Funded by the Noah’s Ark Charity and Welsh Government, the fully accessible garden is a bright and vibrant outdoor space complete with a play area, maze, palm trees and a therapy zone.

President of the Noah’s Ark Charity, Lyn Jones OBE, who spoke at the opening celebration said:  “The Noah’s Ark Garden is very much a symbol of the combined vision we had for a children’s hospital for Wales from the outset – a world class paediatric facility with the needs of children and families at its very heart. It provides a fun and engaging space for children to receive therapy and a safe place for them to play in the outdoors.   It’s also a haven for families, who in some cases are facing long periods apart, to spend time together away from the wards.

“As a charity, we’re delighted to have been able to help make the vision for this garden a reality. We hope that it will provide a place of both solace and fun for generations of children to come.”

PLAY AREA AT NOAH’S ARK CHILDREN’S HOSPITAL FOR WALES

The garden has been a welcome addition to families spending long periods in the hospital. Twelve-year-old Lily has been a patient on the surgical ward, Gwdihw, since having an operation on her spine more than a month ago.  She said: “I’ve been in hospital for five weeks and I couldn’t get out of my bed for most of that time.  It was so nice to be able to go to the garden in the bed, to feel the fresh air and look up into the sky, like I was at home in my own garden.  My three cousins came to visit and they loved it too.”

As well as providing an outdoor space for patients and families to spend time together, it will also be used by the rehabilitation team for therapy sessions with the children here.   Natalie Gragasin, team lead for neuro-rehabilitation services, said:  “The garden is a fantastic addition to the facilities available for families here at the Noah’s Ark Children’s Hospital for Wales. A park is an environment that children are familiar with and brings some normality into their lives.

“It’s also a great resource for rehabilitation with the added health benefits of fresh air and natural sunlight. The wards are artificial environments with level floors and no steps which don’t replicate the challenges of most peoples’ homes. The garden allows us to practice skills which are more meaningful to the families’ lives such as walking on textured surfaces and slopes and climbing on the play equipment.”

Five-year-old Noah’s Ark patient, Neve, is recovering from a brain inflammation which left her partially paralysed. She was one of the first children to use the garden for therapy sessions with her physio team and her mum, Vicky, says that she’s really enjoyed them. She’s also likes the garden for more childlike reasons though.  Vicky says: “One of the hardest things for Neve is being separated from her beloved big brother Marley, who’s been at home while Neve and I have been here. Now that the garden’s open, Neve and Marley have got somewhere to go together on his visits, somewhere that looks like a “normal” place for children to play and spend time with each other.  For families like ours who’ve spent a lot of time apart and for children like Neve who’s now spent two months here, it’s a very welcome addition to the children’s hospital.”

To read Neve’s story in full click here.