BubbleBusters is a brand-new pilot project we’re launching that utilises telepresence devices such as desktop robots (AV1) in order to combat the lengthy periods of isolation young children suffer as a result of cancer treatment.

Chemotherapy compromises the child’s immune system, making them very susceptible to colds, chicken pox etc which can be devastating if contracted. Because of this, they can spend anywhere from 6 months to several years completely isolated within hospitals and in their home.

SpecialEffect is hoping to be a catalyst in helping these children to connect with their friends and their schools once again.

We currently have 6 robots in use with a further 9 reserved via referrals.

We’re working with a 9-year-old lad who’s mad about strategy and base building games. He LOVES playing games.

He has an aggressive form of Leukaemia and the surgery he’ll be having (Bone Marrow Transplant, usually a last resort yet he’s already booked in for it despite only being diagnosed a few months ago) will mean he’ll be isolated for a further 6 months minimum. During this time, the AV1 and the games he plays will hopefully bring him some much needed joy and social interaction during his recovery process.

Sam had been unable to go to school for over three years due to his ongoing treatment but the robot had begun to reconnect him with his classmates and help him start to catch up on precious lost time with schoolwork. Sam was our very first ‘BubbleBuster’ and the inspiration behind the whole project. Very, very sadly, Sam lost his battle at the end of November; utterly heartbreaking. Through Sam’s example, we aim to enhance the lives of many, many more children with leukaemia by providing a way to reconnect with their friends and education to bring an end to their isolation. ‘It’s life-changing for an isolated child. They’re not alone.’ [Sam’s mum]

Seren is a six year-old girl who was diagnosed with leukaemia last year. During lessons, her desktop robot sits on her desk at school and attends lessons as if she were in the classroom herself. She can even ask and answer questions – instead of putting her hand up, she makes a light flash on her robot’s head. At breaktimes, her friends take the robot outside with them so she doesn’t miss out on mixing with them socially.

‘Seren loves school and still feels part of that community, and because of the robot she knows they haven’t forgotten her which is vital for when she eventually returns. The robot allows her to have so many positive experiences; ten out of ten in spelling tests, reading her creative writing to her teacher and even playing games with her friends during Friday afternoon golden time.’ [Seren’s mum]

SpecialEffect are constantly fundraising and we are absolutely indebted to many wonderful Trusts, Foundations, individuals, businesses, schools and community groups for such incredible support who help us in so many different ways.

SpecialEffect, The Stable Block, Cornbury Park, Charlbury, Oxfordshire, OX7 3EH. Registered Charity No. 1121004. T: 01608 810055 E: info@specialeffect.org.uk www.specialeffect.org.uk


Team Oxford

14th January 2020. An innovative Oxford partnership has been awarded a “game-changing” Partnerships grant of £160,650 by The National Lottery Community Fund. Spread over four years, the money will be used to launch the “Team Oxford” project, to help boost volunteering in the city.

The Oxford-based employment charity and social enterprise, Aspire, and Oxfordshire Community & Voluntary Action (OCVA), secured the funding on behalf of the wider “Team Oxford” partnership, which also includes Oxford City Council, Oxford Brookes University, Oxford Computer Consultants, Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust and OxFed, the Oxford Federation of GP Surgeries.

Aspire, OCVA and the partnership will use the funds to introduce a programme of new volunteering campaigns, events and infrastructure support to boost social action in Oxford over the coming years and help city-based organisations to improve their sustainable delivery.

The desired outcomes of Team Oxford match the Founder Members’ own organisational ambitions: to make it easier for people, communities and organisations to mobilise and work together to make a difference for the city, particularly in East Oxford. This will be achieved by tackling key priority issues: improving physical and mental health, reducing loneliness and connecting communities, and addressing homelessness.

The Partnerships funding from the Lottery has enabled Aspire and OCVA to hire a full-time project coordinator, Hannah Mackie, who started her new job in December. Hannah will support the Team Oxford partnership to:

  • organise three social action campaigns and events a year;
  • deliver regular, free workshops to charities and public sector organisations in the city who want to access more or new volunteers;
  • deliver regular, free workshops to support employers to step up their volunteering efforts in the city;
  • offer brokerage support to help realise more volunteering outcomes.

Team Oxford Project Coordinator, Hannah Mackie, said: “I’m thrilled to lead such a meaningful community project, it’s a great opportunity to boost volunteering in the city by bringing together people, communities and organisations for the collective goal of a happier and healthier city. Oxford is a vibrant place with a huge amount of energy and drive to do more good; I can’t wait to see Team Oxford channelling this towards addressing important issues such as homelessness, mental and physical health and loneliness.”

Team Oxford kicked off with its first social action event in December since securing the funding, with volunteers joining from Bouygues, Oxfordshire County Council, Blenheim Palace and Yarnton Garden & Nursery to support Aspire’s ‘A Place at the Table’ event, to put on a Christmas meal benefiting people experiencing homelessness in Oxford.

The Team Oxford workshops and social action events for early 2020 will be announced on their social media channels, and anyone interested is encouraged to contact Hannah Mackie:

TO on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/JoinTeamOxford
TO on Twitter https://twitter.com/jointeamoxford
TO on Instagram https://www.instagram.com/teamoxfordcity/
TO website http://www.team-oxford.co.uk/

NEXUS Introduction Event focuses on the inspirational Twin Town phenomenon

Twin Town for Special Effect

To see further pictures from this event, please click here

In the second of a series of five NEXUS introduction events at Jurys Inn, home of BIO2020, we welcomed an inspirational line up of speakers to give more than a few great reasons why supporting and collaborating with local charities, social enterprises and start-up businesses can be so beneficial for everyone.

nick streeter and Brendan cross
Nick Streeter and Brendan Cross

There’s no better example of the business community and charity working together than the Twin Town events which have been running bi-annually since 2014. Created by Brendon Cross of STL and Nick Streeter of the beneficiary charity, SpecialEffect, Twin Town 2020 will see cumulative funds raised soar well beyond the £1 million mark. Guests at the event on Tuesday 4th February heard how Twin Town was created and has established itself in such a short space of time and how the benefits of Twin Town for SpecialEffect run far beyond the event itself. Find out more about Brendon and Twin Town in the next edition of B4 out later this month. Brendon commented about the NEXUS event, ‘Nexus is a brilliant example of great businesses coming together with excellent charitable causes and good opportunities to compare notes with likeminded people. Well done B4.’ Nick Streeter added, “Fantastic to have the opportunity to meet likeminded companies and charities at our debut B4/ NEXUS event and not only talk about the transformational benefits for the people SpecialEffect help, thanks to the Twin Town Challenge, but also learn more about the amazing partnerships and work across the business and charity sector in Oxfordshire.’

The NEXUS introduction events are also an opportunity for charities, social enterprises and start-up businesses to promote themselves to potential supporters, an opportunity which B3’s (no relation to B4!) Kate Reid took to tell those in attendance more about the superb work that B3 is doing and how a supporter could benefit. Kate added, ‘Hearing about the Nexus partnerships already in place was a highlight. It was obvious how much value both sides placed on the collaboration, both gaining more than they anticipated, without too much pressure on either side.’

We also heard from Leah Spasova of LifeSexperts who highlighted the growing issue of sexual abuse in the workplace and explained how a potential supporter could benefit from partnering with her organisation. Leah commented, ‘It is through partnerships that we can accomplish the brave and big goals we have and the Nexus program is a great platform that helps organisations and businesses to join forces and empower each other to reach new heights.’

A glowing example of a NEXUS partnership in operation is that between Sobell House and YouHR. Ian Mundy of YouHR commented, ‘The NEXUS event helped You HR to bring to life the evolving partnership we have established with Sobell House and some of the great work we envisage taking place to support such a great charity over the next 12 months. Thank you B4 for providing the platform and opportunity for us to further our mission to give back to our local community.’

Tim Wraith of Sobell House, who have been supporters of B4 for a number of years but can now benefit from the community without having to invest a penny, is equally engaged with NEXUS and YouHR, ‘It was great to be at the NEXUS introduction event at Jury’s Inn. Obviously I always like the opportunity to talk about the incredible work of Sobell House, but equally I loved hearing from everyone else. The NEXUS programme is such a positive initiative and a fantastic way to bring different partners together. Our partnership with You HR is such a ‘win win’ for us and its brilliant to see it working for so many others.’

To see further pictures from this event, please click here

If you would like to find out more about NEXUS, why not visit the website or come to one of our future NEXUS introduction events. See more below:


Future dates for your diary:

Monday 9th March
Wednesday 8th April
Wednesday 13th May