New Hope Worcester
New Hope, New Chances
Surrounded by noisy, happy children, Jean Wilson is in her element. We’re at the Saturday Club of New Hope, an organisation set up three years ago for children with disabilities and complex care needs, their parents and their carers.
‘It started because I couldn’t find suitable respite care for my daughter Emily who has autism and severe learning difficulties’ says Jean Wilson, who set up New Hope in 2010. ‘I started to wonder if other parents felt the same, they did, and so New Hope was formed.’
Finding a premises was the next step. ‘ We approached Worcester Community Housing and had to produce a Business Plan, which I somehow managed!’ laughs Jean. ‘Fortunately they accepted my plan and allowed us to use the vacant premises of a former Neighbourhood Office. They have been brilliant, so helpful to us.’
After that came a series of applications for funding, which was needed to refurbish the building in Ronkswood and buy play and mobility equipment. Three staff were employed and volunteers came forward. Since the summer of 2010 they’ve run a holiday club during every school holiday and hold a regular Saturday club, only cancelling once because of snow. Today, funding comes from many sources, some large like the Lottery and Children in Need, many smaller but equally important, including local groups, companies and individuals.
‘At first three families came along, now we are used by eighty three families’ says Jean. ‘They come from as far away as Warwickshire and Halesowen, which proves how hard it is to find this sort of setting for children with disabilities. People will travel to find respite care, this morning we have eighteen children in, our holiday club usually has around twenty five.’
Children at the holiday club enjoy days out to fun parks, bowling and swimming sessions, the next trip being planned next is to The Snowdome in Tamworth. ‘The families who use us are especially happy with the kinds of activities we provide, for example we’ve taken the children horse riding. One of the boys, Luke, wouldn’t go on a horse, he had tried before but was simply too scared. With the help of New Hope, Luke went riding. One of our volunteers was a rugby player, big and strong, he held Luke firmly, and once aboard Luke found his presence re-assuring which gave him the confidence to keep going as the horse moved off. He goes riding with his school now, something that he couldn’t have managed before.’
‘New Hope is a saviour for our family’ says Luke’s mum, Justine. ‘Luke has significant learning difficulties and complex needs, New Hope enables us to have much needed respite on Saturdays and in the school holidays. It allows us to take our other two children out to places Luke wouldn’t be able to access or enjoy. The staff are so caring and understanding, I often find Luke being cuddled when I come to pick him up. He loves New Hope so much that he runs in when we pull up.’
Laura Hamilton is a member of staff who started as a volunteer. ‘I like seeing the children achieve something. One boy in particular sticks in my memory, when he came to us he had real difficulty socialising with others. After coming back he’s now progressed and is happy in the company of others. Of course working with children is fun, they are a blast to be with.’
Jean continues, ‘Another boy, who is severely autistic, was leaving when one of his shoes fell off, because he hadn’t put it on properly. I said to him ‘what are you like?’ and he replied ‘I’m unique!’ For me that sums up the humour and enjoyment of working with young people.’
The work of Jean and the staff of New Hope is being recognised, with various awards and nominations after only three years. Even so, they’re not treating that as a distraction from the task in hand. ‘’The job is varied and rewarding’ says Jean, ‘but it is hard work. What we do is special because we see the children progress and grow up. When you see the difference you can make, it spurs you on.’
If you have a child who could benefit from New Hope’s Saturday or holiday sessions, or if you have any other questions, you can contact them on (01905) 355 295 (Saturdays and school holidays only) or on 07847 377 760 (at all other times), or email firstname.lastname@example.org
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