Apr 10

Visit to Kangaroos

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With less than a week to go to the Artemis team’s charity Bike Ride to raise money for Kangaroos, I thought it a fitting time to pay a visit to one of the Kangaroos groups run for children and young adults with special needs.

Last Friday, I attended the Pals group, held at the Ashenground Community Centre in Haywards Heath. I can honestly say I was amazed to see first-hand the wonderful work that the Kangaroos charity is doing.

Kangaroos run several different groups at various times throughout the week, on Saturdays, during school holidays, and after school and in the evening during term time. The Pals group I visited is a Saturday and Holiday play scheme for children with special needs aged 6 to 12.

The staff at Kangaroos are incredible – so friendly, empathetic and engaging. The team is made up from paid workers and volunteers, and the number of staff almost equals the number of children attending the group. Nearly every child is allocated one-to-one support.

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It struck me how calm, safe and nurturing the atmosphere felt. The children were relaxed and encouraged to free play, communicate and join in group activities. In this session Dan, one of the paid workers, had made bubble mixture. The blowing and popping of bubbles was great fun for many of the children.

Chatting to Operations Manager, Jenny King, I was able to find out how much goes into running the groups. She said, many people and businesses fundraising for the Kangaroos charity often ask what equipment the group needs, but the biggest need for funds is in the operational costs.

With the high staffing levels, I can see just how important operational funding is. Kangaroos don’t have their own premises either, so as well as staff costs, there are office space, community centre rent and storage, which add heavily to on-going costs.

There’s also the cost of training staff. Paid and voluntary staff receive specialist training. Paid staff are trained to handle chronic medical conditions such as diabetes and epilepsy. They also receive training in managing adults with special needs, which has a different set of challenges.

Many of the staff can communicate with children using sign language and there are many props at the centre enabling children to express how they are feeling, such as small cushions with happy and sad faces.

It’s also great that Kangaroos offer the same level of respite to families and support to young adults who have been attending Kangaroos since they were children.

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I can’t express enough how wonderful it was to see Kangaroos in action. This is a fabulous charity with a fantastic team of people enabling children with complex needs to participate in a wide range of activities and challenges. Children can enjoy day trips, residential overnight stays and challenges you just wouldn’t have thought possible, such as rock climbing.

At Artemis we are really proud to be supporting such a great charity. I for one will be pedalling my socks off next Sunday. If you feel inspired to sponsor any of our team, or make a donation, simply go to www.justgiving.com/kangaroos.

Kangaroos are a fine example of a charity making a huge difference to people’s lives, both the children and young adults who attend the groups, and in the respite given to families. Thank you to Jenny, Dan and Emily who showed me around and gave me a flavour of how vital these services are to the community. For more information about Kangaroos, see www.kangaroos.org.uk

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