Between April 2016 and March 2017 Shoosmiths’ fundraising efforts for local charity partner Milton Keynes Community Foundation meant that a number of charity projects have recently benefited from our support.
Friends of Walnut School
£1,120 was donated to the Friends of Walnut School 15 July 2016 to fund several autism friendly, family fun activities for the families of the Milton Keynes Branch of the National Autistic Society. 150 participants benefited. Since many children with autism have sensory issues, the usual summer activities can often be overwhelming and unpleasant and with it being particularly difficult for families affected by autism to find activities in which to participate. When siblings are involved it becomes even more difficult to find activities that please everyone.
One of the best moments for the children benefiting was when the bird handler from the English School of Falconry was setting up his demonstration, a few of the group were very skeptical that not many of the children would watch as many of the ASD children have a very limited attention span. However, once the demonstration and talk started, nearly all the children sat, watched and enjoyed. One even asked his mother if he could have the birds come for his birthday party. The whole thing was a humbling reminder to keep encouraging children to do new things.
Middle Eastern Cultural Group
£131 was donated 18 October 2016 towards the production costs for the Sensory Book project undertaken by the Middle Eastern Cultural Group. This community project is producing a creative educational tool which will be used in schools for children with different special needs. Each page of the book is like an interactive miniature role-play area, with different elements that can be clipped, velcroed and pegged in and out of the book to act out different scenarios. For example a page has been produced so that laundry can be loaded into a felt and velcro washing machine and pegged out afterwards in the garden to dry; another has a pair of shoes to practise tying shoes.
The book is being produced by volunteers who meet weekly in central Milton Keynes to explore their creativity, make new friends and learn new skills while producing pages to contribute to the book. This helps the participants grow in confidence, develop individual and team working skills, learn how to work to deadlines and improve communication skills, particularly for those whose for whom English is not their first language.
British Red Cross
£85 was awarded to the British Red Cross 16 November 2016 to fund the continuation of the Community Allotment Project in order to improve the health and well-being of the users, asylum seekers and refugees, and demonstrate and share culinary uses for the produce they grow.
The allotment project aims to improve the health and well-being of refugees and asylum seekers accessing British Red Cross services. The asylum process can be disempowering and lengthy and the outcomes uncertain. This can exacerbate mental health problems including depression and anxiety, as those seeking asylum fear being detained or sent back to the places they fled. These factors, along with the stigma many may also face in their new communities, can lead to social isolation, which can have further negative impacts on psychological and physical wellbeing.
Allotment sessions take part every Thursday from 11 am to 1:30 pm, and they assist refugees and asylum seekers adjust to living in the UK by helping them to establish identities and play a role – things that may have been lost in the transition to life here. Through engagement in meaningful activity in a safe, non-judgmental environment, service users can learn new skills, develop and engage existing ones, practise language skills, form friendships and share knowledge. This ultimately goes towards the prevention of occupational and social isolation/deprivation.
Participants have developed confidence in their gardening skills, taking initiative for routine activities like watering, weeding, planting, harvesting, cleaning tools and clearing away. Some have helped construct new raised beds. Breaks for refreshments have provided social time for everyone to get to know each other and make friends.
Harry’s Rainbow Charitable Trust
£633 was donated 14 December 2016 towards memory boxes for bereaved children who have lost family members. When a family registers with Harry’s Rainbow Charitable Trust after a bereavement the family liaison officer arranges to visit the family home. The group provides each child with a memory box for them to keep items relating to their special person. Bereavement books, which are relevant to each child and their age, are provided and also included is a pad and pen to record memories plus a pack of tissues. The memory boxes have proven very popular with the children currently registered; many of them bring their box to their monthly group to decorate.
The memory boxes help children come to terms and understand their feelings when they lose a loved one; it also helps other family members support the children which, in turn, helps them.
£750 was donated 20 January 2017 towards Sports Traider a youth-focused charity offering youngsters the kit and support they need to discover and fulfil their sporting ambition and potential, whatever their background, ability or disability.
The donation was used to part fund the purchase of two sports wheelchairs suitable for playing tennis running an initiative called ‘wheel power’ and are wanting to provide disabled sports wheel chairs in the local community – they are working with Stony Stratford Tennis Club in particular and want to provide wheelchairs for playing tennis.
If successful the pilot scheme will be rolled out through other clubs in Milton Keynes and also engage with other sports, those these would involve different types of chairs.
£937 was donated 23 February 2017 to fund six sessions by Straight Talking to young offenders on issues of teenage pregnancy and child sexual exploitation. The funding is specifically for peer educator salaries, travel expenses, overheads and other miscellaneous costs.
Two peer educators (one male and one female) deliver a programme educating the young offenders at the Oakhill Secure Training Centre about the realities of teen parenthood, and about child sexual exploitation. There are six one-hour sessions a day and circa 38 young people in the unit attend each day.
Sessions include learning about the realities of bringing up a child and about the stigma of the child’s father being in a secure unit. For those who are already teen fathers, they will learn what to expect when they come out of Oakhill, and how they can best support their partners. All of those in the unit are given real-life scenarios to learn about the practicalities of parenthood, the emotional and physical strain of pregnancy, and long-term implications in terms of education, employment prospects and reliance on the state. The other sessions cover what are healthy and unhealthy relationships and learning about consent, grooming and the consequences of sexting. The programme will help the young offenders confront their futures, explore aspirations and look at the route to achievement.