The thought of children playing and learning is something that we can easily take for granted. But what about youngsters with disabilities or profound special needs, some of whom require a lot of support in daily activities?
Honey Bears Early Intervention Nursery is a specialist day nursery which is part of the Children's Assessment Centre at Kent & Canterbury Hospital that helps children with special educational needs, physical disabilities and various neurodevelopmental conditions such as autism and epilepsy.
Honey Bears Early Intervention Nursery caters for children from birth to around 3 years of age with serious conditions, some of them life-limiting. Children initially go there for assessment and are able to take part in therapeutic play in a protected environment with equipment and toys that are safe for them to use. All equipment used in the nursery is approved as fit for purpose by the specialist team, which includes consultant paediatricians, paediatric physiotherapists, speech and language therapists, occupational therapists, and various outside agencies linked with the family as well as the nursery manager and her team.
The nursery supports the children and their parents at a very crucial, formative time in the child's development. Play, according to the nursery, enables "the child to grow socially, intellectually, emotionally and physically". Some of the children from the nursery will eventually attend St Nicholas School, a special needs school that we also support on a regular basis.
Our Rotary Club has been helping support the nursery, which is a unique facility for East Kent, since early last year; for example, last summer we helped them purchase a special indoor swing with a donation of £700, which was gratefully received by the nursery's manager, Jane Flockhart. We're told that the first child to use the swing responded so positively that it brought the child's parents to tears. We're determined to help create many more heart-warming moments such as that.
Steered by Rotarians Bob Anderson and Deborah Connolly, our Club successfully applied for a Rotary District Grant which was match funded by our own Club. This has allowed us to buy four specialist postural seats (at approx. £500 each), which will replace the old seats used by the nursery that are more than 20 years old. (These old seats will not go to waste, as they will be sent to Africa via another charity, Disabled Equipment Sent Overseas). The new special chairs will make a huge difference to the children's lives.
We are currently engaging with other Rotary clubs, service organisations, businesses and individuals in the area. Several have already generously given some support. K&C Hospital's League of Friends have also provided much-needed tables. We need much more, please.
Right now, the nursery needs to refurbish its outside area; we want to incorporate features that give the children something to look at and interact with. We've already found a designer who plans to create multicolour moving sails that will last 8-10 years. We hope, also, that mobiles can be hung up ... the children respond positively to movement and colour.
The paving stones and artificial grass in the outside are also not conducive to the needs of the young children, and we're planning to give this a makeover.
How can you help?
We're now trying to raise funds for the outside area. Bob is already planning a fundraising event in mid-June in Littlebourne. [To remind us of this, and to encourage us to spread (no pun intended) news about Honey Bears among our contacts, Bob gave out a few 'Honey Bears' to some of our members during our meeting - see picture.]
We would very much like to hear from any organisation or individual that thinks they can help us. If so, please contact us by email, putting 'FAO Bob Anderson/Deborah Connolly, Honey Bears' in the subject line. Please also spread word among your friends and contacts. (We also welcome raffle prizes for the event in June - why not give us some of those unwanted Christmas presents that are cluttering up your home?) More about the fundraising will be posted here in May.
Picture: A 'Honey Bear' to remind us about this very important project. Picture credit: Bob Anderson/Rotary Club of Canterbury.
With thanks to Bob Anderson for providing draft text.