Thursday, 30 August 2012

Reasons to be cheerful - part 3

Yes I was (and still am) an Ian Dury fan; it was great to see 'Spasticus Autisticus' performed and danced to at the Paralympics opening ceremony last night in front of Marc Quinn's movingly powerful statue of artist Alison Lapper pregnant; the whole stadium singing 'I Am What I Am'. Stephen Hawking's final words at the ceremony were 'Be curious', it's a good injunction, not just about the natural world but also about each other. In recent weeks the Guardian has reported extensively how public views are hardening against disabled people. We used to think they were deserving but increasingly they are seen as scroungers and benefit cheats and even attacked in public. We would do well to be curious about people who are unlike us, that not only goes for the disabled but also the poor and people of other cultures, nationalities and races.

Children North East has more reasons to be cheerful this week. Our major contract to deliver sexual health services to young people has been renewed for a further year into 2013-2014, this is terrific news as it the principle income for our young people's drop-in. And another contract to help families of disabled children get the services they need has been extended for a few more months too.

We have a commission from a cluster of schools (a 'cluster' is a secondary school and its feeder primary schools) for our 'Family Man' days that get the fathers into school and encourage them to be involved in their children's education; and we're trying out 'Build It With Dad' DIY days too.

We have developed and piloted a training day for professionals about 'Fathers as Protectors' in work with children - very often fathers are ignored by professionals working with children, but they can be part of the solution.

On the 18th August Beamish Museum invited us to take 25 Dads and their children for a visit - they all had a great time, its all about bonding. Yesterday we took a group of families and children living in temporary accommodation to visit the fabulous farm and outdoor activities at Daisy Chain in Stockton - another charity that benefits by support from The People's Postcode Lottery and works with families of children who have autism.

We were kindly given some weeks in static caravans and arranged for some families to make use of them. It is amazing how much good a stressed out family gets from a week away together, sometimes it's the only family holiday they've ever had. One lad learned to swim while on holiday - what an achievement for him!

Last but not least, lots of young people have shown interest in becoming volunteers for our 2 new Youth Link projects in Newcastle, and the first group have already started their training programme. All in all plenty to be cheerful about.

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