I am writing this in the last week of November with thoughts of Christmas holiday play schemes and winter parties at the forefront of my mind.
It has been a wonderful few months with so much happening it is hard to know where to begin. So I have decided to start with poetry….
I was privileged to spend an evening with our new Birmingham youth club recently when they hosted a visit from Charlie Jordon one of the Cities best known poets. I was unsure how our young people would react and it was amazing to see a group of teenagers sitting spellbound listening to a poem that named each of them and talked of their achievements. They then went on to write their own poems with a little help from key workers and the end of the evening saw a poetry performance by the entire group – something I would not have anticipated.
Really ‘hearing’ our children, young people and adults is something that I think is the most important thing we can do. Hearing the poems our youngsters had written made me think about how hard it is to be heard properly when you may communicate differently. One of the things I am most proud of is how hard my team work to ensure everyone does get heard and by being heard is then provided with a service that is appropriate, where they feel safe and that they enjoy.
Our Birmingham services are now in full swing with Reach Out providing much needed home based support for 14 – 19 year olds and their families, although we urgently need more volunteers in the City if we are to meet the huge need we have found. The play team are offering something for everyone aged 8 – 19 and are running their first family fun day soon. Our siblings group is developing and will be off on their first outing over the Christmas holidays. Siblings of those on the spectrum are another group whose voices need to be heard!
Despite the economic woes around us, fundraising efforts have continued and thankfully been more successful than I feared. In Birmingham, David, one of our play team organised a wonderful Curry Night at the Celebrity Restaurant in the City centre and as well as a great night with lovely food, they raised £500 for us. Barclays West London Commercial Branch dedicated their winter event to us, with an auction and raffle raising the fabulous sum of £7,590 towards funding our Saturday play scheme in Brent. City Bridge Foundation has agreed to fund our YNOT? youth club in North London for the next three years and Children in Need are funding half of our play, after school and holiday provision in Barnet. It appears that amidst all the clamour regarding financial downturns and recessions the voices raised in support of charities like ours can still get heard, even if we have to shout a little louder and more persistently than in the past
We have also heard the demands from young adults aged 19 -25 for something geared towards their needs and our music and art therapists are working together to offer a social skills/arts based group especially for them. Watch this space for more details.
Voices from the East have not been ignored either and we are currently working with colleagues and friends in Newham to see if we can offer a specialist after school service for some young people from East London who would like the same opportunities as their more westerly counterparts to have fun.
Resources for Autism is growing but I am acutely aware that however big we get I do not want to lose touch with all of you who have been kind enough to talk to me either by email, phone or in person. It is only by listening to you that I can be certain that I am taking RfA in the right direction and that I am really meeting the needs of you, your children and those you love and care for. So please do keep talking to me, I can’t promise to do everything but I can promise you will be heard and your views, needs, hopes and expectations will be taken seriously and responded to as best as I can.
Thank you for listening………..