Jack Petchey Foundation
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#CrystalAwards: Chelmsford Mencap members enjoy trips and cultural workshops

On 2nd October 2015, the Jack Petchey Foundation held the Crystal Awards at City Hall, London to mark the 15th Anniversary of the Jack Petchey Foundation and the milestone of having invested £100m into youth projects in London and Essex. In a special gesture to mark the occasion, £225,000 of grant awards were given on the night to 150 youth groups specially selected for their outstanding work with young people. 

Chelmsford Mencap youth club, Gateway Juniors, used their £1500 Crystal Award grant to fund the Broaden Horizons project. The project involved cultural workshops, sports sessions, community events and volunteering opportunities. Gateway Juniors provides an opportunity for young people aged 16-25 with a learning disability to socialise with their peers in a safe and supportive environment and to continue their development in engaging ways.

The 21 cultural workshops explored the art, dance, cuisine and history of 21 different countries. These workshops included, an African drumming session, a Brazilian samba class, an Italian drama session, Spanish lessons and a sushi workshop. Each session was designed to be fun, engaging and to help young people to develop new skills. The members especially enjoyed adding to their travel journals, taking great pride in chronicling their achievements and this regular activity revealed some great abilities in the members.

Inactivity, particularly due to lack of access to sporting activities that other young people enjoy, contributes to poorer health outcomes for people with a learning disability. The Broader Horizons programme sought to address this inequality by organising 10 sports and exercise workshops. These workshops included yoga and tai chi, which help to improve balance and posture, as well as providing relaxation techniques for those who suffer from anxiety or sensory overloads. They also enjoyed football and dodgeball tournaments, as well as their own sports tournament to celebrate the Olympic Games in 2016. The group were also able to fund two sessions with Disability 4 Sport, a speciality provider of disability sports such as boccia and sitting volleyball.

Promoting community inclusion was another key objective of the Broader Horizons programme. By attending trips and social activities in their local community, members of Gateway Juniors had the chance to enjoy a more independent social life. These trips included local productions of Oliver! And Hairspray, group meals and enjoying the interactive sensory activities at the Anglia Ruskin University Festival of the Senses.

The volunteer projects not only gave the members a sense of satisfaction by contributing to their local community, but also helped them to develop key skills. The members decorated and filled harvest boxes which were distributed to those in need within the local community. They also took pride in tidying and helping to upkeep the gardens outside the Helen Rollason Cancer Research Centre.

The feedback from the members, their parents and staff was extremely positive and Gateway Juniors will definitely be continuing some of the workshops included in the Broader Horizons programme. 

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