It is our mission at Active Essex to help and support everyone, of all ages and all abilities in our community, to find an activity that’s right for them. And we can’t do that alone! We are proud to work with a number of fantastic charities and organisations to help make this a reality in Essex.
Special Needs and Parents (SNAP) are one of the wonderful organisations we have worked closely with to support our residents’ needs. Based in Brentwood, SNAP understands the impact that having a child with special needs or disabilities can have on a family, and provides services and support to help. One of the overriding principles in their work is to empower the whole family, especially siblings.
According to Callum Boath at SNAP: “Siblings can lead uniquely challenging and disadvantaged lives, often stepping into their roles as a ‘young carer,’ and having their own activities restricted or cut short due to the needs of their brothers and sisters.” He added: “For example, soft play areas or trampolining centres are often not accessible as children with additional needs struggle to cope with the amount of people and noise, meaning that siblings may be less active. They also have limited access to peer support as they struggle to connect with other children their age, leaving them feeling isolated and alone.”
To help support siblings, SNAP have hosted an annual SIBS4FUN event, every summer since 2007. SIBS4FUN is an opportunity for these children to make connections with other kids who are in the same boat; to have respite from any young caring duties they may fulfil at home; to build confidence and friendships and, rather importantly, to have some fun!
The week-long bonanza of games, sports and fun activities is an exciting time for children who may have missed out on other opportunities over the summer holidays. The event provides a number of great activities, including an inflatable assault course, slip and slide, and line dancing.
Callum said: “The assault course is one of the most popular activities every year. It gives the siblings an opportunity to race against their new friends and staff, which they find hugely enjoyable, whilst also being an incredibly active and energetic activity. The scale of the course is exciting for them, and it means they have an opportunity to try something that they are unlikely to find anywhere else.”
He added: “We also provided two sessions of line dancing with a live band playing the music and calling the steps. It was a fantastic activity that got everyone moving and having fun. It allowed the siblings to be silly and enjoy themselves.”
SIBS4FUN has received great feedback year on year. Scores from the results of this year’s feedback have shown that attendees have felt more confident and upbeat, created new friendships and developed more of an understanding of the needs of others and of their family.
In addition to this, the event has seen long-term success for some of the siblings who have attended over the years. Callum said: “All of this year’s group leaders are also siblings who had all attended SIBS4FUN previously and have come back year on year. The leaders all speak of how special the week was for them growing up, and the long-term friendships and support that they still have with each other. They devote their time as leaders to ensure the attendees have the same experience as they did.”
This year’s SIBS4FUN has been a fantastic success, with both the children and parents taking part. One child who attended said: “SIBS makes me smile; I love it here. It’s the best part of my holidays. We get to have fun and not have to go where my brother needs to go.” A parent said of her daughter, who attended this year: “Without SIBS she would be totally on her own indoors in her room. She has waited all summer for SIBS! She is usually very shy but when she comes home each day she is smiling and excitedly telling us all that happened. She is a different person.”
As part of our Find Your Active campaign, SIBS4FUN had received some funding from Active Essex to help with the event. According to SNAP, our contribution was used to help pay for some of the assault courses and activities. Callum said: “By helping us to provide exciting activities that these siblings are unlikely to experience elsewhere, Active Essex have given them an opportunity to enjoy unique activities that put them in the spotlight and are specifically designed with them in mind. This has a hugely positive impact on their physical and mental health.”
Seeing just how much of an impact this event has on the kids attending, and knowing just how much of an impact SNAP has on families who may be struggling, we at Active Essex are so proud and honoured to have played a part in this year’s SIBS4FUN.