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For Little Smiles, 'equity’ is key

Local charity Little Smiles has organised an activity program for children with special needs, focused on promoting core values of equality and inclusivity while also raising wider community awareness of the importance of equity too.

The program aims to support parents and families during the short period between the end of school and the start of the ‘Stay and Play’ program.

“All activities and everything we do are all adaptive and inclusive for any child, so wheelchairs do not restrict them, abilities do not restrict them. We make sure that we make it adapted to them,” said Nicole Buckley, one of the main drivers behind Little Smiles.

“We create equitable opportunities for all because I am a firm believer equality means we get the same opportunity, but equity gives us the provisions to reach those opportunities together.”

She explained that due to St Martin’s school closing early to allow teachers time to train and facilitate the new school premises, the charity wanted to fill the resulting seven-day void before Stay and Play starts on July 14.

In a matter of weeks, Ms Buckley and others at Little Smiles charity put together the activity program.

“It also provides a respite and care facility, helps the parents and families and also supports the children. It is a win win,” said Ms Buckley.

The activity week started on July 5 and runs to July 13.

A trip on a dolphin boat, a party bus, skilled games, sports activities, soft play, trip to Europa pool, a trip to the Alameda Gardens, a trip to the fire station are all included in the week, which will end with a fun day of various fun activities such as water play, jumping castles or face painting.

The activity week was offered to all 85 children attending St Martin’s school and Early Birds. Half of the children took up the initiative, which is free and supported by Little Smiles charity.

A large number of people are helping out on the activity week.

“We scouted for them on social media. They had to apply, they had to send me their CVs. All my staff have had training so they have all been safe guarded trained, first aid trained, SEN (Special Educational Needs) trained and they have all been on volunteer work for the after school clubs that I set up in preparation for this week as well,” said Ms Buckley.

Little Smiles charity was started over 15 years ago and supports children who attend St Martin’s school and Early Birds nursery.

They support any provisions the pupils, school or nursery need especially with extra funding “to give them the best they can have.”

In the past year, ‘after school’ activities have been created, as has a drop off facility for Early Birds nursery pupils on a Sunday morning.

“I can see such a vast void and a vacuum for disability awareness and disability inclusivity, especially special needs inclusivity,” said Ms Buckley.

“To know that I can help facilitate and create that is what keeps me going.”

However, awareness is also important said Ms Buckley.

“We want the public to open possibilities and opportunities for these children [and for] local clubs to consider roping in our children. Just because they are not verbal does not mean they do not understand. Just because they have different abilities doesn’t mean they haven’t got any ability,” she said.

“Get them involved because ultimately that is what they want and that is what we need and we all need to work together to create that.”

Anyone wishing to support the charity can do so via its website https://www.littlesmiles.gi

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