By John Smith

As we unloaded the van for VICTA’s third annual Early Years Weekend at New College Worcester, we could tell it was going to be a busy but informative weekend for everyone attending, staff included. 

Up went the Crèche and in came the families. After settling into their rooms, there was an opportunity to chat with staff and with other families and enjoy lunch altogether. It was then time for the children to be dropped at the crèche with the VICTA staff and the amazing troupe of volunteers, while parents headed off to their workshops.

Early Years Weekend

We were thrilled this year to have guest speakers from a range of organisations. We welcomed Steve Rose from Sense, Gwyn McCormack from Positive Eye and Wendy Sainsbury from Blind Children UK. Gwyn got the parents doing some hands-on interactive learning by playing games and helping the parents learn some new techniques on how to introduce playtime to their VI children. Wendy held an informal discussion group enabling parents to talk about some of the issues that they may be going through, and gave advice about more technical matters. These workshops were a really valuable time for all of the parents, and provided great encouragement and hope for the future.

Early Years Weekend

During all of this, the children were all happily playing away in the crèche. There was plenty to keep them occupied; soft play, arts and crafts, toys and music. The highlight of the day was Angie’s Animal Antics. The children were able to stroke and hold a variety of animals including a hedgehog, a skinny pig (bit like a guinea pig but with no fur), a bearded dragon, a chinchilla and many more. All of the animals had a different texture and feel, so it was a brilliant sensory activity. After dinner, everyone was so exhausted from the day’s activities that we made the most of an early night!

The next day, the families made use of everything on offer with in the crèche, now with the addition of a bouncy castle (which was used more by the parents than the children at times). We were also delighted to have Alex from ClearVision join us for the day. ClearVision loan out tactile and Braille books to children and families all over the country, and so it was great for our families to be made aware of this service. Alex ran a story time session, which was greatly enjoyed by the VI children, their sighted siblings and their parents.

Rebound therapy

Following lunch, there were two family workshops on offer. In the Gamelan workshop we were able to play with Indonesian gongs and percussions (and make quite a lot of noise) and in Rebound Therapy, parents learnt helpful techniques to use a trampoline in order to play and communicate with their child, whilst doing some physical therapy. Seeing the parents joining in with their children made the weekend very enjoyable for families and staff alike.

As the weekend drew to a close, it was brilliant to see how families had started to establish friendships, which we’re sure will be of great comfort and encouragement over the years. In the words of one parent, ‘We came away feeling very positive and thinking that all will be OK.’ At VICTA, we can’t really hope for more than that!

Many thanks go out to our wonderful families for travelling to New College Worcester, another to New College Worcester themselves for allowing us to use the facilities and to the pupils at NCW for vacating their rooms and making sure the houses were in perfect condition for our families to stay in.

More ‘Thank You’s’ go out to everyone who came to run a workshop or activity over the weekend.

And finally, where would VICTA be without its amazing hoard of volunteers? To them we give a massive thank you for making another VICTA event an amazing success, and for encouraging all the kids to have a go at something while they were at the event. We’re sure all the parents and children (one of which called our volunteers “The rainbow people”) would join us in saying a huge thanks to them too.

We look forward to seeing the next group of children and families at the fourth annual Early Years Weekend!

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