This year VICTA celebrated 30 years of our charity. It has been the perfect time to reflect on everything that has been achieved and to look ahead to a positive future for the charity and those we support. Join us in a look back over our growth, there is an abundance of wonderful memories and milestones to celebrate, thank you to everyone who has been part of our story so far…
VICTA began as a local support group, families met for coffee and days out, it was a time to share, laugh and cry with each other about the highs and lows of living with a visually impaired child. VICTA was also a chance for children to get to know other youngsters, and for siblings to share their thoughts with other siblings about living with a blind brother or sister.
VICTA is lucky to have some of the charity’s founding members still involved today. Pamela Lewis was asked to help with the running of VICTA when it first began and is now a Trustee of the charity. Liz Richards, one of the original parents is now a Trustee and Richard Lewis continues to be the charity’s Chairman.
VICTA was officially registered with the Charities Commission – to promote the education of, and provide for the care and maintenance of visually impaired children under the age of 21 years.
John Brookes was one of VICTA’s founding members and his determination to get the right provisions for children who have a visual impairment built the foundations VICTA stands on today.
VICTA is fortunate to have been involved with the London Marathon from its very early days. Thanks to founding member John Brookes’ foresight, VICTA was one of the first charities to purchase marathon places and secure the golden bond spaces we still benefit from today.
Michel Roux Jr ran his first marathon for VICTA in 1994 and continued to do so for the following 20 years! The relationship grew and Michel Roux Jr was welcomed as VICTA’s first patron.
Growing our reach…
With a growing activities and grants programme VICTA employed its first paid employee, Tracie Tappenden in 2002 and Tracie is VICTA’s Chief Executive today. The team has grown from there, as has our team of dedicated volunteers.
Our first ever Family Weekend was organised with the intent to bring families together and build support networks. An activity centre seemed the ideal setting where the children could have lots of fun while pushing their expectation of what they could achieve. The inaugural weekend was held on the Isle of Wight and although a learning curve, it was a huge success.
After concentrating on families and young children it became apparent there was a gap in the support for young adults. VICTA expanded activity breaks to reach young people aged 18 to 25 years.
Our youth breaks combine outdoor activities with every day skills such as preparing meals. They are a great place for young people to socialise and meet people. In 2012 VICTA raised its upper age limit to 29 years.
VICTA was inspired to provide young people with the opportunity to travel in a semi-independent way. Our first activity saw our over 18s head to Paris with a group of VICTA staff and volunteers.
Our first VICTA organised international trip was a city break to Paris in 2012, for a small group of young people aged 18 to 29 years. The international adventures continued in 2013 with a European cruise.
In 2012 VICTA took part in ICC – The International Camp on Communication and Computers in Romania. VICTA is the UK representative for the camp which brings students together from all over the world.
From the early days VICTA has grown its grant programme offering financial support towards the purchase of much needed items. VICTA has funded Braillers, computers, tablets, magnifiers, activity breaks, sports tours, local support groups and much more!
In 2013 Charlotte Mellor approached VICTA for a grant to help her set up an online support network. As the parent of Scarlett, who is completely blind, she had struggled to find the resources she required at diagnosis and so had the vision to create something to help other parents in the same situation. Charlotte became a VICTA employee and together ‘Through Scarlett’s Eyes’ was created and has grown into the respected resource it is today.
Today and beyond…
As our charity and team have grown over the years, so have our premises. VICTA’s first base in 2005 was a small flat in Central Milton Keynes, the team then moved to their first offices in Woolstone in 2012. This year we moved to our new premises, Douglas House in Fenny Stratford.
VICTA revisited its roots bringing back family days designed to connect parents and children across the country. This first year they ranged from an indoor play centre in Preston to a trip to the zoo in Kent. VICTA also took a group of children to an overnight sleepover at the Natural History Museum! These days continued to grow in strength throughout 2014.
In 2014 VICTA organised its first activity aimed at infants from birth to the age of four. The weekend brought families together to make new connections and share information on resources available to them. We have held this event annually ever since and due to its positive impact we hope to grow this activity further.
VICTA’s family weekends have grown in reputation and popularity, so much so that in 2015 we launched a second weekend. VICTA now run a Spring Weekend and a Summer Weekend each year.
VICTA runs two family weekends a year visiting different activity centres across the country. Each weekend has a different theme which always leads to fabulous efforts at the fancy dress party!
Feedback from families and young people led VICTA to organise events for young people who felt they had outgrown family events but not quite ready for our 18+ activities. We launched a series of youth breaks for this younger age bracket and even an international trip to Paris. Our 14-17 programme started in 2016 with a series of themed youth breaks from drama workshops to beauty tips! These activities have grown and in 2017 we hosted a Sports Camp at RNC and a trip to Barcelona.
This year VICTA joined the DofE programme as an official club with the aim of tailoring the process ensuring accessiblity to young people who are blind or partially sighted. We have launched our Bronze pilot scheme and are excited to trial and grow the programme with our enthusiastic group of applicants.
VICTA’s international programme continues to grow. We have visited fascinating cultural and geographically rich locations including Krakow, Sicily, Iceland, Paris, Barcelona, Cyprus and America. In 2018 we are excited to be launching our first ‘big trip’, taking a group on a multi-centre tour of Thailand.
VICTA is very thankful to its fundraisers whose efforts make everything we do possible. VICTA offers charity places in the London Marathon, RideLondon, Swim Serpentine and our new event for 2018 – The Big Half!
Parents Helping Parents
Aware that parents of children with a visual impairment are at a greater risk of developing mental health problems and can often feel isolated and helpless, VICTA is developing a Parents Helping Parents (PHP) programme. We plan to recruit and train volunteer parents who themselves have VI children to work as ‘buddies’. Buddies will provide face-to-face support to parents who are going through challenging and often traumatic times. We hope PHP will help parents become less isolated, more empowered and better equipped to manage their family’s situation.
VICTA would like to thank everyone who has raised funds, volunteered and worked tirelessly to grow the charity over the years. And of course, all of the families and young people who have attended our activities, helping to support each other and spread the word about our charity. It has been an incredible 30 years and we are looking forward to our next chapter!