Mayor shines a light on Refuge's new sensory room

GRAND OPENING - Mayor Cllr Sean Gabriel and Helping Hands President Maureen Sida cut the ribbon to open the sensory room
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The Mayor has been shining a light on a new ‘healing’ sensory room for domestic violence survivors at Poole Refuge.

GRAND OPENING - Mayor Cllr Sean Gabriel and Helping Hands President Maureen Sida cut the ribbon to open the sensory room.

Cllr Sean Gabriel officially opened the £9,000 sensory room which has been funded by the Poole Refuge Helping Hands charity.

Helping Hands was started by refuge supporters Karen and Kevin Norton just a year ago and has already raised over £11,000.

Karen said: “Many of the children and adults who come here have experienced verbal, emotional or physical abuse.

“Sensory rooms can be highly absorbing, providing comfort and calm and an excellent place in which to receive one to one and family therapy and enjoy therapeutic play.

“Recently a young mother came to the refuge with her two small children and an older autistic son. All were traumatised by domestic violence but found the sensory room to be a place for time and space to escape their experiences.

“Along with specialised help they began to see themselves no longer as victims but as survivors of domestic violence.”

The sensory room contains a range of stimuli to help people develop and engage their senses including LED lights, fibre optics, music and a projector.

Helping Hands raised the £9000 needed to kit out the room by holding fundraising events, securing help from the Tesco Bags of Help scheme, and through the support of local companies such as LV and trusts including the Alice Ellen Cooper Dean Foundation and the Ashworth Trust.

Mayor Cllr Sean Gabriel and Helping Hands President Maureen Sida cut a ribbon to open the room before enjoying a demonstration of the equipment by the Mayor’s official escort Cllr Jane Newell (Helping Hands Trustee), Kevin Norton and founder Karen Norton.

The Mayor said: “The new sensory room really is fantastic. It offers a positive and therapeutic experience for children at the refuge which will support them as they move forward in their recovery.

He added “I am so grateful to BCHA, The Borough of Poole and the team at the Refuge for all they do supporting people in hugely difficult situations.”

Poole Refuge is operated by Bournemouth Churches Housing Association (BCHA) with support and funding from the Borough of Poole and offers self-contained and shared flats in confidential locations, with trained and experienced staff available 24-hours a day to provide practical and emotional support to residents.

Rebecca Belaidi of BCHA said: “We can’t thank Poole Refuge Helping Hands enough for the help it has given us in the last year.

“The sensory room is something we would have only dreamed of having before they came along. As well as providing as perfect place for therapy, residents can simply go in there just to chill out and enjoy a little quiet time, while the children can play safely.”

Poole Refuge Helping Hands has also provided the Refuge with a donation room to store and display donations such as clothing, shoes, school uniforms, toys and toiletries etc.

Karen said: “Many women, men and the children flee their abusive environment with nothing but the clothes on their backs.”

“Previously residents had to sort through black bags of donations. Now they have a bright, welcoming room with a kitchenette and seating area, plus rails and storage, so they can take their time and choose the items they need.”

Poole Refuge Helping Hands next project at the refuge will be to transform an outdated kitchen/diner/playroom into a Therapy Activity and Sensory Playroom.

The room will be used by therapists, parents, staff and children and will need a new kitchen, furniture, therapetic resources and interactive sensory toys.

Karen added: “It’s a really big job, but we hope to get the Poole community involved as much as we can and would love to hear from companies or businesses interested in helping.”

Poole Refuge Helping Hands charity can be contacted by emailing:karennorton@hotmail.com

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