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Sunshine Families visit to Centre For Life shows first-hand their efforts to improve accessibility

Hi Sunshine News readers,

Following the launch of our accessible Santa Grotto Bus last week it’s hard not to slip into full Christmas mode here at Sunshine HQ, but we’re not quite there yet as we still have lots on before we hit the festive period! The temperature has certainly dropped and autumn is well and truly here, which means we’re just over a week away from our spooky Halloween challenge at Chillingham Castle!


We’ve got a great team together who have already raised incredible amounts which will be fundamental in ticking some items of equipment off our waiting list, so local children living with disabilities, additional needs and terminal illness can receive those items they are waiting patiently but desperately for. We also have our ever-popular Question of Sport quiz and dinner next month, which will also raise crucial funds.


Preparations are in full swing and we can’t wait to return to the Grand Hotel for another year of the biggest, original sports quiz in the region. We’ve been chatting to our host, Pete Graves, our sponsors, Lowes Financial Management, and our quiz providers, Big Purple, who all share our excitement for the night.


We have a couple of tables left so to find out more and secure your place, please email Siobhan.Sargeant@thesunshinefund.org.


In more recent news, last Saturday we were presented with a great opportunity from our friends at The Centre for Life. They invited our community along to the science museum for their ‘Our World from Space Day’ where over 40 attendees from our Sunshine Families joined us to take part in exclusive activities as well as explore the whole museum at their own leisure.

SPECIALIST ACTIVITIES: Centre For Life Space Day

The day involved specialist activities that took place in the science labs, where it was quieter, and there were boxes of sensory toys available should people require them. This is in addition to the Life Centre’s ‘sensory bag’ which is available to all at reception, and as we were told by the museum, were “developed by inviting in young people from the North East Autism Society who brought along their own sensory tools.


"They tipped out the toys on to the table, talked through each of their favourites and why they’re useful, until it was narrowed down to 8-10 items. We’re not afraid to say that we’re not the experts, which is why we work so closely with communities to gain a more insightful understanding of how we can continue to improve our services”.



This event follows a visit earlier in the year, where we were able to take a group of families at Easter. This event was so popular that it didn’t take long to fill out our spaces this time round.


We were shown how important our events can be to our community as we saw two families come full circle. One of our long-term family event attendees, Rachel, and her two boys met their now close friends back at the Easter Centre For Life event.


The two families instantly connected as their children shared the same diagnosis, and have since become close and actually attended the Space Day together!


Rachel told us the impact this has had on both her and her children’s lives: “For 6 years I was by myself and hadn’t found anyone else in Newcastle with a child who had Craniosynostosis. Even when applying to other charities there’s very little about Daniel’s condition.


"However, I met someone at Centre For Life whose child had the same condition and we’ve become really close, we see each other all the time now and it’s nice to talk to someone who just gets it.”

CENTRE FOR LIFE: Children enjoying the Space Day

Our visit back in April is also where we first met with the wonderful David Jones, who is the Community Liaison Manager at Centre For Life, and have since kept in contact to discuss upcoming opportunities and projects where we can work together. David and his team are committed to constantly improving their accessibility and inclusion in the centre, and his enthusiasm and passion shines through whenever we talk to him, and is evident throughout the museum.


On our last visit, one of our Sunshine kids, Freya, highlighted an area that wasn’t designed particularly well for her needs. We have shone a spotlight on Freya on multiple occasions for her advocacy and confidence to speak up when she finds things that need adapting or improving, and this is a fantastic example of where she’s done this, and the organisation has listened.


Freya has charge syndrome which means that she has both visual and hearing impairments. When exploring the centre back in April, we went past an exhibit that was cordoned off so people couldn’t touch it.

The attraction had red rope around it, but Freya, who uses a cane, couldn’t see the rope at all. She alerted David of this and since April, the team have changed the red rope to yellow, upon Freya’s recommendation.

IMPORTANT CHANGES: Freya with the new yellow rope

When returning, we were able to sit down with both Freya and David to talk about this and to see the change for ourselves. Freya explained that ‘yellow was much easier to see from a distance than red’, and that ‘yellow against most colours is a lot brighter’.


David listened to Freya and the next day he went to his colleague, Matt, who overlooks the different areas of the museum, asking why the rope was red, and if this could be changed. He admitted that it was only red for aesthetic purposes, as we often associate red with danger, and this made sense to all of us until Freya explained her perspective, and then it seemed so simple and obvious.


Matt said the rope can be changed easily, and it has since been actioned so other people with visual impairments can benefit from the change, too. David thanked Freya for her feedback and assured her to speak up if there was anything else that could be changed (not that she needs to be told!).


We are often championing youth voice and advocacy here at The Sunshine Fund, and it’s situations like this that really showcase why it is so important, and the impact organisations can have by listening and taking on feedback, not only to the person who speaks out, but for others who benefit from changes as well.

It’s no wonder the Centre For Life keep winning award after award, and it’s their clear passion and enthusiasm whenever we talk to them that makes us proud to be building a relationship with them.


David told me: “Over the last 5 or 6 years we’ve been working really hard to make the centre as accessible as it can possible be, but it is a journey, and we listen to people’s feedback to help us make a difference, and it’s really gratifying to win the awards, but these awards are testament to the work that we put in, and the important bit for us is actually listening to voices and feedback and making the visitor experience as best as we possibly can”.


We’ll be back there sooner rather than later as we’ll be attending their Community Engagement Forum next week to meet with other organisations and learn more about how we can work together on future projects and ideas. We filmed our day last week and this can be viewed on our YouTube, where you can hear from David, Freya and Rachel themselves. Visit our channel at: https://www.youtube.com/@thechroniclesunshinefund8342/videos.


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