Supporting charities is a personal passion for the team at Origin Workspace. Gympanzees is one of five local charity partners we support, and this month we will be focusing on each of their stories.
Gympanzees are based at Origin Workspace where they get access to reduced charity rates on their membership and extra support from the team.
They deliver fully inclusive leisure facilities that are easily accessible, so that every disabled child and young person in the south west can enjoy a life filled with exercise, play and friendship. Last year 7,000 people visited their Pop Up facilities over just 36 days. Origin staff are planning to support the next Pop Up events in April 2023 by volunteering to help run the reception and cafe on the day, so that Gympanzees staff can focus on supporting the young people and families.
“There are 66,000 children and young people with disabilities who live within an hour of Bristol”, explains CEO and Founder Stephanie Ween. “Families need a permanent solution, not just temporary Pop Ups. The Pop Ups are brilliant, offering trampolining, a gym, music room, calm and active sensory spaces as well as a social cafe, but families need access to this all year round.”
“The support we’ve had from Origin is genuinely helping us work towards this mission”, adds Fundraising Manager Victoria Noel. “We want the permanent version of what we currently provide through pop up facilities.
“We need funding to make this happen, and at Origin we can use the meeting rooms, which have helped us secure significant funding, and get support from the other companies based here.
“But on top of that the Origin team has actually gotten directly involved in our fundraising. They booked out an entire table at our charity ball last year, helping to raise over £80,000, and this year they are hoping to rally a team for our Three Peaks Challenge. VWe also held our Project Home campaign launch event at Origin.”
The idea for Gympanzees first occurred to Stephanie when she was working as a paediatric physiotherapist for disabled children and young people in Bristol. “I loved my job as a private physio for disabled children… However, when I started my private practice, I was the only physio working full time in Bristol and… I ended up working 60-hour weeks.”
Stephanie wanted to help more families, so she encouraged them to visit places in the community that would help with physical therapy, such as soft play or the local swimming pool.
“When I tried to take [the] children to the gym, to soft play, to climbing walls, to the park, to trampoline parks etc it was a failure each time. Either the children couldn’t physically access the equipment, the building was inaccessible, or they couldn’t cope with the sensory environment (too noisy or too busy).
Researching the issue Stephanie found that 77% of families with a disabled child can’t access regular leisure facilities. The impact of this on the health and wellbeing of young people and their families is huge.
Victoria explains: “Not only does this impact the physical development of the disabled child, but it means that families are stuck indoors, and the siblings also suffer.
“Through Gympanzees I’ve learnt first-hand the impact that this can have. I’ve heard of young people with so much tension that they weren’t able to open their hands, and through play and physical therapy they begin opening their hands, and then they begin picking things up. This allows them to be much more independent, for example they can now feed themselves.
“I’ve also heard stories of young people who normally don’t sleep well sleeping through the night after visiting our centre, and it gives families a place where they can all play together – which might not happen anywhere else.
“For now, our Pop Ups offer a small-scale solution that is helping make these transformations happen. We partner with local schools and fill their spaces with equipment and tailor our sessions to children with a variety of needs.
“However, these can only happen in school holidays, so we lend our equipment out during term time and provide online support to try and fill the gap. The need is clearly there so we’re working as fast as we can to secure a suitable site and meet our funding targets to build the year-round centre, and we’re thankful to have the support of Origin along the way.”
If you would like to get involved in fundraising for Gympanzees or find out more about Gympanzees you can contact Victoria Noel [email protected].