13 Nov 2012

Lotto Cash Changing Lives

Young lives are being dramatically changed
right here in the heart of Renfrewshire with the help of everyone who spends a pound on a Lottery ticket.

Kids, many with complex learning difficulties, are shining through as they take to the outdoors to soak up new experiences and learn skills which will help to improve their lives.

Renfrewshire South MSP Hugh Henry has revealed how pupils and staff at Clippens School in Linwood – which caters for children and young people with additional support needs – are thriving in a variety of sports they have never experienced before.

In the past few weeks they have learned to swim, are sailing, kayaking, cycling, hiking and canoeing as part of a programme to introduce them to outdoor sports.

After a visit to the school and hearing all about the project Hugh decided to drop in at Castle Semple Outdoor Centre in Lochwinnoch to see for himself the good work that was being done and the difference a little extra cash can make.

The programme came about after Clippens PE teacher Peter Weymark applied for a grant from the Big Lottery Fund’s Communities award scheme and won a £2000 donation.

Peter said: ”The money is being used to fund an eight-week outdoor programme at Castle and the change in the children since they started has been incredibly positive.

“They are more confident and ambitious to try new things. Pupils who couldn’t swim are quite competent now, some who had never been on the water are enjoying every minute of the course and others are having a marvellous time canoeing, sailing or kayaking.

“Without the money from the Lottery they would never have had the chance to do these activities.

“Not only does it help them physically this course is helping prepare them for life outside school. The pupils are picking up interests they can take beyond Clippers and enjoy with their family and friends."

David Hill, senior instructor at the Centre, said: “We have had fantastic feedback from the staff at the school who seem to view the outdoor learning opportunities as a very valuable and worthwhile experience.

“Positive changes in the behavior and attitude of the children involved have been observed both at the centre and back at the school.

“It’s always a very enjoyable part of the week for the Instructors at Castle Semple as working with the Clippens staff and pupils is always a fun and rewarding experience.

“We hope that programmes like this can be sustained and hopefully grow to be able to offer outdoor sports opportunities to every child that had additional support needs within education.”

Hugh added: “This project shows that a relatively small amount of cash from the lottery awards can make a huge difference to the lives of so many people. When I went along to see the pupils from Clippens on the water they were having a ball. They were excited, happy to be learning new skills and enjoying the new experience.

“I also learned that those taking part in this exercise are so positive and willing to learn they have surprised those leading them. It was a pleasure to spend time with the pupils staff and instructors from Castle Semple who do an excellent job.

“People who have a flutter on the lottery may not realise that some of their money is helping to change lives right here in Renfrewshire. Lots of local organisations here and also in Barrhead and Neilston are already benefitting and we have to make sure local groups continue to benefit.

“It is well worth having a look at the Big Lottery Communities programme to see if you can apply.”