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From isolation to empowerment: How LEAP Children and Families Centre is making a difference

In the heart of Ashton-Under-Lyne, Greater Manchester, a grassroots charity known as the Leap Children and Families Centre is making a remarkable impact on the lives of children, adults with learning disabilities, and those facing isolation.

The charity has been in existence for over twenty years as St Peter’s Partnerships, restructuring and changing its working name to LEAP some 10 years ago, to better reflect its work and mission of supporting children, families and communities through Learning, Empowerment and Participation. (LEAP)

Today, the charity works tirelessly to create a safe and nurturing environment for those in need.

Jo Parry-Gee, CEO of LEAP

Jo Parry-Gee, CEO of the organisation, shed light on their work during an interview, highlighting the importance of their projects for marginalised individuals.

She said: “LEAP provides a range of enabling support designed for some of our most vulnerable communities including children & their families, adults with learning disabilities, and adults experiencing isolation and/ or lower-level mental health needs.

“Our services include School Readiness, Early Learning Projects, Child & Family Contact, Parenting & Domestic Abuse Support, Befriending, Adulting Reading & Literacy Projects, Therapeutic Horticultural Projects, Community Led Groups and Volunteer Opportunities”

Post-pandemic challenges

Post-pandemic, the charity has developed a range of key green initiatives and manages two large community allotments, one in Hyde and one in Dukinfield.

Bloom at LEAP

Their flagship initiative Bloom at LEAP based at the allotment in Hyde is an eco-therapy project which actively involves individuals with learning disabilities in maintaining the allotment.

Jo continued: “By working together as a team, participants develop valuable skills while ensuring the allotment thrives. Everyone has a chance to participate in purposeful activities and take ownership of this fabulous space.”

The project has even gained recognition and secured a spot at the prestigious RHS Flower Show, where LEAP will showcase its exhibit.

Community Green

Community Green, a National Lottery funded project is based at their allotment in Dukinfield and offers a range of activities for children and adults to improve their wellbeing through nature.

Jo said: “The benefits of being out in nature are well documented, it can have a hugely positive impact on a person’s physical and mental health”

“It’s so important that we all have the opportunity to get outside. A lot of our service users don’t have access to outdoor space and as we recover from the pandemic it’s become more important than ever that people have access to this”

Jo emphasises the numerous benefits these projects offer to children and adults with learning disabilities and mental health needs.

In a world where access to green spaces is increasingly limited, LEAP provides an opportunity for individuals to connect with nature, which is known to enhance overall well-being.

Children who have found solace and improved well-being through horticultural projects also highlight the transformative power of the organisation’s initiatives.

The positive outcomes of LEAP’s work are evident through success stories, including an 85-year-old widower who, with their support, learned to read after relying on their spouse for assistance.

“Coming to the centre to meet his reading mentor has become the highlight of this wonderful man’s week.

“He enjoys a cup of tea and a natter with staff during his visits which is a lifeline of the company, as he doesn’t have family close by. During the pandemic, we were able to support Fred and others in similar situations by providing doorstep visits, food parcels and telephone activities”

LEAP primarily serves residents of Tameside, but its impact extends beyond geographical boundaries.

Engaging with partner organisations, using social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, and advertising in schools are just a few ways LEAP spreads the word about their projects and encourages involvement.

While the charity is fortunate to have dedicated volunteers, as the projects grow, they actively seek more community members to join their ranks and make a difference.

If you’d like to volunteer at this amazing charity, please click here.

How to donate to LEAP

To sustain their vital work, LEAP relies on donations and funding.

Although they deliver some projects in partnership with the local council, they strive to provide as many services as possible free of charge.

Therefore, financial contributions and donations play a crucial role in ensuring the continuity and expansion of their initiatives.

In addition to horticultural projects, LEAP operates a preschool nursery and family contact services, which have become increasingly essential in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

With rising rates of domestic abuse and family separations, LEAP’s family contact service is in high demand and is now one of its busiest services.

Jo said “ We place children at the heart of all our family interventions, helping them to overcome challenges within a safe, welcoming environment supported by warm, skilled staff”

The Leap Children and Families Centre serves as a shining example of a community-driven charity that nurtures growth, empowers individuals, and cultivates a stronger and more resilient society.

Through their commitment to providing opportunities, support, and green spaces, LEAP continues to transform lives, making a lasting impact in Ashton-Under-Lyne and beyond.

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