A local model for all communities
Benefact Trust has recently awarded a transformational grant to Growing Hope, a charity that provides free therapy for children with additional needs and support for their families. It’s worth noting at this point that ‘additional needs’ are wide ranging and could involve physical, learning, mental health or undiagnosed needs: anything that stops a child from participating in their everyday life. 15.9% of young people in the UK education system have an additional need (figure from the Department of Education).
We spoke to Dr Naomi Graham, founder and CEO of Growing Hope, who explains what’s behind the charity: “We’re called Growing Hope because we want to see hope in the lives of children, young people and families who have additional needs. We want these individuals to have the support to reach their developmental potential; and to help create a culture for families to be seen, be heard and belong – that is so important.”
Bringing a good idea home
During her career Naomi has spent time working in private practice as well as for the NHS. While volunteering in Thailand and India, she saw how local churches stepped in where needed and provided free healthcare for children who had additional needs.
Naomi wondered what that would look like in the UK; and how it could help children who need therapy, who are on a waiting list but really need help sooner. Naomi set about establishing Growing Hope, for churches to help bridge that gap in healthcare provision.
A local model for all communities
Naomi originally set up two charities: one in King’s Cross, London; and a national one so that other churches and therapists could use the model and run a clinic in their local community. There are now clinics in King’s Cross, Brockley and High Wycombe.
Naomi explains their plans for expansion: “The vision is to create something that can support children, young people and families across the UK, and have 20 clinics in operation by 2030. We’re in conversation with ten more churches about them establishing clinics for their communities.”
The three key things Growing Hope delivers:
1. Growing hope for children.
This can be achieved through therapy, be that occupational therapy (Naomi’s specialism), physiotherapy, speech and language, counselling, art or music therapy. The charity provides all these services.
2. Growing hope for families.
The charity has devised a course called ‘When Dreams Change’, and trains facilitators to run it. Designed to support parents and carers, the course looks at what happens when their hopes and dreams change because of a child’s additional needs. Parents can often retreat into themselves when life gets hard in this way, and this course includes the opportunity to make connections with others.
Siblings of a child with additional needs often talk about moments when they feel left out, or when they’re left waiting. So, Growing Hope also runs facilitator training for groups where siblings meet over the course of seven weeks.
3. Growing hope in Jesus.
“We’re an openly Christian charity,” Naomi explains, “and we believe Jesus brings hope in people’s lives. So we offer to pray for people and support them in attending church if they’d like. It can be tricky for a family with additional needs to come along to church, so we want to enable that.”
Funding for now, a vision for the future
Benefact Trust has awarded £258,000 across three years to help Growing Hope move forward and expand as a charity. Naomi talks about the huge help the Trust has been: “It’s been unbelievably transformational for us as a charity. It’s meant that our national team has grown, which has given us more of a team structure. This has freed up time and enabled us to set up a new clinic in High Wycombe, and to start developing other clinics.”
Growing Hope has already helped more than a thousand children, young people and families. “We have so much to learn from families with additional needs, that we don’t realise at the moment as a society,” Naomi explains.
And on Naomi’s vision for the future: “I would love to see Growing Hope clinics being run in partnership with churches all over the UK, providing holistic support for the whole family as well as the child; and helping people find hope in Jesus if they’d like to. I’d love the church to be recognised
for how it can support families and make a difference.”