A CHARITY which uses sport to help young people with learning difficulties has been thrown a lifeline.
Sunderland Gateway Sport, has been given the status of Sunderland Gateway Activity Centre by Mencap, which means it will now receive funding from the charity.
The organisation uses sport to enable young people with learning difficulties and associated issues to gain qualifications.
Sunderland Gateway Sport’s founder, Joanne Fearn, 44, from Easington Lane, set it up four years ago after being inspired by her daughter Laura whose medical condition made it difficult for her to learn to swim.
But the centre, like many good causes, has struggled with money problems during the recession.
Joanne said: “Getting that status from Mencap has been a lifeline for us. It’s been tough getting funding and to say it was a bit of a worry was an understatement.”
As well as helping young people with learning difficulties get involved with sports, the centre now offers the chance to train as coaches and gain qualifications through Asdan, an awards body which offers skills for learning, employment and life.
The centre, which operates in Sandhill View School and Great Lumley Methodist Church, has since seen many of its members win sports awards and gain coaching qualifications so they can now teach younger members.
Joanne said: “I’m really proud of all the kids, especially the ones who have stuck with it and done qualifications. It’s improved their confidence so much. They realise that they can actually do stuff that their peers can do as well. To see them realise that, it makes you feel great.”
Joanne’s daughter Laura, 17, has Turner syndrome, which means that she is missing an X chromosome. As well as medical problems, she also has some learning difficulties.
“There was not anything for my daughter, nothing for children with learning difficulties so I set it up in order to encourage families to take up sport and it has grown into so much more,” Joanne said.
“It seems that we are the only group focusing on young people under 25 and children with learning difficulties.”.
Joanne now has plans to spread the centre’s work around the area.
Shee said: “We plan to start work in Durham as well as Sunderland and we can get our young people who are trained as coaches to help out and it gives them great work experience as well.”