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Schools Case Studies

London Youth Rowing and the Richard House Funny Group

Date Added: Wed, 18 Apr 2007

Related tags: London Youth Rowing

On Saturday 18th November 2006, The London Youth Rowing Programme hosted an amazing day for the Funny Group, a group of children whose brothers and sisters attend Richard House Children's Hospice. Being a sibling of a child with a life limiting illness is not easy. Not only do these children have to deal with the emotional challenges that having a seriously ill brother or sister presents, but they can also experience neglect and a lack of attention, isolation, difficulty coping and low self esteem. In addition to this, a recent report in the British Medical Journal showed that fifty-five per cent of families of disabled children live in poverty, and a separate report by Contact a Family states that the cost of bringing up a disabled child is estimated to be three times higher than providing for a non-disabled child.

The Richard House Funny Group began in September to provide opportunities for siblings to get to know each other and share their experiences whilst taking part in a variety of activities which balance fun and therapeutic benefits.

For their second ever event, the Funny Group spent the day at the London Regatta Centre, taking part in a day that had been tailor-made for their needs by Simon Goodey, the Director of the London Youth Rowing Programme.

Seven children took part in the day, with ages ranging from 6 to 13. Only four of the children had met each other before, so ice-breaking games were organised to enable the children and the staff (both from Richard House and from the London Youth Rowing Programme) to bond.

After being introduced to the expert instructors, children were kitted out in London Youth Rowing Programme T-shirts - they were now officially a rowing team! The children were given a tour of the gym and boathouse, and the different types of oars and boats were explained to them, they even got to see boats that had won medals in the Paralympics and World Championships.

Once the tour was completed the instructors led a fun warm up session for the children and learnt to row using the rowing machines. The instructors gave advice and encouragement until the techniques were nearing perfection. The children were then taken to the indoor rowing tank, and were very impressed with the indoor river! Again the coaches gave the children the attention they needed to hone their rowing skills.

After lunch, the children were ready to go out onto the real river! The children took it in turns to go either in the safety motor boat on a tour of the docks, or actually sculling (with an instructor at either end of the boat). It was a beautiful day and from the motor boat the children admired the local sights, such as London City Airport, and cheered their hard-working sculling companions on.

Back on dry land, the London Youth Rowing Programme had set up an ergometer rowing race for the children, by hooking up the rowing machines to a laptop. The children took it in turns to race individually and then rowed in a relay. Onlookers whooped and cheered each other on, and we all watched the progress on the computer screen. The children took a well earned rest while the instructors calculated the times and the distances covered by each child.

This was followed by an awards ceremony where Simon, proudly presented each of the children with a gold, silver or bronze medal and a certificate stating how many metres they had rowed in a minute. The children also received a London Youth Rowing Programme Manual and a key fob and Simon took time to answer the children's questions about rowing and their local rowing clubs.

The children left the London Regatta Centre on a real high. They had an absolutely brilliant time and all but one marked the "super smiliest amazingly happy" face on their evaluation sheets.

This was such an amazing opportunity for the children who are part of the Richard House Funny Group. They felt so privileged to be given such a degree of positive attention and to be taught how to use such specialised equipment. None of the children had ever been rowing before and two of the older ones displayed such an aptitude for it that it is highly likely that they will try it again. Not only was the experience a huge boost to the children's self esteem and confidence, but it was a perfect bonding opportunity for the group and helped to form the strong ties that will hold this supportive group together for many years to come.

The London Youth Rowing Programme was able to provide this day at absolutely no charge to Richard House Children's Hospice and we are very grateful to them and their sponsors for the wonderful and expertly organised day that they gave the children in the Funny Group.

Kay Carpenter
Play Service Coordinator
Richard House Children's Hospice
22nd October 2006

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