Kate says, 'I stumbled across the postgraduate course at Whitecliffe, an arts college, while I was doing my bachelor's degree in Visual Arts and was excited by the prospect of combining my two passions'. She enrolled in the one year post graduate diploma, which led into two years of the Master of Arts in Arts Therapy (Clinical) programme. Arts therapy students usually come from one of two areas of interest, either social work or the arts side, and any arts modality is welcome. As Kate began looking for non-paid placements through her Arts Therapy study in 2019, she once again sought out the Champion Centre.
Kate started at the Champion Centre as a student intern in the second half of year two of her training and extended it for a further six months. She spent one day each week working alongside the therapists, half of her time in the playroom and the other half in the music room. 'In the music sessions we used a lot of movement with organza ribbon sticks, creating visual imagery to the musical patterns. I worked with music specialist Julie Wylie and have learnt so much from her. In the playroom we explored sensory play with sand, rice or water, allowing connections to be created between the child and their body. We also explored both the doodle boards and paints and created pictures through their creative imagination', Kate explains.
A highlight was when she was working with a child who has a diagnosis of autism. The child made eye contact with her for the first time and it was these small but significant moments that were so special for Kate. Kate finishes her masters' degree at the end of this year and would love to keep working with children in the disability or mental health sector.
Kate Willis' artwork at www.katewillisartist.com
Alison started off covering for maternity leave in the Mothers and Babies team at Princess Margaret Hospital then enrolled in a PhD in Psychology at the University of Canterbury with a study on the early development and family environments of children born to mothers enrolled in the methadone programme during pregnancy. Alison met Dr Patricia Champion while she was undertaking research at University of Canterbury. 'I also met Susan about the same time and when I had handed in my PhD, Susan asked me whether I would consider working at the Centre?' says Alison.
In February 2011 she started working one day a week at the Centre with a focus on babies born prematurely, but her work was interrupted only two weeks later by the 22 February earthquake. Not only was the Champion Centre impacted, but also Alison and John's farm; and not for the first time. In the previous September, their dairy farm had been one of the worst affected on the Greendale Fault. 'We had 2kms of fault-line running through the farm. Luckily, none of our cows were injured but fences, powerlines, water-pipes, tracks and wells were badly damaged and the milking shed had to be completely rebuilt. 'It was interesting watching the scientific community pour onto our farm,' Alison reflects. 'However, from a psychology point of view, I found it interesting observing the process'.
Over the years, Alison's role at the Champion Centre gradually grew from working with babies born prematurely, and their parents to managing the Family Support team and serving on the Centre Management Team. 'People often ask what is a psychologist doing working with babies or young children? Most of the time we are working with the parents and caregivers to help them understand their children's reactions and responses, so they can understand and support them better,' states Alison.
Alison says working in a multidisciplinary team and learning a lot from other colleagues are her biggest highlights from her time at the Champion Centre. 'The staff are very dedicated in what they do,' says Alison. Even though Alison has officially resigned from her position at the Centre, she has been contracted by the Champion Foundation Trust to write a paper on prematurity for use in talking with government. She is hoping we can put some pressure on the government for better support of these vulnerable infants.
When considering her future plans, Alison says, 'I may consider delivering some psychology services to children and families online. However, I discovered over lockdown when I ran out of broadband data, that we don't get very good broadband out rurally.' However, Alison has another string to her bow, as their Chief Pest Controller on the farm. 'I even caught another possum this weekend. I was busy upskilling over lockdown!'
The role of Registered Psychologists at the Champion Centre:
The Champion Centre currently employs one full-time and two part-time registered psychologists. Their role is vital to the effectiveness of all our programmes as they have as their focus both the social and emotional development of children and the key relationships between children and parents/caregivers that allow children to thrive. Whether they are working alongside new parents of children born prematurely or with a recognised disability, helping families understand their children's behaviour, or supporting parents to be effective parents their focus on child and family relationships is at the heart of the Champion Centre model. With more than 200 families attending our programmes at any one time, our psychologists have more than a full workload.
Without your support, this may not be possible. The Champion Centre, alongside the Champion Foundation Trust are constantly thinking ‘outside the box’, for ways we can connect and develop our community support. We are very appreciative that you are part of that team, that continue to protect and champion our families and their young children. We have work to do, but collectively we can achieve so much. Philanthropy has many faces, and we are in awe of the multitude of ideas people have suggested from ‘bespoke’ knitted creations to mufti days and sausage sizzles, volunteering valuable time and talents, and gifting ‘in-kind’ products and services, your efforts are the glue that keeps the Centre together.
WE NEED YOUR HELP- PLEASE CONSIDER GIVING TODAY
If you would like to help our Champion Centre families and their children, please call us. We are happy to chat about the many ways you can make a difference. If you would like to give to our early intervention programmes, please
Donate Now: https://www.championcentre.org.nz/make-a-donation.html
Going to primary school, however, presented new challenges, as the individual support of early childhood was replaced with the expectation that every child would fit into the same pigeonhole and just follow the rules. Moreover, although he was not a trouble-maker, other children bullied and made fun of him. In the classroom he needed the support of a teacher aide, but because he did not qualify for one, his parents paid for an aide, and for a reading tutor. Within weeks he had skipped ahead two years in his reading age! Additional parent-funded support helped his maths, spelling and grammar.
At intermediate, he was faced again with bullying in a situation that his mother recognises just is not set up to support a boy “who, to this day has difficulty understanding when to join the conversation and when to laugh at something someone has said”. He was also challenged by the complexity of the instructions in classes that meant he was almost always being growled at for not keeping up.
However, high school was a more positive experience as his artistic creativity was finally recognised. A highly talented visual artist and a wonderful story writer, he also found others who loved the world of magic and fantasy as much as he did. As his mother says, “The magical world was probably easier to negotiate than the actual world”. And then there was the world of the theatre where he has excelled, earning a degree in drama and a teaching qualification. He was out of the woods, it would seem. But the challenges he faces are not things he can ‘grow out of’. Interpersonal interactions remain hard, as does organising and following through the complex set of tasks that constitutes daily living and teaching quickly proved more than he could manage and he is again looking for a new pathway.
Throughout, his parents have been able to support their son through his challenges; and they remain forever grateful to the Champion Centre for the support they and their son received in the early years. But this doesn’t make the pain and grief of their journey as parents any less raw. This young man’s fragilities and the risks to his mental and physical health will always be there and only a society that steps up to valuing differences, rather than seeing them as excuses for exclusion, can make a genuine and long-term difference.
Korero with Susan
Jacinda Bear seeks new home
Another of our talented supporters, Ali Wegner, has knitted a selection of hats and headbands in appropriate sizes for our babies, including premature babies. All are available for a gold coin donation at the Centre. Ali makes hats, scarves, blankets to order under her label “hats4ubabe” and will donate ten percent of any purchase to The Champion Centre. Ali can be contacted on 021 101 6350 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Izzy Ashurst, aged nearly 13 and one of our Centre graduates, has the leading role in a short film that has been written and directed by her mum, Gillian Ashurst. 'The Meek' is an apocalyptic drama in which humanity is shown to be on the brink of extinction due to a virus. The film explores the journey of its lead character, who happens to be a young girl with Down syndrome. Ironically, the film was written and shot prior to the current worldwide crisis.
Korero with Susan
Kia ora koutou, ngā mihinui
Well, we are certainly in strange times, and we wondered whether putting out a newsletter right now was appropriate. But then we thought about how important community is, and how we must bolster our support for each other throughout this period to be sure we come through it as strong as possible. Community is, after all, what the science of human development tells us we all need to thrive physically, intellectually and socially; whether that is community within our families and whānau, our broader neighbourhood communities, or our national and international communities.
We would LOVE to see the bears on YOUR bear hunt! Send photos through to email@example.com and we will upload them onto this page. The more the merrier!
Donated iPads from Digital Wings
Five iPads have been gifted, so our children can use them in the Technology Assisted Learning programme. This is a wonderful initiative from Digital Wings, who act as a bridge between the corporate and community worlds. Their aim is to build relationships and make it simple for businesses and organisations to responsibly dispose of their computer equipment at every upgrade. Digital Wings donate refurbished technology to charitable organisations especially within youth education and employment and Māori and Pasifika development.
Computer monitors and installation gifted
The fabulous crew at Haydn, a company that supply and manufacture painting and decorating products, have gifted our team 18 brand new computer monitors. These monitors will replace some of our dated technology that our staff have been working with for sometime. The team were so excited as the equipment was a surprise.
The Centre’s IT technician, Hayden from Rheel IT, delivered the monitors and has been installing them at no charge. Thank you to Hadyn Brushes and the team at Rheel, your generosity is much appreciated.
Keeping our little folk engaged and busy is one challenge during this time. One of our Early Intervention Teachers, Jackie Hancock, recommends this as one way to keep active inside:
The Champion Centre owes its existence to Dr. Patricia Champion, whose doctoral research showed that children with Down syndrome had significantly better outcomes when supported through a partnership between their parents and professionals. That ground-breaking research kicked off a tradition of more than forty years of Champion Centre-based research, practical tools and advocacy on behalf of all children with delays and disabilities nationally and internationally.
We are currently ‘gathering in’ the intellectual property of the Champion Centre to make it available on our website in the form of resources for families and professionals in early intervention. One big project that is already up and ready is an illustrated video interview with Julie Wylie about our Learning Through Musical Play programme. This is a fundraising item for purchase; other materials will be made available for free or for a donation to the Centre’s work. Watch this space as we share our decades of experience during the year.
We recently put a call out on Facebook for any joiners, carpenters or cabinet makers to come to the aid of our cramped office space, as staff were working in overcrowded offices and in less than ideal circumstances. We were fortunate to have four companies kindly answer our call. We decided to take up an offer from Misco Joinery, a long-established family company with an impressive 32 years in business.
We are sincerely grateful that directors Michael Chernishoff and Glenn Colenso, with their dedicated team of designers and joiners have stepped up to the challenge. With a plan to utilise surplus offcuts to cover our floating desks’ project, it seemed like a perfect way to facilitate our needs without leaving too much of a footprint on the environment. Their generous offer to gift the materials, design and installation has left our team very appreciative.
From their cutting-edge Kaiapoi headquarters, the team are focused on continuing to provide great service and quality joinery to customers around New Zealand. The Misco team of over 50 people, have been involved with many projects over Canterbury and the West Coast, with their office in Auckland also providing design services to builders working with Misco products in the North Island.
Being instrumental in realising the dreams of many new home owners across the Canterbury area, Misco are set to embark on more residential renovations and commercial projects in the future, with the same family values and first class service their clients have come to expect. This, coupled with an enviable commitment to their corporate social responsibility, is illustrated in their generous support of organisations such as the Champion Centre.
Misco have now drafted up a floor design and are aiming to start installing the new office fit-outs when we are back to 'business as usual.'
Thank you Team Misco; our staff are humbled by your generosity.