'The most important thing is hope', an impactful statement, as we settled down for a chat with Champion Centre graduate, Clement and his mother, Susanna. A huge reminder of the privilege to walk alongside our young champions and their families.
Susanna recently updated her contact details after receiving our 'Connect' newsletter, so we jumped at the chance to invite her and Clement for a visit, and thank them in person for their generous donation. Now 25 years old, a few years have passed since he last attended the Centre, and the beam on Clement's face as he arrived, said it all! When Susanna toured the building, it evoked powerful and heart-warming memories of their time here. Clement was also excited, when he checked our 'Whānau Tree,' finding some of his original team are still with us. "Margaret," he announced, pointing to her photo. Clearly, she hasn't changed a bit!
The journey for Clement and his parents began with a difficult birth, and a possible diagnosis of Global Developmental Delay, which in turn, led to a referral to the Champion Centre, at 15 months old. As new parents, this path was filled with confusion, bewilderment, and a fear of what things may look like for Clement, tomorrow, and into the future. But from Day 1 at the Centre, Susanna's family was met with reassurance, compassion, and a willingness to do whatever they could. Not much has changed here over the years.
Susanna is emotional, as she recalls a team of dedicated professionals, she was extremely grateful for. "They were all phenomenal!" she exclaims. "Clement just loved his music sessions with Julie Wylie, and really liked the computer work with Hilary. Then there was tactile play with Margi, and speech with Jan, and Jackie, she was so gentle and kind–he loved it all." As a few tears well up, Clement's mum tells us his weekly early intervention routine was "one anchor we came to rely on." She remembers back to those early days, "through the encouragement of the team, we learned what to do, and then we built on that, one day at a time." From the first weeks and through the coming years, the family connected with other Centre parents and were often humbled by the friendship and positivity that completely enveloped them. They were parents, uplifting each other, and they 'clicked.' We spoke of the 'Transition to School' programme and, at 6 years of age, our part in Clement's journey coming to an end. With a few more happy tears, Susanna spoke fondly of the attachment formed with staff, parents, and children, alike. "At the Centre we felt we belonged; it was a protected environment. The thought of leaving all that behind was like sitting at the end of a springboard ready to leap into the unknown." "We will be forever grateful to everyone; Margaret, who made the leap so much easier, and Jan who fought tirelessly to secure funding for teacher aide hours. We were fortunate we felt such love, acceptance, and inclusivity, moving from one organisation to another."
From those first years, fuelled by 'hope', Clement's mum proudly fills in the gap since he graduated from the Centre. Cathedral Grammar, Canterbury Christian College and Middleton Grange School take Clement to age 21, and from there he is now involved in a variety of daily activities at A J Day Options Trust. Alongside some fun day trips, and learning some useful life skills, Clement works at the Trust, and highlights the chance to stop for 'coffee and biscuits,' which is obviously a bit of a treat! It's a full-on household, with Susanna working full-time, as a Teacher Aide at Christ's College, Dad, Dong, running his iconic city food outlet; and Clement's younger brother, who's busy studying Law and Criminal Justice. Clement is keen to chat to us about how things are going and it's just terrific to see him expressing such fond memories, as he checks out the music room.
Before promising to come and visit us again, Susanna states, emphatically, "More people need to know about this beautiful place." And we couldn't agree more!
The Champion Centre is administered by the Christchurch Early Intervention Trust, and is registered with the Charities Commission (CC22708). Gifts of over $5 are eligible for tax rebates.
© 2019 The Champion Centre