Introducing the two new Centre Directors
In 2018, Wendy moved back to Christchurch and is delighted to return ‘home’ to the Champion Centre. She took on the role of Early Intervention Services Manager, leading the team of 18 Early Intervention Educators, as well as being part of the management team and supporting a range of executive functions.
Driven by principles of equality and inclusion Wendy says: ‘A significant part of my professional life has been spent at the Champion Centre and I feel a strong connection and loyalty to it. For years the Champion Centre, in partnership with families, has provided a vital service for many families in Christchurch.’
‘I am especially grateful to Susan for her support over the years and wish her well. Moving forwards, I am excited to partner with Lauren as part of the new leadership team, ensuring the Champion Centre continues to thrive for many, many years to come’.
In 2014, Lauren and her family relocated to Australia, where she worked for both Griffith University and Southern Cross University in teaching and supervision roles. Since returning to New Zealand early this year, Lauren has been Clinical Manager of Massey University Wellington's Student Health and Counselling Centre.
Lauren's appointment to the Champion Centre is a homecoming in profound and important ways. Not only is she returning home to Christchurch, but she is taking up a role that fortifies her most meaningful professional connections: to infant mental health; to Patricia, Jan and the team; and to the relational support of our youngest members of society. Lauren is excited to partner with Wendy, to learn from both Wendy and the team, and to dedicate herself and her professional energy to the best future for the Champion Centre.
Rural ram sale to yield hefty donation
Our wonderful Champion Centre family Mark and Joanne, and their awesome young 'champion', Ted, are very kindly donating the proceeds of one ram in their annual Ram Sale 2020. Lot #7 ram will be auctioned at The Gums sheep farm in Cheviot on Thursday 3 December from 1pm .
The Champion Centre would love you to help with Ted's fundraiser by making a donation, large or small, in support of the no.7 ram. For more information www.thegums.nz
To donate: https://givealittle.co.nz/cause/ted-and-the-gums-ram-sale-fundraiser-for-champions
Nick’s parents Kate and Peter Latz say that the Champion Centre literally saved them after Nick was born. ‘From those initial feelings of being completely at a loss, we were reassured within hours of Nick’s birth that not only was help at hand, but that there was far more that was normal about our baby than not normal, and we should treat him as the precious baby boy that he was.’
‘As parents, we celebrated every milestone big and small and our initial despair became our greatest joy as we watched our beautiful boy embrace life,’ says Kate.
‘As we’ve said in our family, Down syndrome is what Nick has, not what he is,’ says Annabelle.
To give to Annabelle’s fundraising efforts:
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!