Our Christmas campaign supporting Ormiston Families' Stronger Together group in Cambridgeshire continues.

The support group for parents of children with additional needs or disabilities is run by a small but passionate team of staff and volunteers.

From waking up at 3am to support their own children with complex needs to volunteering their free time to support parents facing challenges similar to their own, the lives of the Stronger Together team members may all look different, but they are all driven by the same desire to support and empower the SEND (special educational needs and disability) community.

We spoke to the staff and volunteers at the group to learn more about what motivates them to deliver this fantastic service.

Peterborough Matters: Anna Palmer, service lead, and Harriet James, senior practitioner.Anna Palmer, service lead, and Harriet James, senior practitioner. (Image: Ormiston Families)

What does a normal working day look like for you?

Anna Palmer, service lead, said: “I love my job. I like to start the week by making sure my team knows what the upcoming week holds in terms of promotion and service delivery.

“I also spend a lot of time attending meetings to provide information for funding bids for the service, as well as recruiting new staff and volunteers.”

Kelly Haslett, a volunteer at the group, said: “I spend a lot of time making sure the sensory toys in our library are clean, in good working order and ready to collect!”

Harriet James, senior practitioner, said: “My day begins anywhere from 3am, supporting my own child with complex physical, mental and learning needs.

Peterborough Matters: Kelly Haslett, a volunteer at the groupKelly Haslett, a volunteer at the group (Image: Ormiston Families)

“Once the meds, tube-feeding negotiating getting dressed and 3 minutes of obligatory football are done, he is off to school. Us parents are incredibly talented you know!

“My focus is then on the wonderful children and families Stronger Together supports. My days are varied – I could be facilitating the group or reaching out in a new area to parents and carers that may need our services.”

What is the most fulfilling part of your job?

Practitioner Tanya Cornwell said: “As a parent carer myself, I am very much aware of the difficulties parents face to gain support for their children.

“It can be isolating and stressful, so the most fulfilling part of my job is seeing parents realise they are not on their own.”

Volunteer Carol Gaskin said: “I get so much joy and satisfaction from seeing the parents at our group become happier and more relaxed over time.

Peterborough Matters: Volunteer Carol Gaskin Volunteer Carol Gaskin (Image: Ormiston Families)

“They and their children make friends and support one another.”

Anna said: “The most fulfilling part of my job is knowing that we are filling a gap in support for our families and knowing that they feel they can ask us for help when they need to.”

What is something you wish people knew about Stronger Together?

Harriet said: “I would want people to know that every member of our team is driven by passion for the SEND community and a desire to make change and increase awareness.

“For us, this is not just a job – this is a chance for us to improve provisions available to parents and enhance their quality of life.”

Anna added: “I wish more people knew we were available! We want to reach more parents who may be feeling trapped or alone, and hopefully this Christmas campaign is a chance for us raise some awareness.”

Stronger Together is funded in part by Cambridgeshire Community Foundation and UK Community Foundation through the Department for Culture Media and Sport’s Know Your Neighbourhood Fund.

If you are interested in volunteering for Stronger Together, contact service lead Anna Palmer on anna.palmer@ormistonfamilies.org.uk or visit the Ormiston Families website at www.ormiston.org/get-involved/volunteer-with-us

You can donate to the Stronger Together Christmas Campaign via the campaign’s JustGiving page online by visiting https://www. justgiving.com/campaign/ strongertogetherxmas

Donations can also be made via cheque, made payable to ‘Ormiston Families’ and sent via post to Ormiston Families, 25 Queens Street, March, Cambridgeshire, PE15 8SN.