Inclusion is one of the 8 key workstreams in the Guernsey Sports Commission 5-year Action Plan so it was great to see inclusion in practice when we popped along to the Guernsey Mobility, Let’s Go (GMLG) session recently.
GMLG is an inspirational small activity group having a big impact on all those who attend their weekly sessions.
Set up around five years ago by volunteer activity coach Paul Wheatley, along with retired teacher Sue Duport, the group brings together adults with physical and/or learning impairments and pupils from St Martin’s Primary School.
‘The idea came to me after I watched a TV programme where young children went in to meet older residents in a retirement home,’ said Paul.
‘The idea was for the children to come up with the activities and then for them to help the adults play them.
‘This really is inclusion at every level.’
The Guernsey Sports Commission’s inclusion lead Casey Osborough frequently assists.
‘It’s about mutual respect and seeing beyond the disability,’ said Casey.
One of the activities on offer is Boccia – a target ball sport similar to bowls or petanque that can be played by people with a wide range of disabilities.
‘It’s a great sport to bring people together and there are pathways within boccia which mean that people can go as far as they want and that could be competing at national or international level,’ said Casey.
The children certainly seem to enjoy helping out with the game, whether it’s collecting the balls, measuring the winning throw, or helping the visually impaired players like Kiri.
‘I love it. I get to sit down and so have lots of energy for the game,’ said Kiri.
‘The children clap or say, ‘come on Kiri’ and I listen to where the sound is coming from and aim to where that is.’
Boccia players Janina and Mel were instrumental in setting up the group after they met Paul at Lifefit sessions at Beau Sejour and asked him to continue to be their coach.
‘I just enjoy having a good time throwing the balls and getting my stresses out playing boccia. It’s just lovely having the children helping out and having a run around and lots of fun with us,’ said Mel.
‘It’s very interactive and also quite competitive. I come every week and the children give us lots of help,’ said Janina. ‘They are incredible, and it means we can play more games.’
Year 5 teacher Sandra De Sousa says the children get a lot out of attending the Let’s Go Mobility sessions.
‘It’s completely tied into our curriculum; they learn teamwork, creativity, critical thinking, resilience which feed into everything we do,’ said Sandra.
Each of the school’s three Year 5 classes spend a term attending the sessions and then the whole group come together at the end of the year for a mini Olympics celebration where the children plan the events and the adults compete.
‘I really like meeting the older people,’ said 10-year-old Sylvie who was helping out with a game of wheelchair tennis. ‘They are really talented, and we have great fun. With tennis we are like the ball girls and boys and collect the balls to give them back. It’s a lot easier for them and they can have much more of a game.’
Daniel aged 9 agreed ‘I love being able to interact with them and help them do the same stuff that other people can. It’s really fun making things accessible for them.’
The sessions are definitely proving popular with both the children and the adults. Paul and Sue have ambitious plans to extend the weekly provision if they can secure the necessary funding.
‘We could run this every day of the week with different schools coming in,’ said Paul.
Support from the Guernsey Sports Commission and other sponsors has secured Let’s Go Mobility until Christmas, but Paul would love to secure a long-term future so the sessions can carry on and hopefully grow.
Casey is keen to ensure an even better experience for those who attend with visual impairments.
‘We would love someone to donate a Boccia VI Grid to us. The grid replicates the boccia court and players feel the rubber grid and press in pegs before playing a shot. They are only around £100 and it would be great to have a couple to help the players.’
Anyone interested in sponsoring or supporting the sessions finding out more about the work of Guernsey Mobility, Let’s Go can visit their website or contact the Sports Commission.