The Butterflies Story
Back in 2017 I was working in a children's home for children with disabilities and some of the young people were in desperate need of a club to attend so they could begin to build some friendships, but many of the clubs we took them to visit were not suitable. My nephew who has multiple needs faced the same challenge and so I decided to set up a small club to meet once a month, I intended on having six to ten members so the children had a chance to meet up and socialise. I created the Facebook page and within a week I had over one hundred enquiries and so I knew something more was required!
I was contacted at this very early stage by Essex Shortbreaks who had seen the Facebook page and they offered us flexible funding, to run a pilot scheme of the clubs and due to the need we opened sessions in Basildon, Colchester, Chelmsford & Epping. We ran hall based sessions and day trips in our pilot scheme and over the initial 12 weeks we met 120 children and young people from right across Essex!
Over the years Butterflies grew and grew and as the children and young people became more confident they became the boss! Telling staff what activities they would like to do and helping in the planing of trips and some of our young people even worked hard to become volunteers at the club, assisting younger members and helping with food preparation.
In February 2020 we had a weekend trip to Butlins with some of our members and then straight away we had a three day workshop with the touring group 'The Young Americans', it was shortly after these events that the pandemic hit and we all went into lockdown.
During lockdown we met children every day on zoom and some parents too! We sent out parcels of activities, which we would complete on zoom together. This proved a massive incentive for the children and waiting for their post to arrive helped with the isolation.
As lockdown progressed we began to look at the future of the clubs and how we could make the clubs a safe bubble if the lockdowns continued for a long time, as all community halls that we hire remained closed. So we found a building in Hockley to lease, which we made into the Butterflies Clubhouse! The children all had a vote on the colour scheme and came up with design ideas for our logo, some of the older members even helped to paint the clubhouse! They really made it their own place.
We opened the Clubhouse in September 2020.
We ran bubbles from the Clubhouse during lockdowns and shifted our procedures as we went, in line with the current guidelines.
We noticed that the clubhouse was empty all day long, whilst our members were at school and so in February 2021 we opened Caterpillars Pre-school. It is a very small, fully inclusive preschool and our early years team take the children out on regular community activities.
So as lockdowns ended and the world settled our members were yet again coming up with brilliant ideas and a few of them asked for a Butterflies caravan! I told them I would research and look into it, so they all got together put forward a very convincing case on why I simply must get a caravan for them! So I took a few of our very persuasive members to a few different caravan sites for them to look around and give their opinions on which we should go for. In June 2021 we got the keys to our Butterflies caravan in Haven Seashore Park Great Yarmouth! We have since had many lovely breaks there, having so much fun and lots of independence work taking place.
In July 2022 we opened services in Braintree to help families dealing with the closure of services in their area, this is when we finally added swimming and cooking sessions into the activity schedule.
In January 2023 we found out we had been awarded the shortbreaks contract for South Essex and we became a part of SEND sensation to continue to deliver our services in Mid Essex under SEND sensation's shortbreaks contract.
As part of our South Essex work for shortbreaks we will be opening clubs and activities in Basildon, Brentwood, Castlepoint and of course our work in Rochford at our Hockley Clubhouse will continue.
2023 is set to be a very exciting year at Butterflies and we are very excited to be opening our new clubs and activities and working with all the wonderful Butterflies Families, old and new!