Catalyst for change
PUBLISHED: 22:04 01 July 2016 | UPDATED: 22:04 01 July 2016
Manu Palomeque 07977074797
ARRCC Folkestone is a highly inventive charity for adults with physical and sensory disabilities
In Folkestone’s Creative Quarter, in the former Tontine Street Studios, a mixed group of adults with disabilities and a motley crew of inspired volunteers work away. This is ARRCC, the Activities, Respite and Rehabilitation Care Centre. An offshoot of ARRCC Rye, founded in January 2001, it offers day services to adults with physical disabilities and sensory impairments.
The Rye centre was at first open just one day a week with two members of staff and five members, but as news spread and disadvantaged clients began to attend from surrounding areas, it was suggested a branch should be opened in Kent. And with the support of the Creative Foundation, Kent County Council Adult Social Services and volunteers, ARRCC Folkestone was officially opened in February 2013. This month, it is proudly celebrating its third birthday.
The system of running the show is interesting. Trish Bishop, Deputy CEO at Folkestone, tells me: “Some members volunteer as well as volunteers from the Shepway Volunteers Bureau. A good example is Steve McCarthy, who has been at ARRCC since the beginning, first as a member, but now he volunteers four times a week and is involved with the delivery of activities, such as the pottery. Other members, like Arthur James and Keith Price, come along as members and then do one day as volunteers, while also doing an ASDAN (Award Scheme Development and Accreditation Network) course.”
Sandra Janman is the volunteer coordinator, organising the staff at Folkestone as well as five who volunteer one day a week, whether at the centre or for evening events.
Trish adds: “ARRCC also works with the Job Centre and people from a scheme called Island Project: three people a week volunteer here. This is important as volunteering ripples into all sectors of the community. Being based in the Creative Quarter has also been very good because it is an attraction for artists, musicians and film makers.” Dominic Pillai, from Screen South has worked with ARRCC members to produce films which you can see on Facebook.
The management team at ARRCC, Trish Bishop and Sandra Janman, has been highly inventive in organising activities which have had quite an impact on the Folkestone Community.
The most successful of these was the ARRCC Lark, where 100 people were expected but in fact 400 turned up for a catwalk fashion show. The inspiration came from member Tina Forshaw, who had been working in the sewing room with Julie Bone and created a skirt which she said made her feel as if she were on a catwalk.
From that germ of an idea members and staff took 18 months to create day, evening and outdoor wear collections. The idea was also rolled out to other organisations, including the Alzheimer’s Society, Carers Supoort, Mind, East Kent College, advertised on the website and social media.
“There was an overwhelming support,” says Trish. “The purpose was to raise disability awareness, to give clients a platform so they could show the beautiful work, but also to work with other organisations.” The show was held at The Grand in Folkestone, with waiters running around trying to get enough chairs for the public.
Another bumper event was the Medieval Banquet held last November. The members looked at medieval paintings and researched relevant history and were encouraged to make their own costumes and to create everything from a facsimile medieval window to a model catapult, shields and helmets.
A further life-enhancing series of events includesdays out, which the team organises. The aim of these is to give members the confidence to go out and about and use public transport.
Steve McCarthy had not been to London for 30 years, but after an outing with ARRCC, he felt confident enough to travel around in a wheelchair for three weeks using the railway network.
Days out have included trips to the Royal Academy Summer Show, the Dutch Flowers exhibition at the National Gallery, Tate Modern and Turner in Margate.
And on one day in summer, when Woolwich Ferry allows charity organisations to come on board, members get the chance to sail up the Thames. On board they can dance, eat hot dogs, burgers and ice cream, see Tower Bridge lifted to let them pass and other river vehicles hooting, all manned by the ferry staff (including the captain), who volunteer for the day.
Trish Bishops says: “Our members are people who have come to us having had many various experiences of life. Some have always had a disability and some have acquired the disabilities through illness or accidents.
“All have something to share and we have members who are very creative and some who have experience with business or teaching.
“We would like to see ARRCC grow from strength to strength, we are constantly looking to improve and meet our members needs.
“We would like to offer support to those who are getting little or none and if that means opening more centre further afield, that would be amazing.”
Find out more
ARRCC Folkestone, Tontine Street, Folkestone CT20 1JT
ARRCC Lark 2017 will take place at the Leas Cliff Hall on 11 March 11th.
For further information, call 01303 211248.
Visit ARRCC Folkestone on Facebook for news of films, activities and members.