Engage Foundation award to create sensory garden for children with additional educational needs

Posted in: Foundation Last updated: 24 Jul 2013

A donkey sanctuary in Belfast, which provides donkey assisted therapy for children with additional educational needs has received a £5,000 funding boost.

Engaging with the donkeys whilst at the sanctuary helps with the physical, social and emotional development of the children. The Parent and Friends Association of The Donkey Assisted Therapy Centre, was given a community award by Engage Mutual to help create a sensory garden – ensuring children with complex and severe needs can learn and play in a safe and stimulating environment.

Engage Mutual customer, Barbara Hanna, applied for the funding from the mutual’s Foundation which has set aside £1m as an exclusive benefit for its customers to make their lives and communities better. Although only Engage Mutual customers can nominate a community project for funding from the Engage Foundation, the public are encouraged to show their support via an online vote, with winning projects decided by the highest number of votes.

Barbara, who is a volunteer at the sanctuary said, "When I applied for the community award, the thought never even occurred to me that we could win. We really can’t thank Engage enough! They have kept us fully informed throughout the process, really helping to keep the momentum going.

“This new sensory garden will make such a difference to all of the children who visit the sanctuary for therapy. When I was bringing up my own son, who has autism, there weren’t facilities like these, so to be able to make a difference to the children who visit us really is a blessing. We get over 230 children coming to us every week and with nothing else like this in Northern Ireland, we truly offer a unique and immeasurably beneficial service.”

Tina Symington, from the Donkey Sanctuary, added, “Getting people together to build support has been a really enjoyable and rewarding process. The parents and community across the region have really got behind our cause and we’re overwhelmed by the response we received. We cannot thank everyone enough for their votes and support, the difference this will make to the children who use the sanctuary is immeasurable.”

The funding from Engage will go towards creating a wooden gazebo, ensuring the Sensory Garden can be an all-year-round facility and the children can still be outside in bad weather. It will accommodate individual children needing their own space or can be used by families and small groups of children from special schools with their teachers for educational purposes. The project will add impact to the sterling work already being done by the Sanctuary for people with special needs.

As a mutual organisation Engage is owned by, and run for, its customers. The Engage Foundation was set up to provide customers like Barbara with personal grants and awards for community projects. Customers can apply to help what matters to them in their corner of the world (the communities in which they live). All customers need to do to be considered, is apply. The funding pot is made possible due to the financial stability of the customer-owned organisation which provides life and health insurance, and a variety of savings products.

Anna Drabble, Head of Community at Engage Mutual said, “When we set up the Engage Foundation earlier on in the year we did so with one overriding objective: to enable customers to benefit from the financial success of their business. We think it’s great to be able to help a community project or a good cause that our customers feel passionate about. We’re very much looking forward to seeing the finished work funded by the £5,000 grant and wish everyone at the Donkey Sanctuary all the very best.”