Since launching in January 2013 The Wave Project has helped transform the lives of over 200 children and young people with varying degrees of physical or mental disabilities. Many have suffered severe social isolation due to factors such as bullying or bereavement. The project reaches them in a way mainstream services can't, by offering sessions that focus on getting outside and having fun, rather than their problems.
Participants are referred to the project by other professional services, but are treated as young surfers rather than people who need 'help'. Staff and volunteers provide a fun experience and a supportive community, and avoid stigmatising or labelling the children by talking about their problems. The surfing lessons take place on the beach in full public view, so that the children won’t feel like they're being hidden away.
Around 70 percent of those who take part in a course are still regularly attending a surf club a year later. Over 40 young people have also become volunteers within the project. Parents say they have noticed an increase in positive attitude and better behaviour and communication.
Lily Rowswell, 15, is autistic and rarely left the house until she joined The Wave Project. She was hooked after her first visit and it has changed her life. She is now much more sociable and has made friends for the first time.
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