29 days ago
As part of today’s Community Sports Foundation ‘Takeover Day’, our Community Hero in association with Fosters Solicitors is 22-year-old Alex Fearne.
A regular participant on the Foundation’s various programmes for people with disabilities, Alex also volunteers his time at The Nest, the Foundation’s hub, as an assistant to the site’s groundskeeper.
The pandemic and subsequent restrictions have been difficult for Alex, but the Foundation’s lockdown online engagement activities have helped to keep him active and connected.
Never one to shy away from an activity, a regular week for Alex pre-pandemic involved swimming, sessions at his gym with his personal trainer, and whizzing down the dry slopes at Norwich’s SnowSports Club.
Following his family’s move to Norfolk four years ago, he has more or less graced the register of every Community Sports Foundation programme available to him at some time or another.
Saturday mornings are spent with the Norwich City Down’s Syndrome Football team in training or fixtures, and he’s also attended PAN football sessions, multi-sport holiday camp sessions and dance sessions with the Foundation’s All Stars.
Having attended college, he had landed a part-time job washing up in the kitchen at UEA, and loved everything that the job gave him: the routine, being part of the team, even the commute on the bus.
“We’re very lucky,” Alex’s dad Andrew reflects. “Alex never says ‘no’. He’ll always have a go at something.”
Inevitably, the Covid-19 pandemic and resulting lockdown in March last year put an abrupt end to this busy routine – work stopped, and Alex’s once packed timetable was empty.
Andrew and mum Angela were concerned about how Alex would cope with the dramatic change to his routine.
The volunteering opportunity at The Nest, and the Foundation’s commitment to continue engaging virtually with its participants helped to fill this void.
Darren Hunter, the Foundation’s Disability Development Manager, and his department pulled together a comprehensive programme of online session for their participants, including weekly bingo sessions, quizzes, strength & conditioning, football, and dance sessions.
Though Alex often finds it difficult to communicate, in the virtual sessions he thrived, and rarely missed one.
Once restrictions allowed, Alex also threw himself into his volunteering role at The Nest.
“It’s been a lifesaver, not just for Alex but also for us,” said Andrew.
“At The Nest there was always so much work to be done, but no pressure on us at all. It was ‘do as much or as little as you like’. We were digging, planting trees, sweeping leaves and weeding. Getting our heads down, being in the fresh air, helping out, getting exercise and cups of tea – it was fantastic.
“We were going down three times a week on Mondays, Wednesday and Fridays. It was such a great routine for Alex, but also for us as a family.”
Thankfully, the football sessions for people with down’s syndrome are back and taking place on Saturday mornings at The Nest once again.
Andrew reflects: “Darren, and the team at the Foundation play such an important role in keeping Alex active and engaged with his peers, and for that we can’t thank them enough.
“We see and feel the benefit every week.”