North-East charity is shining example

A CHARITY for youngsters with Down Syndrome was an inspiration to children’s workers from Belgium when they visited its North-East base.

The Education Centre for Children with Down Syndrome, which is based in Newton Aycliffe, County Durham, and has an outreach centre in Hexham, Northumberland, supports families from across the region.

On Friday and Saturday (December 7 and 8) three speech therapists from a disabled children’s organisation in Brussels witnessed its work first hand.

The group had learnt of the charity when founder Maggie Hart, head of education and training and mother to eight-year-old Alex, spoke at a conference in Brussels.

She said: “We support children with Down syndrome with their education and social development and have had Big Lottery and Children in Need funding to expand our work.

“Part of my role is to support schools and settings our children work in, to train teachers about the learning profile of children with Down Syndrome.

“That is quite different to in Belgium where the majority of children with Down syndrome go to special schools and there is very little support for inclusion.

“Our Belgian visitors took away what we do and also our sense of positivity and family, that is down to amazing staff and volunteers.”

Isabelle De Rauter, coordinator of SAPHIR in Brussels said: “Our heads are full of ideas that we want to take back to Belgium.

“We have been truly inspired by the beautiful children, their parents and their teachers.

“I especially thank Maggie Hart for making this trip possible and showing us what is possible.”

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