Firth Park Church members had a vision, over five years ago, to repurpose our building which was only being used for two hours on Sundays. Sam's Space Soft Play was designed as a safe space to be both used by and to serve the community.
Delayed by the pandemic, we were able to open fully in September 2021. Over the last year we have observed this basic Soft Play facility develop into a well-established and valued community asset. It provides a safe environment, not only for the children, but importantly for their parents and care-givers, some of whom have formed new and supportive friendships.
Sam's Space management team support the manager, Mrs. Jade Ketton, in her quest to provide far more than a play facility. Jade goes above and beyond our expectations of a manager, constantly going the extra mile to ensure that all visitors are happy.
The staffing team includes employees and volunteers who work tirelessly to provide varied activities that will nurture and encourage the development of gross and fine motor skills in these younger children. Arts and crafts have formed a major part of the activities provided over the last year, along with occasional interactive story-telling, pottery painting, animal encounters and a science investigation workshop.
One grandparent, who comes twice weekly, told us "This place is a life saver!"
Families of children with disabilities and Special Educational Needs soon showed us how we could provide meaningful support for them. Monthly sessions are held specifically to provide for these children. Following families' advice these are on Saturdays and in small groups. Jade facilitates this and continues to explore further ways of improvement and expansion. Our sensory room provides a "time out" place when needed, is well used by carers with babies who are just beginning to explore, and can also be hired for private sessions.
The volunteers are essential for running Sam's Space. In turn they gain from helping out in this lovely environment. One volunteer told us, "I love giving a few hours of my time every week to Sam's Space. To see the children, enjoy and play amongst themselves is heart-warming and I feel proud to be part of that team." Two of our volunteers have gained valuable experience that has enabled them to obtain permanent employment.
Going forward, we have been successful in being chosen to provide work placements for two medical students. As year three students, they are required to work for four weeks in the community to gain life skills in communication with parents, carers, and children. This is a totally new but very exciting venture for us.
With council funding, we have provided free sessions for children who qualify for free meals. As well as providing a free meal for those children, this enables them and their carers to enjoy Sam's Space and its facilities. The people in our diverse community can be assured that we always offer value for money and they know they can find a warm, safe haven amongst us.
There is plenty of scope for development, like great oaks from little acorns grow, but we have put down strong roots and seen plenty of new shoots!