Inverness could be home to a specialist playcentre for Highlands and Islands youngsters with severe disabilities and learning difficulties, if plans go ahead.
The project is the brainchild of Elsie Normington of the Elsie Normington foundation. Elsie stated: “A specialist, bespoke playcentre is really crucial to serve the Highlands’ most severely disabled children and young people who have complex needs.”
The £4 million project is still in the fundraising stages, with the long-term goal to establish the complex, called the Haven Centre, in the Smithton area of Inverness.
Along with the playcentre, Elsie hopes to build a community coffee shop, three respite flats and a community garden. “The idea is that anyone can drop their child at the centre, do their shopping and we can look after their child for them. Anyone in the north or as far away as the Western Isles could make use of this service.”
At the time of writing, Elsie has raised £1.3 million. “We formed the charity in 2013, so it’s taken us about four years to get to this stage,” she revealed. “I hope we will be ready to build by the end of 2020.
“We have the site, architectural drawings and a breakdown of what it all costs.
“That way if someone wants to fundraise just for a room or for equipment, we can give them a list of what we need and how much it will be.”
“We are also planning a community garden, which we hope will make for really good community inclusive relationships.”
Elsie has been involved in helping children with severe disabilities since 1996. She explains: “I have a son with severe epilepsy. Andrew is now 34 and lives in his own home, but, having walked the journey with him, I felt the deep sense of isolation he had. I also felt isolated myself, as a parent.
“So I set up a play project called Snap. This enabled me to meet a lot of other people in the same category, which diminished the social isolation and made me feel that I wasn’t alone in the journey.
“Setting up the Haven Centre is a long-term dream of mine and it’s a very exciting project.
“We feel our service will be really well used and be in high demand.”
To find out how you can help, visit: https://www.justgiving.com/elsienormingtonfoundation.
Image above: 3D render of proposed Centre from EN Foundation website.