TOUCHED BY OLIVIA

We recently connected with an extraordinary organisation that, like us, is a strong advocate for more inclusive learning environments to support the development of children with additional needs. I find the work of this organisation unique and inspirational.

Touched by Olivia is a foundation with a dream to give children “healthier and happier lives”, and invests its energy in two main areas.

With a commitment by the foundation reaching almost $1 million, a fellowship was established in 2009 to help save lives and cement Sydney Children’s Hospital as a centre of global expertise in the area of vascular birthmarks (the area of disease that Olivia died from).

The foundation also works with local councils, communities and corporations to upgrade and build inclusive play spaces, giving children, regardless of ability, the opportunity to play side by side. These playgrounds are called “Livvi’s Place”.

Visit http://touchedbyolivia.com.au to find out more about this wonderful organisation.

 

Jose Bello

Foundation Director


CAPTURING THE POSITIVE IMPACT

We have recently partnered with the team of filmmakers at PlatinumHD to capture the positive impact the Foundation’s programs have had on children’s lives. Through a series of videos you’ll be able to see the Foundation’s work in action and hear parents, children and coaches talk about their experiences.

The first instalment follows Esuah, who has been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Nikolas Gibson, Esuah’s father, has been by his side since he was first diagnosed, and talks candidly about the amazing results the Foundation’s programs have achieved for his son. The Next Step program has been integral in developing not only Esuah’s soccer skills, but also his listening, instructional and gross motor skills.

We invite you to watch our video and thank you again for supporting our vision. We couldn’t do it without you!

Jose Bello

Foundation Director

Esuah’s Story: 



THE IMPORTANCE OF EXERCISE

With 85 per cent of our Next Step children on the autistic spectrum, we came across an article that defines the importance of our service.

The article outlines a range of benefits that regular physical exercise can have on a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). We know that children gain numerous benefits from regular exercise, but it's important to know why it is essential for children with ASD.

Regular exercise can improve a child's proprioceptive and vestibular systems. Participating in a controlled and well-structured sports program allows children to connect with their senses and establish new relationships with their environment. 

Take five minutes to read the article and learn more about the importance of exercise:

http://www.autism-help.org/family-physical-exercise-autism.htm

Jose Bello

Foundation Director


FROM THE SIDELINES...

FROM THE SIDELINES: A MUM'S PERSPECTIVE

My sons Marcus (5 years) and Oliver (3 years) are incredibly eager participants in the Soccajoeys Next Step program – in fact, it's the highlight of their week! Marcus' gross motor and soccer skills have developed at a really steady rate, as have his skills at following instructions, peer engagement, turn-taking and taking great pride in his weekly performance. Initially a timid player, Marcus now confidently follows through when kicking the ball and feels great delight when he's lucky enough to score a goal in the big game! Oliver has moved beyond the sidelines and is now a keen player too, loving the opportunity to be part of the soccer skills and to play with his big brother and other new soccer friends. 

 

Both boys have developed confidence as soccer players, and as parents we love the sibling play that has evolved as a result of playing together in Soccajoeys. We are incredibly grateful for the opportunities both boys have had by being members of the Next Step program. 

 

Coaches Jose and Fran are remarkably patient, fair, inclusive and very clear in their instructions. They both bring enormous energy and commitment to our rockstar Soccajoeys, setting all team members on a path of playing soccer in the future. The class follows a regular structure which demonstrates an understanding of the needs of ASD kids, and most importantly, the coaches bring a terrific sense of fun and fairness every single week. It's great to bring your children along to a soccer class where different behaviour doesn’t result in them from being excluded from the game. Instead, the coaches work to involve all players with all their unique quirks.

 

Sport can be a great equaliser, and Jose is knowledgeable and passionate about equipping special needs children with soccer skills that enable them to progress into mainstream classes and teams. Inclusion is what it's all about, and Soccajoeys feels like a united family working together to help our amazing kids.

 

A very big thank you to Jose and Fran for all you do for both our boys each week, and to the Soccajoeys Foundation for making these classes available. I can't speak highly enough of what you've done for both Marcus and Oliver. You both sure deserve the snakes Marcus loves to share with you and his teammates post-game each week!

(Fiona)

Jose Bello 

Foundation Director



AUTISM FAMILY FIRST

This is a story of two remarkable parents who began a journey seven years ago. 

I met Dennis and Maria back in 2012 when I was fortunate to have their beautiful daughter Maya attend our Soccajoeys mainstream program at Castle Hill. Dennis and Maria have two children that were both diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Through the strength and love for their children, they have travelled far and long to research, discover and be educated on the best training methods to improve their children's development.

Autism Family First was established by Dennis and Maria to provide a range of services and programs to help families who have children that have been diagnosed with ASD. It is the first daycare centre of its kind in Australia, and their goal is to produce happy and well-adjusted children. 

Through their very personal journey, Dennis and Maria recognised the need to create Autism Family First as a way of not only helping their children, but also sharing their knowledge and experience with others. It is a selfless act of generosity and courage that I find extraordinary. 

Learn more about Autism Family First by visiting their website at http://www.autismfamilyfirst.com.au/.


PLATINUMHD

Every so often we cross paths with exceptional individuals who overwhelm us with their generosity and enthusiasm. We have been fortunate enough to have met a crew of dedicated and like-minded professionals that have taken an interest in our work, and will be producing a video that will help us convey our message and make others aware of what our Foundation is all about. 

The team at PlatinumHD (and in particular, Brett and Jeff) have decided to come on-board and support our work by filming our kids in action. Jeff and cameraman Sharaf spent three hours on Saturday braving the cold and rain to film one of our graduates, Esuah, playing his last game of the season for Queens Park FC. They also filmed a group of our Next Step kids doing some exercises in a nearby park and interviewed parents. Both Jeff and Sharaf connected instantly with the families and captured some great footage of the morning.

We look forward to seeing the finished product, and are excited to have such a great crew of genuine, good-hearted individuals supporting our program. Keep your eyes posted on this blog for information about the video release date.

To find out more about Platinum HD, visit http://www.platinumhd.tv/

Foundation Director

Jose Bello


BROADENING OUR HORIZONS

Part of our Foundation's vision is to expand our programs to new regions and communities that don’t have access to programs such as Next Step and Connect.

We're excited to announce that our Next Step program will now be operating in Wollongong, about an hour south of Sydney. Thanks to our Wollongong mainstream operator and his team, we are fortunate enough to have coaches and individuals with the passion and motivation to introduce our Next Step program to the south coast.

Super coach Steve, along with his team members Sue and Rachelle, will be starting Next Step classes in Wollongong in Term 4. Steve and his team share a common bond, energy and desire to help children reach new levels of potential. They are driven by big-heartedness and have years of experience working with children.

Families in Wollongong that have a child with additional needs can now feel confident about including them in a sports development program, and can be reassured that their child will be given the opportunity to experience a program that will help them develop a range of skills.

For more information, please email the foundation@soccajoeys.com.

Foundation Director

Jose Bello

Happy for Jarrod

We were very excited this weekend when Jarrod attended our mainstream program at Kellyville. Jarrod is small in stature but big in heart. He has two devoted parents and one gorgeous little sister. All were present on Saturday cheering him on and watching as he demonstrated great ability and focus to complete his first mainstream class. 

Jarrod started at Next Step in October 2013 and had successfully completed three terms. When you meet him, all you want to do is pick him up and squeeze him with hugs because he is so adorable, but as coaches, we had to contain ourselves and get on with the job of developing some of his physical debilities. We wanted to work mainly on gross motor elements, and every class we observed improvements in his balance, coordination, kicking and jumping. 

Once again, with the support of his mum and dad, we were able to plan Jarrod's transition to mainstream. We were all anxious about how he would react, but were confident that he would adapt to the change positively. There was an initial period where he was unsettled, but that is completely normal for many children experiencing a new class. After five minutes, he was thriving, and as they say, the rest is history.

We can’t wait to have him back on Saturday and be there to help him reach new stages is his development.

'The Soccajoeys next step program has been a fantastic opportunity for Jarrod, not only to develop some great skills but it’s also helped build his confidence to get in and be involved with the other kids. Without the Soccajoeys next step coaches the transition or ability to take part in a mainstream class for Jarrod would not have been a success. We are extremely thankful to the Soccajoeys Foundation and very proud of our little man!'

(Vanessa, Jarrod's mum)

 

Jose Bello

Foundation Director

 


KICKING BACK INTO IT...

Term 3 begins this week, and we're excited to announce that our three locations will be in full swing, classes have been filled and new faces will enter our program. There's always a buzz in the air when a new term starts, especially for our new families, who are still perhaps questioning their participation and allowing the uncertainty of the unknown cloud the excitement of something new. 

All emotions are welcomed and embraced. As Next Step coaches, we focus on what we’re good at – delivering a quality program for children. We focus on the strengths, the individualities, and the opportunity for your child to grow and learn. We recognise the adversities, but understand that beyond the challenges lie the rewards. We encourage small steps – supporting the parents who decide to sacrifice their time to join our program, and providing us with the opportunity to contribute to their child's development.

It's time to get the ball rolling and meet our new group of children! The Foundation will also have four children entering our mainstream program, so we wish them all the best in their transition.

We will be there to support your every step and ensure that your experience is a positive one.

Foundation Director

Jose Bello


PLATFORMS

THE INCLUSION CLUB

If you recall in a previous post, I wrote about an organisation called The Inclusion Club. They are advocates for inclusive sport, and have created an interactive platform for like-minded individuals and groups who are passionate about promoting inclusive sporting environments and learning more about what people in our global community are achieving.

We had the privilege of being interviewed by Peter, one of the founders of TIC, and he was kind enough to write a story about the Soccajoeys Foundation. Since posting his article on the TIC website, our Foundation has been contacted by several organisations from around Australia wanting to learn more about our program. Please take the time to view the link below and find out more about our work from an outsider's perspective:

http://theinclusionclub.com/2014/soccajoeys/

Jose Bello

Foundation Director


FAVELA FOOTBALL

The World Cup is full of contrasts. Matches are being played and viewed by billions around the world, as well as tens of thousands from the stands. The stadiums are monsters in the landscape, but within the surroundings lie Brazil's favela communities.

A favela is the term for a slum or shantytown in Brazil, most often in urban areas. Millions of families call favelas their home, and, at first glance, these micro cities defy belief. They are built like labyrinths out of anything and everything, with countless materials piled on top of each other. You would think destroying one home would create a domino effect, but just like the people that live in them, the favelas are resilient.

There is an organisation called CUFA (Central Única das Favelas) that have captured the imagination of the Brazilian football community by helping disadvantaged kids living in favelas. CUFA develops projects that focus on education, the environment, culture, and sport for all of Brazil's 27 states. 

Quite often the future of children living in favelas is bleak, where it is common for young kids to be recruited by local mafias. CUFA offers an escape, a new pathway to help kids pursue a more positive future, and one that will lead them away from the mafias and maybe one day into a packed stadium, with an opportunity to show the world their incredible football talent. 

There are many stories of famous Brazilian footballers who were born and raised in favelas, and, through football, discovered their freedom and a life away from crime . They never abandon their communities, and often return to guide the next generation.

Check out the link below to see some of the fantastic work CUFA are doing in favelas throughout Brazil: 

http://www.fifa.com/worldcup/videos/y=2014/m=7/video=favela-football-2398049.html

Jose Bello

Foundation Director




Meet Daniel...

We met Daniel at our first Next Step class in the Hills District in October 2013. His level of coordination and general ball skills immediately surprised us, and after attending a couple of Next Step classes, we recommended Daniel join our mainstream Soccajoeys program. 

His transition to our mainstream program was a complete success. Daniel really began to thrive in this new environment as we observed his innate ability to play soccer. He picked up concepts of the game very quickly, and all the signs pointed to Daniel's need to join a local club.

When I first spoke to Daniel's mum about club soccer, she was surprised and hadn't really contemplated the idea. After observing her son in class, she recognised that Daniel had true potential and needed to be nurtured at the right club.

I was aware of a local club that had a good development program which would allow Daniel to continue improving his skills while enjoying interacting in a new social setting. Daniel now plays for the Castle Hill RSL Rockets, and still attends Soccajoeys classes.

Thanks again to his very supportive parents who were willing to help their child progress to another stage. Daniel is extremely passionate about his soccer, and there’s never a day that passes him without having a kick in the park!

Jose Bello

Foundation Director


Nutrition...

We live in an era surrounded by information. The Internet provides most of our global community with the resources to educate ourselves and seek answers to questions that intrigue and concern us.

One area of our lifestyles where many people search for answers is nutrition. A lot of us place high importance on understanding the impact of what we eat on our ability to grow and function.

I came across an interesting organisation online recently called Mindd Foundation (www.mindd.org). It stands for Metabolic, Inmmunolgical, Neurological, Digestive, Developmental conditions that often affect the mind. They focus on paediatric disorders, and recognise that "the rise in childhood disease signals a need for preventative healthcare that focuses on cellular health by optimising nutrient intake while minimising toxins."

I encourage parents that may or may not have a child that is experiencing developmental difficulties or has been diagnosed with a childhood disorder to learn more about Mindd Foundation. Their website is extremely resourceful and they also hold regular seminars.

We cannot deny the fact that food processing systems have changed radically over the past 15-20 years. The increase in toxins (in the form of preservatives and other elements) being added to food is undoubtedly affecting our bodies. 

The more we educate ourselves about this growing area of concern, the better equipped we will be to help our children.

Jose Bello

Foundation Director


FIFA Football for Hope Festival...

The biggest and greatest individual sporting event in the world will commence this Friday. Hosted by the flamboyant and exotic nation of Brazil, the 20th FIFA World Cup will showcase 32 countries competing for the ultimate prize of being crowned FIFA World Champions.

But have you heard of FIFA's Football for Hope Festival? This forms part of FIFA's social responsibility program, and takes place during the last two weeks of the World Cup in Brazil. The festival will bring together 32 teams of young leaders from grassroots organisations across the globe to celebrate their achievements, and demonstrate the power of the game for social change on and off the pitch. Football United is the amazing organisation that will represent Australia at its second straight festival.

Participants were chosen based on their great leadership potential and to the contributions they have made towards building a better future through football in their respective communities.

Each organisation tackles a range of social issues, from homelessness in the UK and landmines in Cambodia, to HIV/AIDS education in South Africa and responsible citizenship in Brazil. Football United aims "to build capacity of communities and improve the skills of people in diverse areas that includes high proportions of refugee, migrant and Indigenous Australian children, youth and families."

Football for Hope represents all that is good about this brilliant game. Learn more about this incredible initiative by visiting http://www.fifa.com/aboutfifa/socialresponsibility/footballforhope/.

We wish all the Football United representatives good luck during their time in Brazil. You can follow their journey at http://www.footballunited.org.au/.

 

Jose Bello 

Foundation Director.

Football for hope.jpg

The Inclusion Club

Recently I discovered a very inspiring organisation called The Inclusion Club. It's a group of committed, passionate and highly experienced professionals dedicated to developing inclusive sporting environments for individuals with a disability.

Many of us that work in this field view inclusion as an essential part of an individual’s development. We understand the importance of adapting physical activity to ensure all participants are involved and enjoying the benefits of playing sport.

TIC are pioneers in this field, designing training programs for practitioners and providing various resources in the form of books, DVDs, downloads, podcasts, and webinars. I encourage everyone to check out TIC's website at http://theinclusionclub.com/ to learn more about their amazing work.

I look forward to sharing more of TIC's work with you and engaging in some discussions about our Foundation work and future projects. 

Jose Bello

Foundation Director

 

 

ESUAH'S STORY...

Esuah formed part of our first Eastern Suburbs group that started in February 2012. It was an exciting time for our program, as we had partnered with the Lifestart Co-operative Eastern Sydney branch for a funding proposal, and we were delighted to receive news of its approval. The grant was provided by Botany Bay City Council, and gave us the financial resources to run two consecutive terms in Alexandria.

The group was awesome! We had eight kids and I was supported by two amazing Lifestart workers named Eliza and Cally. Esuah displayed very early in the program a natural ability to learn the skills quickly. He seemed destined to pursue a pathway to a local soccer club, and we were there to ensure that Esuah understood the fundamentals of soccer and the concept of participating in a team, as well as assisting him in increasing his skill level.

Esuah completed five terms of our Next Step program and was excelling in all areas of his development. It was by this stage that we recommended he join a local soccer club. His parents were delighted with the idea and were committed to pursuing a new pathway.

Esuah joined Queens Park FC in 2013 and is now playing in his second season. As you can see by the photos, he's thoroughly enjoying the experience. We heard he even scored 10 goals in one match, which is very impressive! 

Once again, we applaud the parents for venturing into unknown territory and giving it a go.

 

Parent Testimonial...

Having a child who has special needs can sometimes require strategic planning just to get simple everyday activities done. For our son, Esuah, who is on the autism spectrum, this involves avoiding certain environments that would be overly stimulating for him, as it can cause meltdowns and stress for all. 

So when we were offered the chance through Lifestart to participate in a soccer training program with Soccajoeys Next Step, I hoped for the best, but feared that he just wouldn't be able to cope in such an environment. Thankfully, I was wrong!

Right from the first moments, I was impressed by the professionalism, expertise and most of all the child management of his coach, Jose. The class consisted of eight children with differing special needs, and was conducted with the utmost precision, coordination and care. 

It was this care that not only allowed the children to participate in a challenging environment, but after a short time, every child progressed remarkably with their skills as well as their ability to listen and follow instructions.

Such was the development of my son that after only two seasons with Soccajoeys Next Step, he went on to play with Queens Park FC and is one of the better players in his age group, which is no doubt largely due to what he learnt with Jose.

We are truly thankful for the opportunity to participate with Soccajoeys Next Step and wish everyone involved all best for the future. I would recommend Soccajoeys Next Step to all parents.

Nik (Esuah's Dad)

 

Jose Bello

Foundation Director