When my brother Nick was born with brain damage the first thought my parents had was, what will happen to him when we die?
Being Nick's only sibling meant that throughout my childhood the same thought kept occurring to me too.
Over the years we heard about people who had kept their disabled child at home for their whole life and then when the parents had died, the child, now an adult, with no experience of anyone but their parents, was shunted into a care home.
One story I heard, which I have never been able to shake, was of a disabled man known to a family friend, who could not adjust to, or even believe the fact that he was never going home again, so he sat in his care home with his bag packed and coat on, waiting every day for his mum to collect him.
Thankfully Nick has me as well as my folks, so I prepared myself to be his carer once my parents had passed away. Although I knew this would not be ideal for Nick. He is a lively person, easily bored. I couldn’t provide a full enough itinerary or be as good company for him as his peers. And again, what if he outlived me? That thought really scared me.
So my parents spent years researching options (more details on my Mencap blog) and eventually found The Canterbury Oast Trust - http://www.c-o-t.org.uk/ - a charity founded by the parents of disabled children who were worried about their children's futures and wanted to provide them with both a save haven and an independent life.
Nick now lives there, in a shared house, with a group of friends and carers on hand. His house is really lovely, it is set on farmland and there is a duckpond outside his bedroom window.
The farm is a working farm, and is open to the public. The learning disabled adults who live there work on the farm and in other areas of the charity such as the woodland area, the plant nursery, the restaurant, a tea room in nearby Rye and a number also attend an art project called The Rainbow Gallery where they produce and sell beautiful pieces of art.
My brother was not supposed to be able to walk or talk. Seeing him produce lovely pictures and textiles, it makes me so happy. Sad too. I often wonder what learning disabled people who are just left in the corner of a day room could achieve, if people encouraged them.
I can't express how much I love this charity and everyone who works there. It has changed my brother's life and my parents don’t have to worry about his future as this is now his home for as long as he lives and he will always be surrounded by friends and carers.
Unfortunately, like all charities The Canterbury Oast Trust is being affected by the Government cuts. This year they face a shortfall of nearly half a million pounds.
Of course if you would like to donate to them, that would be lovely - http://www.justgiving.com/cot/donate - but this is not a plea for money. It's a plea for your spare stuff.
The fundraising team need the following things for the gallery, shop and nursery. If you have any of them lying around, please send them to the address at the end of the blog:
Any arts and crafts supplies at all really
Anything that could be raffled
Anything that they could sell in their charity shop
And thinking ahead to next Christmas:
Toys for Santa to give away at the farm Christmas event (really small stuff, a toy car, colouring in pens, a teddy)
These items that might be clogging up your cupboards will allow the charity to raise much needed funds and are just as valuable as a cash donation.
If you have kids, you can help by visiting the farm, which is a great family day out. Ticket sales go to the charity: http://www.rarebreeds.org.uk/farm-map
You can dedicate a tree in the Rainbow Wood to a loved one for £50 http://www.rarebreeds.org.uk/woodland-walks
Or you can donate for free by doing a few web searches via this link: www.everyclick.com/canterburyoasttrust One search = One pence. It all helps.
The address for sending items is:
Rare Breeds Centre
Kent, TN26 3RJ
Thank you in advance for your kindness.
As a reward, here is a clip I filmed last night of what might be the best game show answer of all time. I can't stop laughing at it. Enjoy: