Sunshine & Smiles is a small, local charity in Leeds supporting people with Down syndrome, and their families.
From very small beginnings in 2011 we have grown from 6 families to supporting over 120 families in 2020.
We offer a wide range of activities & support including our baby & toddler group, swimming, football, dance & music as well as running a cafe & shop which is staffed by 10 adults who have Down syndrome.
At the moment we run many of our groups from a community hall in North Leeds; the hall is very run down and needs a lot of love & care!
We have the opportunity to take over the lead tenancy of a community hall that we have been using for the last 6 years. This opportunity would enable us to create secure base for our charity & develop the centre to make it a vibrant & welcoming space for the local community. We would want to develop a project we have started, creating work opportunities for people with Down syndrome. We would have a strong emphasis on having people with Down syndrome employed in helping to run the centre. It would also help us to develop & grow our current services but also to raise awareness & promote inclusion in the wider community. The hall currently needs renovation & repair to make it into space that is fit for purpose but also to ensure it is completely accessible. We would propose to create a cafe & shop space, maintain the main hall for regular rentals but also for other community events & activities and also to install a lift to make the basement area accessible.
Primarily this project will benefit people with Down syndrome living in Leeds and the surrounding areas, and their families. Although the centre is in one specific location our services & support are citywide and beyond with people travelling from North Yorkshire & as far as Skipton to access our activities. However, our ambition is to renovate the centre so that is becomes a well loved & used community space for many more local people while raising awareness and creating work opportunities and development for people with Down syndrome. We have already started some of this community work at the shop & cafe by running inter-generational music sessions, Makaton baby sign groups & creative workshops - we would want to continue and expand this offer at the proposed new centre. The space there would also enable us to offer other services & projects such as training & support for schools in supporting children and young people with Down syndrome in education, & life skills workshops.
Statistically fewer than 10% of people with a learning disability are in paid employment in the UK. As part of the work experience there will be training opportunities such as food hygiene certificates & barista training. We are also working with other local employers and the Down syndrome association's WorkFit programme to develop further opportunities & a pathway into other employment opportunities. Within this we will be developing portfolios of skills, CV building & job interview practise. We also want to renovate and re-energise an existing community hall which has unfortunately become very run down & currently does not fulfil its potential as a centre for community activities & support. We see so much potential in this space to create an important & vibrant community hub for Sunshine & Smiles but also to connect & create opportunities within the wider local community.
Sunshine & Smiles is a parent led charity which was set up because there was no support network in Leeds. We strive to improve & create opportunities for people with Down syndrome in Leeds & their families; from the time that they receive a diagnosis to now offering work opportunities to adults. We believe in the equality of opportunity for all & have always ensured that our support & services are free to everyone to make them as accessible & inclusive as possible. For example, ensuring that we can provide transport & translation services to those that need them. It also means ensuring that we seek to understand the different experiences of our families & offer the right support at the right time. We know that while our cafe & shop is an ideal working environment for many it is also a challenging environment for others, the community centre would enable us to offer a broader range of experience & opportunity.