Creating a ‘World of Wonder’ for children and families
Hull Community Church has always had a strong ethos of helping the local community and providing activities and support for families in need. But when part of their building, previously rented to a separate charity, became available, an opportunity arose to create a unique play space for local children and to put them in the driving seat.
Hull CC’s project lead (and minister) Anne Dannerolle and her small team didn’t just consult local children, they helped make their ideas a reality. Around 60 children and young people had their input. One young girl, who came to the project from a troubled family background, was particularly influential, and made it clear that the new space should be somewhere safe and welcoming children could go to when being at home was too difficult.
In 2015, Hull CC was awarded a Reaching Communities grant of £476,247, with just under £100,000 to be spent on creating the World of Wonder (WOW). The children had ambitious plans for the new space, including a Hobbit Hole, a treehouse slide and a ‘bounce room’. Delivering their vision and giving them ownership was important to Anne and she fought hard to retain their ideas, even when architects and builders said things couldn’t be done. When the project looked as though it was going to be too expensive, Anne and her team got creative, sourcing specialist items cheaply online. Trips to a reclamation yard also resulted in beautiful old timber for the Hobbit Hole.
The community got stuck in as well. People of all ages pitched in with painting, plastering and creating unique decoration for the different areas of the WOW. A local art student created a huge mural of a tree to complement the treehouse slide.
Since the WOW opened, kids of all ages have been throwing themselves around in the bounce room, which with its twinkling-star lighting is also a great place for disabled children and those with special educational needs. The Hobbit Hole is a popular hangout for teenage visitors, and as for the slide… well, Big Lottery Fund staff can vouch for how much fun that is!
But the impact on individuals tell a powerful story too. One woman brought along her young son who has autism and requires significant day-to-day support. He had great fun serving the chocolate pudding at the Wednesday family tea session. His mum commented:
“Autistic children don’t like to get involved and do things with other people. Seeing him helping like this means so much to me.”
“This group provides opportunities that are incredibly valuable for a child with ASD. Support to integrate and be himself allow him to build skills and express himself by doing things he loves. Many take these opportunities for granted, but to special needs parents, they’re miracles.”
Her son is planning to have his birthday party at the WOW later this month, as it’s “the only place he feels totally comfortable and at home.”
The building work might be done, but that’s only one element of the project. Hull CC will spend the next three-and-a-half years delivering activities to help them further develop relationships with the community and continue to support people through the challenges they face.
“We’re so thankful for the World of Wonder and this amazing space,” says Anne. “But it’s only as amazing as the parents, children and young people who use it, and who have become part of our extended family.”