OPINION: Give back this festive season at the Wave Project Christmas markets

North Devon Gazette

The festive lights have been switched on. The first few doors of the advent calendar have been opened. There’s a buzz in the air as people gather in the high street to buy thoughtful gifts for loved ones. Without the mandated face coverings, you could almost be forgiven for thinking this was a normal Christmas.Â

But with everything that we’ve gone through in the past two years, many of us will spend our Christmas countdown thinking of those less fortunate than ourselves. There are plenty of ways that you can give back this Christmas, from donating money to valuable causes, to donating food to the North Devon Food Bank, to donating your time to places like the North Devon Voluntary Service

“It’s important for people to donate to worthy causes this Christmas more than ever because of the impact of lockdowns, a lot of local charities are struggling with funding and support,” said Lauren Tapscott, the Project Assistant for the Wave Project charity in North Devon.Â

“But also because of lockdowns, a lot of young people have struggled with their mental health more than ever, without those consistent systems put in place to help.”Â

The Wave Project runs award-winning surf therapy programs for children across the UK and has a base in Croyde and Westward Ho! Using trained volunteer mentors, the program aims to help children improve their emotional health and wellbeing through free and subsidised surfing lessons. There’s also a beach school project for children who may benefit from learning outside of the classroom.Â

“We aim to be as inclusive as possible as a charity, and we can use adaptive surfing to help people who otherwise might not have been able to experience surfing,” said Lauren. “One of the people we’ve helped is George, who is now 14. He started surfing with us around his tenth birthday. He lives in Braunton, where many of his peers enjoy surfing. However, George has cerebral palsy, is visually impaired and has epilepsy. Due to his cerebral palsy, he is a wheelchair user, which means he has difficulty accessing the sea, let alone surfing.”Â

“His mum contacted Ian Bennett (North Devon Adaptive Lead) at the Wave Project to ask if we could take George surfing four years ago. The main instructors at the Wave Project, who work in conjunction with Surf South West in Croyde, have undertaken extensive disability awareness training and purchased specialised equipment. They have since gone on to become a Surfing England recognised destination for bespoke surfing sessions for adaptive surfers.”Â

“George now surfs regularly with us here at Croyde and is one of our most popular surfers. Everyone in the project wants to get involved when George gets in the water. They say that the best surfer is the one with the biggest smile. That is George down to a tee.”Â

“Since the start of adaptive surf therapy in North Devon with George, for each surf therapy course, we try to have at least one adaptive surfer as part of the course of ten young people to keep our charity in North Devon as inclusive as possible.”Â

Lauren recently organised a community charity Christmas art club to create Christmas arts and crafts decorations that will be sold at the Wave Project’s stall at the Ruda Christmas markets this December 11th and 18th from 12-5 pm. They will also be organising a pop-up challenge to raise money at the stall.Â

For more information on the Wave Project and how you can support their surf therapy programs this Christmas, please visit their website at www.waveproject.co.uk. If you would like to become a volunteer, email the North Devon Wave Project Coordinator Jaz Bennett at jaz@waveproject.co.uk, and for more information on adaptive surfing please email Adaptive Lead Ian Bennett at ianb@waveproject.co.uk