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Goring's Camelia Botnar Children's Centre under threat of closure
The Camelia Botnar Children's Centre could close if £250,000 a year cannot be raise to save it.
The future is uncertain for the 20 carers and 70 families who use the centre in Goring, Worthing as it desperately cries out for funding.
The families who use the centre described it as their “paradise island of peace and sanity”.
Lou Palmer, mum of four-year-old Jessica, said she would be devastated to lose the centre. She said: “Jessica was fine as a baby, but then after a fit at ten-months-old she was left profoundly disabled.
“She is unable to walk, talk or sit unaided and needs regular medication.
“It's been very hard coping with everything.
“There is no way Jessica could manage in a mainstream nursery.
“She receives an incredible amount of care and encouragement at Camelia Botnar.
“This centre is the only suitable place for Jessica and it would be devastating to lose it.”
The Ofsted registered centre provides developmental support for children under the age of five.
The care is free and until now the centre has been funded by the Camelia Botnar Foundation (CBF) and small grants from the local authority.
The foundation gave its final donation in 2009 and despite fundraising efforts and pleas for help the centre now faces the risk of closure.
Philip Bush, chairman of the trustees, said: “We need funding to the tune of £250k a year to keep the centre up and running, and we are in a race against time.
“Parents and staff have been kept informed of our plight and their support has been both amazing and humbling.”
Worthing MPs Sir Peter Bottomley and Tim Loughton have offered their support to the centre.
Mr Bush said: “They have given us strength and the determination to continue our fight.”
To donate text Just Giving on 70070 with code CBCC17 or donate online at mydonate.bt.com/charities/cameliabotnarchildrenscentre
The roots of the centre can be traced back to 1978, when the boss of Datsun UK, Octav Botnar, took an interest in The Friday Group, a gathering of families in the area providing support for each other.
Octav was a philanthropist and is believed to have given more than £100 million to numerous charities and good causes during his lifetime.
He made significant donations to The Friday Group, including a new centre and equipment His daughter Camelia died in a car accident and he set up the Camelia Botnar Foundation in her memory.
The group then changed its name to the Camelia Botnar Children's Centre in 1994, and Octav wanted it to be an “enduring legacy” to the memory of his daughter.
The centre was originally funded in its entirety by the CBF and they paid for equipment, transport, staff salaries and running costs until 2009.
Child can finally say mum
Michelle Brown's son Oliver, four, was almost mute when he started going to the centre.
But now he can finally call his parents mum and dad.
Michelle also said how the centre is not just a lifeline for children, it is also offers parents and important chance to rest and recharge.
Michelle, 23, said: “The centre has made such a difference to his life.
“The staff are fantastic, they are like angels and have done so much.
“It is just so upsetting to think it might close.”
“All other parents feel the same way; they would be stuck without the centre.”
Twenty years, eight children
Foster carer Pam Shaw, 64, has been going to the centre for 20 years after fostering eight different children.
She described how she has seen so many children flourish and grow.
She said: “It is a lifeline for carers and for parents.
“I have a little one who comes here at the moment and he loves it here.”
Pam's current ward is a three year old boy who she has had since he was a baby.
When Pam took him on he suffered from difficulties with language and communication.
But after going to the centre Pam said she had seen him grow.
She said: “He is talking really well and loves going to the centre in the afternoons and mixing with the other kids.
“He especially likes the puzzles and the cuddles with the staff.”
She added that losing the centre would be a massive blow as there is nowhere else in the area like it.
How the centre helped David and Jessica to speak
David Elston, who suffers from autism, had no verbal communication skills.
But after just two months of sessions at the Camelia Botnar Centre, David , five began to speak.
His mother Donna, 36, describes has been taking David and his sister Jessica, three, who has language development issues to the centre for two years.
Donna said: “No one else offers facilities like this around here.
“It has been two years now since we have been going to the centre and it has been such a help.”
David started in a mainstream nursery but Donna said he could not cope with the constant bombardment of noise from other children.
She said the one to one care that David has received at the centre has been invaluable.
She said: “When he started here he learned how to communicate through pictures and then through sign language - he is progressing amazingly.”
Jessica attends the centre two afternoons a week and is also developing her interaction skills.
Donna said: “The centre really does need help and the children's development would be happened if the centre had to close.”
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