Aoife's Sensory Bus all started from the life experiences of a beautiful, feisty little girl called Aoife who sadly died in December 2019. She is our inspiration and behind everything we have achieved so far.
Aoife was diagnosed with a brain tumour when she was 16 months old and underwent several surgeries, 18 months of chemotherapy along with radiotherapy. She was part of a clinical trial at Great Ormond Street Hospital, London for almost two years. With all of these procedures and treatments Aoife’s development was affected and delayed. When Aoife was receiving treatment her family noticed the enormous positive impact that sensory equipment and interactive spaces had on her and other children.
With this in mind the family wanted to raise funds to provide a sensory and interactive learning environment for all of the pupils to use at Monkton Primary School. They wanted to give her an opportunity to go to school in her own village with all of her friends. This initial goal was achieved unbelievably quickly with the sensory room at Monkton Primary School up and running.
A great opportunity presented itself early on when we started the fundraising and after having a meeting with Stagecoach bus company, we were very kindly donated a bus. From this huge opportunity we continued to fundraise and decided to create an official charity to support our endeavours to make this succeed.
The mental health impacts and stress that have come from COVID-19 also means that the bus will have many benefits to young people who have struggled during the ongoing pandemic.
We are passionate that the purpose of the bus is multi use to target young people across Ayrshire who require a sensory integrated approach to improve their wellbeing and assist their educational targets in a creative and meaningful way. We appreciate the cost of a sensory room is extensive and therefore understand that all schools cannot install such; thus, feel that our bus would be a fantastic method of providing such means to young people.
We continue to fundraise and create awareness for our charity and hope you can support us in any way can, even if it's a share of our website and our social media sites!
Watch this space....
What we've achieved so far!
Under the name of ‘A Space to Make Sense of School’ we started fundraising for an interactive sensory room within Monkton Primary School to create an area for Aoife and her peers to utilise while attending mainstream school. This happened so quickly as there was so much local support. We had fun days, raffles and applied for local community grants and before we knew it we had made enough to create the sensory room! We had some help creating our logo, with each of the 5 points representing each of our body's senses: touch, hearing, sight, taste and smell, all complimented with therapeutic colours.
At the point of fundraising Stagecoach donated us a bus and we decided to utilise it as an interactive sensory bus to be used throughout Ayrshire communities to allow all children to access this type of environment. We saw how welcoming an idea it was for Monkton Primary School who embraced and supported the creation of the sensory room but we also knew other children in Ayrshire would benefit from such environments. We were realistic enough to know that the financial outgoing to create a sensory environment in all school would be impossible for local authorities to fund therefore knew that a mobile environment could potentially solve the problem! Momentum started to build with lots of people contributing to the fundraising effort and attending local community grant events.
By early 2020 we engaged with See Saw Creative who helped us put our artistic vision to paper, we developed the image that now surrounds the bus. We quickly realised that it would more beneficial to create a charity as we learned there was so much support and advice out there for charities. A group of us came together, all with our own expertise and interests and started the process of applying to become an official Scottish Charity. At this point we changed the name to ‘Aoife’s Sensory Bus’ and as such relaunched our social media pages. By March 2020 the world as we knew it changed around us and we tried to keep ploughing on in the background, encouraging people to continue to support us by doing a virtual Kiltwalk which was massively successful and we raised a great amount of vital funds especially with the 100% top up from Sir Tom Hunter. We continued to make arrangements to make the bus roadworthy, arranged alternative storage for the bus, continued to engage with companies to supply us with quotes for the internal equipment, it was all go.
By July 2020, when Covid restrictions had eased a little, 5 of the trustees had their first face to face meeting. Not long after, Covid cases grew again and we had to go back to using Zoom. We launched our charity snoods and Christmas cards which were both sold online and in a few local shops. The bus finally got its design wrapped and SpaceKraft committed to create the internal sensory environment.
2021 came around fast ,schools were closed for the first few months of the year to help prevent Covid outbreaks and we were working away behind the scenes. In April 2021 the trustees took part in a 'Lap of Ayrshire' for the Virtual Kiltwalk and raised a whopping £23,315! The bus headed down to SpaceKraft in May to be fitted and by Summer the bus was home in Ayrshire and we were in awe! In September we secured a full time bus driver, Gary, and worked collaboratively with South Ayrshire Council to set up 4 pilot schools to visit regularly. With help from local artist, Jan Laird, we have produced beautiful mugs, coasters and water bottles to promote the charity and raise money. We are always looking for new ways to raise money and raise awareness of our charity. Here we are in Spring 2022 and the bus is still visiting the pilot schools and the hard work continues but with exciting times ahead, including the planning of our Inaugural Charity Ball in August 2022.
After the success of our Charity Ball where we raised £13379.21 we have kept on doing what we set out to do - support young people to access a specialised sensory equipment. We have continued to regularly visit schools within South Ayrshire and have had many requests from other private and public services. We have linked up with Seamster Vintage who has used our tartan to create beautiful bags which are available to purchase on our online store among some other beautiful items. It's almost Spring 2023 and we have recently had huge support from Gemmell's Garden Centre who not only sell our merchandise but have offered up a safe place to park up and offer private sessions, April will see our first session of this kind. We are keen to expand our charity and always looking for volunteers to support this. If you have some time to come along and look after our bus at events and raise awareness of our charity, please get in touch with your details.