Footprints Life Camp
Footprints Life Camp, The National Autistic Society award winner of Most Creative Community Project of 2017 was founded in February 2016 by Naj D’Silva, an outstanding senior teacher at The Holmewood School in London (Ofsted 2015). It was founded to reduce social exclusion, increase independence and promote life-skills of young autistic people.
With a recent National Autistic Society survey suggesting that just 16% of autistic people are in full time paid work, Footprints Life Camp is trying to break down barriers to employment. Social impact has been significant with 100% of young people who attended the camps and their parents believing Footprints Life Camp increased self-esteem, independence and social skills in 2016. Footprints is also a Disability Confident Employer and offers paid internships to young people on the autism spectrum. Twilight interview technique sessions are offered, autism friendly interviews and support from specialised staff throughout the internship in order to provide supportive and meaningful work to young people on the spectrum.
The camp uses a combination of farming, outdoor education and life-skills and runs during the school holidays. It offers activities such as animal care at a local farm including lambing days, swimming sessions, trips to the beach, barbeques and forest school activities as well as a residential stay at Lee Valley and a Footprints Cafe run by the students. Each activity has a specific focus on social/emotional/life-skill development delivered by specialised staff and a very high staff-student ratio.
Michelle Flynn whose son attended Footprints Life Camp said:
Footprints made my child’s world a bigger and better place. On Friday night he was delighted with himself, a very happy little boy. He never usually wants to leave the house. Footprints Life Camp did that, priceless and immeasurable
Francis Livsey, a student at Footprints Life Camp before taking up a paid internship position in summer 2016 said, "Footprints has helped me to achieve confidence and I learned how to do things independently. Caring for the animals helped me feel responsible."
Founder and Director of Footprints Life Camp, Naj D'Silva, said: “I feel incredibly honoured to have won The National Autistic Society award for Most Creative Community Project of 2017. This award is dedicated to all the young people we work with currently and in the future who inspire us every day. Our aim, over the past year, has been to give young autistic people the opportunity to be the best they can be by reducing social exclusion and increasing independence leading to a bright and most importantly happy future.”