Social, health, sports & citizenship lessons passed on to future generations

The RESPECT Programme, a community outreach initiative in South Yorkshire run by professional basketball club Sheffield Sharks, is celebrating its 10th anniversary of delivering proactive sports, social and citizenship workshops to primary school children.

This important milestone year of the not-for-profit scheme is supported by diagnostic imaging company Canon Medical Systems UK, as part of its Corporate Social Responsibility #madeforlife commitments. The 2018/19 RESPECT scheme is currently seeing over 600 Year 5 and 6 primary school children via workshops on bullying, staying safe online, fire safety and basketball skills. The academic year will conclude with a celebratory basketball tournament between participating schools in June at the English Institute of Sport Sheffield.

Over the past ten years, the RESPECT programme has grown in scale, interacting with nearly 5,000 nine and ten year old pupils at schools in the disadvantaged South Yorkshire areas of Barnsley, Rotherham and Sheffield. Participating schools gain external support and resource sessions in the non-statutory curriculum area of Personal, Social, Health and Citizen Education (PSHCE) combined with practical sports coaching and role model psychology from Sheffield Sharks professional basketball players.

“The Year 5 children love it when Sheffield Sharks come to visit – they engage, listen and want to take part – who wouldn’t when a 7ft tall professional basketball player comes into the room!” states Mandy Fenech, Safeguarding Officer at Arbourthorne Community Primary School. “The Sheffield Sharks RESPECT programme has been so important to our school over many years. It complements our own PSHE curriculum and safeguarding topics perfectly, covering bullying, online safety, crime plus fire and safety. Delivery of the sessions is unique and our pre-teen pupils sit up and take notice – you can see their interest and engagement rise during the sessions.”

“The ethos of the RESPECT programme is to encourage participation in physical activity such as basketball; to promote an understanding of the need for community values; and to help young people stay safe using technology such as the Internet,” states Joel Mills, Operations Manager and RESPECT Programme Leader at DBL Sharks Sheffield Basketball Club. “The sessions are run with Year 5 primary school children, the age that criminal responsibility starts, and aims to openly discuss making the right choices in life.”

“The RESPECT programme delivered by Sheffield Sharks is about striving for the greater good. It mirrors our own Japanese business culture and the philosophy behind our long-standing ‘Made for Life’ vision of building relationships that rely on trust, respect and transparency to improve life for all,” states Mark Hitchman, Managing Director of Canon Medical Systems UK. “We are proud to see the positive impacts that the RESPECT scheme is having on local children, families and the wider community.”

Sheffield Sharks players and RESPECT leaders are mostly from black or minority ethnic groups and have real-life stories to tell of growing up in challenging circumstances and how choosing a path of sport enabled them to gain skills and stay trouble free. South Yorkshire Police and Fire & Rescue Service also play a part with the RESPECT programme in addressing the wide range of issues that impact local communities, not least in educating the children that the criminal age of responsibility is from age 10.

Mandy Fenech concludes, “Almost 70% of our pupils are entitled to free school meals and some of our families face many hardships. We give the children a routine and safe environment to belong to and our Core Values are echoed through the RESPECT programme. Giving our pupils proactive guidance in life is incredibly important and we’re so thankful, as parents and teachers, to have the support of Sheffield Sharks and the RESPECT programme in our area.”

Due to the success of the RESPECT programme with primary school children, plans for RESPECT2 a programme targeting secondary schools and encouraging teenagers to stay out of gangs and knife crime is under development and due to be piloted in 2020.

Photo caption: The RESPECT Programme, a multi-agency community outreach initiative in South Yorkshire run by professional basketball club, Sheffield Sharks is celebrating its 10th anniversary of delivering proactive sports, social and citizenship sessions to primary school children. It is supported by diagnostic imaging company Canon Medical Systems UK.

Mark Hitchman, Managing Director of Canon Medical Systems (centre) with other members of the Canon Medical Systems UK team meet Willow, an autism assistance dog specially trained by Support Dogs.

 

Safety, independence and wellbeing of people living with epilepsy, autism or disabilities enhanced as another corporate partner backs national charity Support Dogs  

A family living with epilepsy, autism or physical disabilities will have its spirits lifted as a new puppy will soon enter the Support Dogs training academy sponsored by diagnostic imaging experts Canon Medical Systems UK under its #madeforlife philosophy. For the next two years a puppy will be readied in life-saving and independence inspiring skills before being matched with an owner to provide a lifetime of assistance.

Trained assistance dogs provide important health and wellbeing support to people that need an extra hand. For example, they can pre-empt an epileptic seizure up to 50 minutes in advance, lower stress levels so that medication can be removed, and generally improve wellbeing to reduce the frequency of health appointments required. This not only improves the quality of life for the individual and their family, but also for the wider health economy that is prescribing drugs or struggling to keep up with NHS health appointment demands.

The sponsorship of a support dog is one aspect of Canon Medical Systems’ extensive #madeforlife Corporate Social Responsibility commitment. It is encouraging more companies and individuals to follow its lead of living and working for the common good, and putting more back to charities and communities to improve the health of our nation and the environment we live in.

At aged six, Sam Mills from Sheffield was unable to leave his house due to the social anxiety that his autism caused. He has sensory difficulties which means he struggles with noise and crowds, has severe anxiety and he also suffers from depression. A black Labrador called Willow joined his family from Support Dogs and within one year helped him overcome debilitating and isolating issues from noise and busy social environments.

Emma Mills, Sam’s mother commented, “Since having Willow we’ve had a massive lifestyle change. The doctors wanted to put Sam on medication for his anxiety, but Willow has reduced his anxiety to such an extent that we can work on it with him without medication. Now, he will actually ask to go to the shops or to the woods. Willow has given him confidence and makes him feel safe.”

Danny Anderson, Fundraising Manager at Support Dogs, states, “Assistance dogs change lives. They breathe life and energy back into families that have been struggling to cope with everyday tasks or events. As we are solely funded by donations, partnerships with companies such as Canon Medical Systems UK are critical to ensure the flow of new puppies into our training scheme and enable more people across the UK to access the caring canine companion they need.”

Mark Hitchman, Managing Director of Canon Medical Systems UK, states, “For people living with constant anxiety, isolation or illness, a support dog brings so much positive change to their everyday lives. As part of our company 2020 vision we feel that it isn’t just our role to supply diagnostic imaging systems to the NHS and independent hospitals, but that we have a moral obligation to promote good health and wellbeing beyond pure financial gains. Sponsoring a puppy through its 2-year specialist training will make such a difference to a family. This is one aspect of our 2019 #madeforlife campaign where we are focusing on respecting the health of our nation and our world.”

The Support Dogs charity specialises in three specific programmes:

Autism assistance dogs for children aged three to ten years. Autism is a lifelong, developmental disability that affects how a person communicates with and relates to other people, and how they experience the world around them. The dogs are trained to provide safety for the child and reduce stress in social environments.
Seizure alert dogs for people with epilepsy. Around 1,000 people with epilepsy die each year and research suggests that most of these deaths are sudden and unexpected. The warning provided by a seizure alert dog means that a person can remove themselves from any danger and have a seizure in a safe environment.

Disability assistance dogs for people with physical disabilities. The person’s own pet dog is trained to perform tasks which are specifically tailored to their individual needs such as opening / closing doors, picking up objects or dressing / undressing. This provides them with a companion to enhance greater independence and safety.

Everyday life for Sam with his black Labrador support dog ‘Willow’ has got easier lowering his feelings of anxiety and has enabled him to avoid medication for autism. [Photo credit: A Dog Life Photography]