Hi Ho Squad get to work

It was “off to work we go” as East Ayrshire Council’s EAC United Hi Ho Squad swung into action to help the pupils of Crosshouse Communications Unit, building an amazing new Snow White and the Seven Dwarves themed wooden cabin, garden and sensory facility in just 40 hours.

The “Happy Hive” as it has been named by pupils at the unit, which caters for young people with communications disorders and autism, was designed, sourced and built by 19 Modern Apprentices as part of the annual Ayrshire Chamber Modern Apprenticeship Challenge 2017.

Drawn from a number of Council Departments, the trainees are currently studying for SVQs in Horticulture, Electrical, Administration and Joinery and chose their team name, EAC United, to reflect the fact that they’d come together from different disciplines. They were also joined by MAs and time served craftsmen from private sector companies to pull off the amazing project. And as a reflection of the theme, they styled themselves the “Hi Ho Squad”.

The cabin, which is equipped with sensory lights, soft seating and a projector, provides a much needed oasis of colour and calm in an otherwise busy playground. Entering through a choice of a normal sized or “dwarf” door, the softly lit, carpeted interior is flooded with light from the french doors. These lead into a little landscaped garden, surrounded by a beautifully crafted wooden palisade fence and featuring seven little wooden troughs, built in the shape of dwarf beds, each bearing the name of one of Snow White’s beloved companions. With plants arranged to make the beds look as if they have sheets and pillows, and a dwarf figure standing by each one, it’s clear the team have used all their imagination and creative skills to create a truly magical space.

The achievements of the Hi Ho Squad and their mentors were celebrated at the official opening of the cabin, where the trainees, Crosshouse pupils, their parents, teachers and representatives of all the supply companies, were joined by Depute Provost Claire Leitch, Council Leader Douglas Reid and Chief Executive Fiona Lees, in the pouring rain, to cut the ribbon and explore the fabulous new facility.

For Margorie Harvie, the 16+ Transitions Officer from East Ayrshire Council’s Employability team, who turned project manager a la Nick Knowles for the project, the whole experience proved tremendously challenging and satisfying. She said: “It’s so exciting to see this cabin finished. We started with a remit to do something which would be of benefit to people in need. Last year our Horticultural trainees, the MA Potters carried out gardening projects and won the overall prize, so this year we started with thoughts of something similar, but the idea just grew, and as we got more people on board it was clear we needed help from different disciplines. So we called in trainees from other departments, our partner companies and time served mentors.

“The amount of support we’ve had has been overwhelming. And for the trainees, some of whom have had a difficult transition through school themselves, the experience of working with different people, having to solve problems daily and seeing the appreciation of the children who will benefit from the cabin has been inspirational. They’re all feeling more confident, proud of what they’ve achieved and they’re very positive about what they’ve learned along the way.”

Depute Provost Claire Leitch said: “The Ayrshire Chamber Apprentices Challenge is all about getting young people to work together and it’s certainly worked in this case – with the Hi Ho team pulling in favours and sponsorship, materials and other Modern Apprentices from many local companies. And we can only thank all those sponsors and helpers for joining in so enthusiastically, and of course the amazing Margorie Harvie whose efforts to pull it all together and conquer all the obstacles along the way have been truly heroic.

“I’m sure everyone who took part benefited from the experience, with a new understanding of team work, what’s possible if we think outside the box, problem solving and the sense of achievement to be gained by doing something really positive to help others.

“For the pupils of Crosshouse Communications Unit, their teachers and parents, this opens up a whole new world of possiblities, and I hope all the trainees involved will move on from this with new skills, confidence and the knowledge that they can be very proud of everything they’ve achieved. We wish them lots of luck with the presentation to the board, and whatever happens in the actual competition, we all know what stars they are!”

Morrison Construction Community Skills Manager Jim Johnstone, said:
“Morrison Construction has a progressive community initiative programme and the Crosshouse Primary Happy Hive sensory room is just one of the many local initiatives being carried out throughout the country by our employees.

“Our team, which included local apprentices from East Ayrshire Council and our supply chain, have completed the room within just one week. The end result is incredible and it’s great to see the children having so much fun in their new facilities.

“We are very proud to be part of this project; it has been incredibly rewarding for all involved and we hope it will continue to be an asset for the local community.”

Depute Head Teacher at the Crosshouse Communication Unit, Kirsty Thomson, said: “I’m blown away by this project. It will have a massive impact on the day to day health and wellbeing of the pupils. Children and staff alike are overwhelmed by the fact that we have this additional resource where they can spend time in this calm, safe and protective environment. And we’re keen to forge further links with parents so this is a wonderful venue for workshops and meetings. The sensory garden will give children touch and smell experience of gardening and it will boost their interaction and social communication.”

Head Teacher Tina Gaitens said: “This cabin has all the pupils of both the Communications Unit and the wider school community very excited. They’ve had the chance to watch this project taking shape and the example set by the trainees has made a big impact on many of our children. They can’t wait to use it. Until now we’ve not had a breakout space or sensory room. Some children suffer from high anxiety levels and this will give them a calm, secure environment to just get away from it all. We’ll be scheduling time for all our classes to use it. The projector will be well used for films and games. It’s like a peaceful sanctuary.

“The trainees have been wonderful. They’ve been very professional, but the longer they’ve been here the more they have interacted with the children, they’ve downed tools at playtime and played football with them, sparked discussion with the children about their training, the world of work, and they’ve been marvellous role models.

“The MAs who have created the Happy Hive have done so with great enthusiasm and have shown dedication, hard work and a willingness to learn new skills. They’ve gone beyond any of our expectations and created something quite wonderful for our children. I can’t thank them enough!”

The Hi Ho team will present their project to Ayrshire Chamber of Commerce at a special awards ceremony in October.

To find out more about Modern Apprenticeships with East Ayrshire Council and local employers, please phone 01563 503000, email employbility@east-ayrshire.gov.uk , www.eastayrshireworks.co.uk https://www.ayrshire-chamber.org/

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