Effingham County Navigator Team provides friendship, support and recreation to families with children with disabilities.
When a child has a disability, fear can isolate the family at home.
A potential meltdown is often looming. Navigating the world with a wheelchair or feeding tube can be intimidating. The world can be an unwelcoming place for the family.
“We help families with children who have disabilities enlarge their safety zone,” says Angela Jackson, vice president of the Effingham County Navigator Team (ECNT), a non-profit dedicated to supporting families. “We help them feel safe when they go out in the community where they can participate in activities where they wouldn’t normally feel comfortable.”
In 2010, Pauline Shaw and two other mothers of children with disabilities, founded ECNT. The nonprofit provides a safe, structured setting for recreational activities for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, plus emotional and social support for all of the members of the family.
Free programs include recreational basketball, soccer, bowling and baseball; monthly support groups with childcare provided; family fun days; parent night outs; state and local advocacy; and help finding resources. Most of the children have never had the opportunity to participate in these recreational activities. Since its inception, ECNT has helped more than 60 families.
“The parents come to monthly support groups and both the children and parents make friends,” says Angela. “After attending the meetings, parents talk about how they sleep better at night and a weight is lifted off of their shoulders.”
The experience of one 25-year-old participant demonstrates the power of community support. ECNT helped the family find information to get their child an autism diagnosis. The diagnosis enabled him to get necessary community resources such as job coaching. Within a year of coming to ECNT, he met his first girlfriend, got his first job and started driving. His whole world blossomed.
“This group has helped me to learn so much about how to help my son,” says one ECNT participant in a Facebook review. “It has been a place to vent, a place to turn for help and ideas, and a place to connect with people who get it.”
Cingo means to surround and secure — to protect. That’s what we do. And we have a lot of respect for those who take it upon themselves to make protection a part of what they do, too. That’s why we’ve launched Circle & Shield, our award to a member of the community who helps make the world a better place, a safer place.