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Ross-shire mum camps out to raise funds and awareness for Highland special needs centre

By Staff Reporter

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Rona Matheson has been camping in her back garden to raise money for the Haven Appeal.
Rona Matheson has been camping in her back garden to raise money for the Haven Appeal.

A ROSS-SHIRE mum spent five nights under canvas in her garden for the Haven Appeal which plans to build a pioneering centre for children and young people with severe learning disabilities.

Rona Matheson said the added isolation and distress faced by them and their carers due to the coronavirus lockdown prompted her challenge.

The centre, which will include respite flats, a specialist play centre and community coffee shop, was recently given planning permission.

Mrs Matheson, who is the appeal’s community fundraiser, lives in Wards Drive, Muir of Ord with husband Ian and daughters Anna, Talitha, Elmarie and Sarah, who has a rare form of epilepsy and complex needs.

Sarah (18) had to return home from a specialist assessment in London – following a six-year wait for it – the week before lockdown.

“We found ourselves at home with no care plan or carers for Sarah,” Mrs Matheson said.

“I am very aware of the plight of carers for children and young adults with complex needs.

“Isolation and lack of social activities, even at normal times, is painful but now in lockdown, it is so painful and confusing and carers are without help, support and respite.

“My day is now full of keeping Sarah occupied and managing her health issues which include overnight gastric feeds and her complex epilepsy which demands care most nights.”

She is in contact via social media with other carers and parents isolated with their young ones with complex needs.

“It is extremely difficult not being able to access normal routine and then to have respite cut, which was for most only a little but a lifeline, has been distressing for so many,” she said.

Mrs Matheson said, like many small charities, the Haven Appeal has had to stop its activities and events.

“Also, we are not providing a key service yet so no help can be given at this time,” she said. “This and the plight of carers, whom the Haven Appeal aims to help, moved me into action.

“Carers are often not part of a team to be cheering one another along. They are isolated doing long shifts night and day – lifting, nursing, occupational therapy and physiotherapy, teaching and play work, cooking, cleaning all in a 24-hour period.

“This time will pass but I felt challenged as to what I could be doing to help carers and the appeal.”

Although not a seasoned camper, she invited friends and family to sponsor her to sleep in a small pop-up tent.

“Sarah joined me the first night but gastric feeding is not the best in a tent so one night was enough!” she said.

Although she found 4am was the coldest time and felt she was sleeping on a board, she enjoyed being woken by the birds and was fascinated by the starry skies.

The appeal, launched by the Elsie Normington Foundation, has raised £1.2 million towards its £3.5 million target.

The Haven Centre will be built on a derelict site in Inverness’s Murray Road.

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