A charity you should know about

A charity you should know about

KEEN Provides a service to people all over Oxford

KEEN Oxford is a youth-led organisation who run a variety of inclusive activities throughout Oxfordshire. For more than 30 years, they have helped to make disabled children and adults feel a part of a community. Even during lockdowns and throughout periods of shielding, they have been able to offer virtual activities to keep individuals engaged and feeling a part of something.

We at Brookes Sport are eager to find opportunities for our students and staff members to give back to the local community through offering their time and enthusiasm. We reached out to KEEN to find out more about what their mission is, how much the organisation has grown, the impact it has on lives, especially during this period of isolation, and how Brookes students and the wider community can get involved.

What is the mission of KEEN?

“KEEN wants to create a world in which disabled people have an equal opportunity to their peers to be meaningfully included in their communities. Our mission has three main parts: to create inclusive opportunities, to support other organisations to be more inclusive, and to promote inclusion to change perceptions of disability.”

People dancing

How much has KEEN grown in recent years and where is it heading?

“Over the last few years, KEEN has expanded to offer a varied and exciting programme of activities for young people, from sports, to arts and drama, and even kayaking sessions! We’ve grown our community and got lots of fabulous volunteers onboard, and created a virtual timetable to see everyone through lockdown. Going forwards, KEEN has lots of very exciting things in the pipeline on a local and national level. On one hand, we are growing our community work across Oxfordshire, with a brand new buddy scheme creating 1-1 to friendships and supporting our young people to get out in the community. We are also starting up Inclusive Oxfordshire, a movement bringing together local organisations to be at the forefront of efforts to make our society more inclusive. Alongside this, we are developing our reach nationwide, to bring our vision of inclusion and online programme of events to young people right across the UK.”

People posing with a dog

What impact do you think that KEEN has had in the local community?

“We’ve had lots of our participants saying that KEEN has been a lifeline over lockdown and the current chaos. For everyone who has been stuck at home all day, seeing the faces of your friends and coming together for some fun really does make your day. Our 1-1 buddy scheme is making a real difference as well, with lots of the young people with buddies so excited to have a new friend and someone else to chat to. One of our participants spends the morning deciding what to share with his buddy, and I’ve been sent so many lovely smiley photos of our buddies meeting up!”

Someone having a video call on a computer

How can Brookes students, staff and the local community get involved to help?

“There are lots of exciting ways for Brookes students, staff and the local community to get involved. At the moment, the two main ways to get involved are as either a community buddy or session buddy. As a community buddy, you’ll be matched 1-1 with a disabled young person in the local area, based on shared interests, to meet up and head out into the community, whether for a walk in the park, sports, shopping, a trip to the museum, whatever really. During lockdown, the buddy programme is operating virtually only, so you don’t even need to leave your home to help out! We’ve also got our virtual KEEN programme, which you can support as a session buddy, where you join a session like chat rooms, choir, drama, our very own KEEN’s Got Talent, yoga and so on, and support and chat to the participants.”

If you would like to learn more about KEEN and how to get involved, please head to the KEEN Website, they are always looking for buddies to support local individuals.

We are also eager to hear from you and your experiences, so please get in touch to tell us your story using the hashtag #BrookesSportDisabilityMonth or by emailing us at sport@brookes.ac.uk.

If you're interested in trying out our facilities after lockdown please visit Brookes Sport for details about our facilities.