A Derry project aimed at helping young people with disabilities to form friendships and explore social opportunities is currently the star of UK wide advertising campaign for a high profile charity.

The ‘Bud Club’ at the Play Trail features in the BBC Children in Need advert which has been played in cinemas and in prime time TV slots.

The 20 second clip took 14 hours to shoot and features Bud Club members enjoying themselves and developing their social and communication skills.

Gavin Melly, Inclusion Officer at the Play Trail, said the club was established five years ago to help young people with disabilities to enjoy a social life.

The club, which is based in Northside Shopping Centre, meets twice a week and focuses on the personal development of its members.

“Young people with disabilities are at a greater risk of social exclusion, marginalisation and isolation because they feel they are not being listened to, have no friends, no social life, find it difficult to do things other young people their own age participate in such as, shopping, going to the bowling alley, cinema and attending local youth clubs,” explained Mr Melly.

The 78 members all have different needs but they all share the same desire to socialise like other young people.

“Bud Club members needs range from wheelchair users, to young people with autism, young people with a learning and physical disabilities, young people with no verbal communication, young people with visual impairments and young people with complex medical needs,” said Mr Melly.

“These young people with disabilities are made feel they have no contribution to make, and may feel unsafe, bullied, harassed and excluded and have limited choice of services and are not being involved in decision making relating to their own needs.”

The Bud Club is user led and plans its activities I response to the needs of its members.

“Whatever they come up with we will do,” said Mr Melly.

“We want to provide these young people with the same opportunities as any other young person.

“When the club started we asked the young people about their lives they said we go to school on a yellow bus and come home on a yellow bus and that is it.”

“In some cases their parents’ fears become a barrier to leaving them with someone else.

Having little or no social interaction with young people without disabilities within a youth work setting also isolates a lot of young people with disabilities from mainstream services.

So the Bud Club works to alleviate this helping its members get the support they need to attend mainstream youth groups.

“It’s all about choice and fostering positive experiences,” added Mr Melly.

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