Children with learning and behavioural issues are benefiting from staying with their families in new tipis on special summer camps near Melton.
Three of the striking conical tents, which are associated with indigenous people in North America, have been erected at the New Leaf Triangle Outdoor Learning Centre in a field between Goadby Marwood and Chadwell.
Youngsters with disabilities including autism, mental health conditions, learning difficulties and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) have made good progress after staying there in a therapeutic rural environment.
They interact with horses and small animals, play sports, do craftwork and spend quality time with their parents and siblings.
Lorraine Squires Shaw, who founded the not-for-profit centre, said: “The tipis hold up to six family members and the children love staying in them.
“Parents who come to the camps say there is nowhere else like this for them to go and stay at.
“One family who visited said it was the first time they had been able to relax in years.”
The summer camps with the tipi accommodation have been offered thanks to support by Leicestershire County Council’s Shire Community Solutions and the company Mars. Other supporters include the Leicestershire and Rutland Community Foundation, the Horse Boy Foundation which has given grants for the camping project and family sessions and R and R Country and Horses with Attitude which have sponsored the centre.
Its aims are to promote family cohesion and prevent break-ups, help vulnerable youngsters take up educational activities, encourage their social inclusion, as well as supporting carers.
Mrs Shaw said: “The family camps are for children with complex needs. It’s a safe environment where they can interact and spend time together as a family.
“We had one boy aged 14 who hadn’t written a word for years and had several issues but when he had settled in he was smiling and talking.
“Another boy who was 15 had been excluded from school but really benefited from being with us and he is now doing vocational work skills.
“It’s challenging work for us and it wears you out but by the end of the day you really feel you have made a difference.”
More details about the centre, which is also available for schools to use, are available online at www.newleaftrianglecic.co.uk or on its dedicated Facebook page.