A COUPLE from Wantage has raised more than £60,000 to start a new charity for children and adults with learning disabilities after their autistic daughter took an attempt on her life.

Mark Currie, who runs a martial arts school called SMAFO Oxford in Didcot, and his wife Cristina wanted to provide support through martial arts to help people like their daughter.

The new charity, which is called The Hive, will be based in Wantage and will provide free martial arts workshops including for mobility, coordination and health and wellbeing.

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It will also be a place for people to socialise and relax and will be self-funded by the memberships from a new branch of the SMAF school which will be starting in the same building as the charity.

Oxford Mail: Mark Currie with his wife Cristina and children Mitchell and Cidnie.Mark Currie with his wife Cristina and children Mitchell and Cidnie. (Image: n/a)

A total of £68,000 has been raised through a 24-hour sparathon and charity fight night as well as general donations. The funds are enough for building work to take place in the new location as well as almost a year of rent and new equipment.

It is hoped the doors will open in January 2023. The non-profit organisation will be open from Monday to Friday, 9am to 4pm for children and adults with learning disabilities, autism and additional needs.

It will operate as a regular gym outside of these hours.

“It’s amazing,” said Mr Currie, who is a 4th Dan Black Belt. “We would have never reached that target without the amazing support from our centre in Didcot.

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“They’ve been absolutely unbelievable. We had approximately 20 people volunteer their time to help with the events which is incredible.

“Building work has now started in the new premise, the majority of the first year of rent can be paid and we’ve paid for new equipment.

“The landlord has been so accommodating and helpful as well.”

Oxford Mail: The new charity will be called The Hive.The new charity will be called The Hive.

Mr and Mrs Currie came out with the idea for the charity after their autistic daughter was diagnosed with severe mental health issues and took an attempt on her life.

“It was really hard,” said Mr Currie “It makes you re-evaluate everything in life. The important thing for us is that she had a voice but it wasn’t being heard.

“This charity is about giving them a sense of being and a voice. We’ve worked with a lot of children on the spectrum and the parents have said they just can’t believe the changes.

“Martial arts makes them a lot more confident in how they carry themselves and they celebrate the fact that they are different.”

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As well as the martial arts charity, there will also be a café ‘safe space’ for parents and guardians of the children using the free service to be able to talk openly and seek support.

“It still hasn’t hit home yet,” said Mr Currie. “The project is only as good as the people we support so our next focus is getting people through the door who we can help.”


Read more from this author

This story was written by Gee Harland. She joined the team in 2022 as a senior multimedia reporter.

Gee covers Wallingford, Wantage and Didcot.

Get in touch with her by emailing: Gee.harland@newsquest.co.uk

Follow her on Twitter @Geeharland

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