SamShines originated from an understanding that the many parts of supporting people with alternative needs are often disconnected.
Sharron Haggett, the founder of SamShines, has grown up witnessing the difficulties that are experienced by people with different needs and disabilities. Sharron also understands firsthand the heartache felt by families and the frustrations of dedicated professionals who struggle to blend varied needs and services.
Sharron’s sister Samantha, was born with significant disabilities. Only a year apart in age, growing up for Sharron meant that ‘typical’ was actually watching the agonizing struggles, heartaches, and family fears as Samantha endured seizures, surgeries and isolating stares.
Jackie, their mother, juggled to offer the perceived ‘typical’ balance to Sharron’s childhood. When Sharron started attending a weekly youth group, it became obvious that Samantha and her school friends needed something similar. In 1978 Jackie established a youth group for children with disabilities. Friday nights were fabulous times for the members to engage, for parents to chat or take time away, and for volunteer peers from the community to lend a ‘Helping-Hand’ with typical activities. They enjoyed listening or dancing to music, playing ping-pong or games, talking, whispering, giggling about the relevant stories that they wanted to share. The group even started taking day-trips to explore some of the fun places that might otherwise be inaccessible or difficult for families in their situation to enjoy.
That same youth group, Helping Hands, www.khhclub.org.uk, is still serving those needs, and it was the experience of growing up to understand alternative needs that taught Sharron to see the divide. Experiencing life without a voice, without mobility, without sight or hearing, without the ability to easily process or express information, without limitless access to daily experiences that limits ‘typical’.
Fast Forward-Sharron’s career path started in business management with some rewarding experiences, to include finance. However, she repeatedly found herself pulled to support those with individualized needs because of her alternative perspectives. Sharron transitioned through experiences as a one-to-one aide, classroom assistant (para-professional), general education/inclusion teacher, special education teacher, assistive technology specialist and special education administrator. It was her lessons within these varied professional roles, her personal family experiences, her volunteer interactions and professional development that steered Sharron to establish SamShines.
Aside from her sister Samantha, Sharron has been influenced by many incredible individuals. During a pivotal year in her career, she had the opportunity to meet a determined young man called Samuel and share the frustrations of his family who just wanted him to have a voice. Despite their difficulties and frustrations, Samantha, Samuel and so many others constantly share their extraordinary ability to ‘shine’ through daily adversities.
Sharron is committed to ensure that SamShines is a resource for accessible lives.