A ‘pioneering’ Andover community hub has thanked volunteers and donors for their help as it looks to grow.

Charity More Education launched the Koala Community Hub earlier this year, with founder Tori Rist setting up the hub to support those with conditions such as autism and ADHD by providing specialist support for their needs. Ahead of the planned launch of a special school, she thanked everyone who has helped her get to this point, but said there was still more work to do.

“It’s brilliant,” she told the Advertiser. “We couldn’t have done it without them supporting us. It’s allowed us to get it moving, but we still need to get funding in the longer term.

“I’m working a full-time job and it’s another job to run the hub, so we’re hoping we can get some funding to support that.”

Tori was recently given grant funding by Test Valley Borough Council (TVBC), as well as funding from Sovereign Housing, who gave the hub a £1,000 grant towards launching a teens group.

Stevie Chadwick, community development officer at Sovereign, said: “I am really excited to be supporting the group and hope that this will create a safe space for people to come together and connect, creating a sense of community and belonging for those who may be feeling isolated."

The hub launched earlier this year, and offers support for neurodiverse adults, parents and teens at present, with the possibility of more in the future. Neurodivergent is a term used to refer to a wide range of variation in perception, attention and learning in the brain that differs from what is considered typical by society at large.

As the group expands, it has relocated to the Bridge, where it is able to offer greater facilities to its clients.

“The Bridge are amazing,” Tori said. “They’ve given us an additional room at no cost to be a sensory room. We’ve got a large room for activities but now also a sensory room too. Once we get funding, we hope to put more equipment in it, and if anyone is feeling overwhelmed it’s somewhere to go that’s safe and then hopefully come back to the activity afterwards.”

The group is hosting fundraising events to help it hit its fundraising goals, with Tori’s daughter Florence helping to put together ‘Flo’s Fun Day’ at the Queen Charlotte Inn on September 26. Following on from her bake sale earlier this year, there will be raffles, stalls and games to help raise money for the group.

This community focus is a big part of the hub’s ethos, with Tori saying: “We’ve got six volunteers already and there’s people contacting me about volunteering, and I think it will be a really community-led hub which is what we wanted it to be. We’re trying to create a blueprint that can be replicated across the country.

“It’s really exciting now, parents have been saying there’s nothing like us in Andover. There’s no one in the country doing what we’re doing and we’re really proud of that.”

Looking further into the future, Tori hopes to launch the Andover Small School, a special school that is planned to operate at local authority cost, and offer a lifeline for parents who may otherwise have to use more expensive private schools.

Anyone who would like to volunteer with the hub, or offer baked goods and raffle prizes for the fun day, should contact: tori@moreeducation.co.uk