I first met this amazing group of people about 6 years ago. At the time, I was renting a flat in the same neighbourhood and would see everyone out and about getting involved in the community.
I’d recently completed a degree in psychology. During my studies I’d volunteered in a school with young people with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) which I really enjoyed.
However, after I finished university, I’d taken a desk-based job working in a different field. I was still passionate about trying to connect to people in our community who have learning disabilities even if it wasn’t my full-time job. If we hadn’t been living nearby, I wouldn’t necessarily have known about the people that lived there. I would see their comings and goings and wondered if I could donate my time to support them in any way, and so we set up a visit.
I was immediately struck by how welcoming and friendly everybody was, considering I was in their home. Some of them have lived there for 25 years or so. They were like a family and were supported by such lovely members of staff. As with any group of people in your community, your connection gets stronger the more shared experiences you have together.
After 6 years of regular visits, that include going out to the pub, the theatre, going for walks, I’ve had some great shared experiences. You do build up those relationships. And I really value the people that I spend time with. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t keep going.
It’s just a really nice way to spend a couple of hours, doing something different from my day job. I don’t think people on the outside understand how much I get from donating my time. I usually go on Friday after I finish work, and everyone is so pleased to see me. Who wouldn’t feel happy with that? I’ve started bringing Bernie, my dog, who I think is welcomed even more than me. We all look forward to it.
During the lockdown, when I couldn’t visit, I made sure I kept in touch. I would still call and check in and we’d chat about how their week had been. We had some socially distanced meet ups in the garden as the restrictions lifted. It just felt important to let them know I hadn’t disappeared anywhere.
Many of my friends and family know about my weekly visits and my strong connection to this amazing group of people that Certitude supports. That’s why, when we were getting married, it felt like a good opportunity to raise some money for the people I care about. I wanted them to be able to decide what they wanted to do with the money too. People can be so generous with wedding gifts, so we gave our guests the opportunity to donate instead of buying us presents. Because of the covid restrictions, it had been a long time since they’d all had fun together in a big group. Like all of us, the current economic climate meant that they’ve not had as much money to spend on the things that they are passionate about doing, so it felt great to give them a lump sum and for them to decide what they wanted to spend it on. I love the fact that they decided to have a big day out together.
They were excited, telling me “We’re going on a boat trip”. I was away, so couldn’t go with them. But I heard all about it and was sent some pictures of the fun things they got up to. Some of them went for a manicure, they had a fancy Italian meal and went for a walk, did some shopping. They really made the most of it.
With the restrictions lifted now, everyone seems to be getting back to their busy lives again.
Doing fun stuff out in the community. Some of them have got busier social lives than I have. Geeta enjoys baking and taking her cakes around to people in the community, including the local fire station. When the local fire fighters heard about the 12 Miles of Christmas Challenge for Certitude’s community projects, they signed up, knowing already how money for baking, gardening and fun activities are keeping people like Geeta connected in our communities.
What’s next? I usually go with the gang for their Christmas lunch out which is always fun. I’m so looking forward to that. Also, my husband is planning to run the Ealing Half next year to raise some more money for Certitude.
Right now, the most popular thing that everyone wants to do when I visit on a Friday is go to the pub. As long as I bring Bernie. After 6 years, it’s still an enjoyable end to my week.
There are many ways that people can get involved with the work we do at Certitude. Whether you’d like to donate your time, fundraise, become a corporate donor or donate to our Support a Skill campaign, we’re open to your ideas. Visit our Get Involved page to find out more.