Welcome to a little blog about Building Circles in Gloucestershire!
We are a small charity, dedicated to finding friends for socially isolated adults with Learning Disabilities who live in the Gloucestershire area. Can you imagine how your life would be without your friends in it? If the only people that you saw on a day to day basis were people who were paid to be there?
When I think of all of the happy times in my life, things like running about on the beach and making sandcastles like I was a kid again, sitting in the park on a sunny day and chatting with an ice-cream or even just relaxing on the sofa in front of a film, the running theme has always been MY FRIENDS. I really can't imagine how my life would be without them, they have been the bedrock of my life, my support when I'm down and the people who listen to my bad jokes and still laugh even though I know they are terrible.
Take them away and I'd be really very lost.
Unfortunately, this is a reality for many people with Learning Disabilities. Difficulty communicating, mobility issues, health problems and sometimes simply a lack of self-esteem can cause people to become lonely and isolated. There isn't anyone there on the beach and the space on the sofa is empty. That's where we come in really!
We find some wonderful people to volunteer to become a friend to an isolated person with a Learning Disability. We call our clients with LD our Focus People. They are the focus of what we do here and we think they should have a nicer title than "Client", I hope you agree!
We give training and support to our volunteers and introduce them to somebody who has been pointed out to us as being particularly lonely or are in danger of becoming so. Friendships are all about common ground so we take great care to match people up who have things in common, whether it's a personality type, or a fondness for listening to Maroon 5 too loudly.
The lovely folks at ivo (I'm waving at you right now even if you can't see that I am) have a little bit of prize money to give away to ivo members who can do something amazing in the community, and I think what our volunteers achieve is pretty blooming amazing!
One of the highlights of what we do here at Building Circles is we run social events for all of our volunteers and Focus People to get together and interact as a group. It's a costly affair but people put their souls in to it wholeheartedly, not to mention their backs! People bring along food for the buffet table and we book out a groovy venue with lots of space and then we put on some entertainment for everyone to have a bit of fun. We have live music for people to sing and dance to, or a magician, or skittles.......just something to make it a lively and worthwhile experience. I guarantee that at that moment in time, it is the happiest room in England (laughing at my appalling dancing is of course optional).
Now think back to what I said earlier about having nobody in your life. What a huge difference it is between having nobody and having a room full of people who all want the same as you do, just to have the opportunity to ENJOY YOURSELF.
Nobody should have to feel like there is no happiness in their lives, everyone has a right to enjoy themselves, somebody's disability is no excuse to not give them the opportunity to have what everybody else has. You can sense me getting on my soapbox about this can't you.
Our events are held local to the Cheltenham Gloucester area (as it's pretty central so easier for people to find) and if we were granted the money from ivo we could use it to put on a social event to remember! Just think of it! Music, Magic, Crafty things to make and do, food fit for Sir Simon of Cowell, and a way to make somebody smile who really needs it. The thing is, it's not just our focus people who benefit from it, the volunteers get so much out of making these friendships, the Carers of our focus people get a little respite and also have the opportunity to come along to the socials as well, the staff who work at Building Circles get to experience first hand what all the slaving away in the office is for.
This thing? It's win win.
So, yes, that's us. Tiny and underfunded, but determined to make people's lives better.
I know working here makes my life better.