Our Community Champions: Where are they now? Our CEO, Melanie Hawman, talked to our Community Champions to find out about their progress since they joined our popular training programmes three years ago... "Walking through the offices of our charity this morning was really inspiring. My role as CEO means I have busy work days; full of meetings, funding proposals and admin. But now and again I like to have a stroll and talk to the people that are helping our service users, face to face, every day. As I walked past our specially equipped, medicalised, fitness suite, an assisted circuits class was taking place. I could see the care and attention that was being lavished by BIG Health and Fitness’s Graham and Vanessa (a wheelchair user herself) to help a person who was determined to get on to the equipment to exercise his body and mind. It was a humbling sight and involved support from professionals and family just to achieve this small act. I’m not sure how many turns of the pedals he managed this week but am sure that next week, with his determined attitude, he will manage even more. Next stop was the “Art for Wellbeing” Course, taking place in one of the community hub rooms. It was a haven of creativity with each of the learners bringing their projects to the table. It was wonderfully decorative, glittery and felt so peaceful. Once I introduced myself, the learners were keen to share their experiences, both good (90%) and less good (10%). I always like it when this happens as I go away with a few action points and learnings, but plenty of feel good feedback for the staff who make this happen. Then last but not least, I dropped in by invitation to PHEW, a support group for people who need peer support to manage their emotional wellbeing due to having or caring for someone who has a physical disability. I was pleased to find five of the founder members of PHEW who undertook our Community Champion training called “The Way Ahead”, which ended 3 years ago. The group has 12 regular members and is open to anyone wishing to join them. I asked them individually what they had been doing in life since the training and was absolutely delighted to hear of their achievements and the role that the group had played in that. Central to the group is S, who has been working tirelessly and passionately to get the needs of parent-carers heard in her local authority area. She attended Parliament to give a speech on the needs of parents whose dependants are no longer managed by Children’s Social Services as they reach 18 and yet do not fit the criteria for Adult Social Service support. This transition has been problematic for many years. S is also part of the recently formed NHS Milton Keynes, Beds & Luton Sustainable Transformation Partnership Co-production Group. Although unsuccessful, she applied to be a local councillor so that she could be more influential in having a voice on health and social care issues in the local authority. From our Community Champion training we also had T, who went on to attend the Support Into Employment training which is funded by SEMLEP with European Social and lottery funds. T then gained a part time job as a personal assistant for S who was also attending the meeting this morning, along with T’s husband - P. P is profoundly deaf and had benefited from both the training course and the ongoing support from PHEW. T has an interest in the voice of people with lived experience of both disability and caring in employment. She has also represented The Disability Resource Centre in a study conducted by NHS England with regard to how GP’s viewed the patient and used integrated services. T is one of a number of people that will be talking about their Support Into Employment study tomorrow at the celebration event hosted by Luton Council at Marston Moretaine Forest Centre, which should be another great day! Amazingly T also finds time to volunteer for the NHS, making teas and coffees for patients at the hospital eye clinic; and has just finished training to become a meal time assistant. Another person who draws strength from PHEW is A, who gives back to the national charity which champions his particular challenging condition. He regularly shares his views and experience. Then there is U who is a carer for her husband who has a brain injury. She is very active in trying to find out sources of support and raise awareness of this often invisible condition and the role that carers play. Carers support is available from Carers Central for those who live in Luton and Carers in Bedfordshire for those that live in Central Bedfordshire". Find out about our free workshops and training courses The Disability Resource Centre is a charity and also a highly regarded training facility, running workshops and short courses for people across Bedfordshire and Luton. See all our training courses and workshops. Read what people say about our training programmes: “Brilliant course, very impressed. Tutor was great”. “This workshop made a huge difference to my daily life” “Understanding a lot more about myself has helped me to be positive and confident” “I had a positive feeling after attending”. "I actually took on two part-time jobs, while on the ‘Support into Employment’ course" "I got the job, which also fits in with my other (voluntary) commitments". Free workshops to help you be the best you can be Our team here in Dunstable is here to support you. Come for a chat to see how we can help you then choose the workshops that will suit you best. Please call us on 01582 470900 or email us to find out more.