Suspended, expelled and excluded. That was at junior & secondary schools. Bullied, misunderstood and not wanted at home. Looking for fights, getting into gangs, selling and taking drugs was a daily routine.
It seemed like the only thing I was good at; the only thing that gave me credibility. At least with my mates I was wanted.
Not the best start I think you’d agree. This led to me being kicked out of my mum’s home and sofa surfing at mates until that went wrong too – it always does when you’re living on someone else’s turf.
I moved to what seemed like better times moving in with my brother first in Mundesley and then to Yarmouth after. But, my brother had a temper and was forgetful… so forgot to pay the rent and assaulted the agent when they came to our door asking for it.
After five years of wandering from one disastrous home to another (which included more friends’ sofas), I tried Empanda in Cromer. My thoughts were it’s better than living on the streets… but only just! However, this has not been the case.
Here I’ve been able to have a foundation from which I can build. In the past I’ve lived with friends and family and relied on them to keep a roof over my head. Now I can take the lead on my own surroundings and it’s more stable and more dependent on me rather than others. I didn’t think a hostel would give me the control over my own destiny but it has.
Don’t get me wrong – there are lots of issues that I need help with, but here I am dealing with them because I’ve got a base to go from; and because I’ve got people here who can point me in the right direction for help. When you haven’t got a home of your own, it’s always there hovering over you, a constant insecurity and worry; a constant reminder that your problem is somebody else’s too. It’s a weight that’s hard to put across in words, but in the past I found myself over-compensating for this, perhaps I don’t have to anymore.
Anthony – August 2017
(Update: Anthony has now successfully moved into his own flat from our Young People’s Services Project in Cromer)
Jim has been coming to the Day Centre for about twelve years, which was just after his wife passed away. Jim had cared for his wife, who had dementia, for many years at home until she went into a care home after he could no longer give her the care she needed. Jim used to visit the care home every day thereafter to sit with his wife until her sad passing.
Jim had an accident many years ago, which left him with very little sight. Because of this, he was finding it hard to get out and meet people and it was then that he was referred to the day centre.
Jim, who is 98, lives on his own. Whilst he has a regular carer, life for Jim is a lonely one as he is confined to his four walls.
The day centre has given Jim a new lease of life. He attends Monday to Friday, and travels courtesy of the minibus service. Whilst he enjoys the support he receives from the care team, he particularly welcomes the companionship that is so vitally important to him. He joins in with all the activities and it’s a pleasure to see him so happy.
As his health has deteriorated even further over the years, he is ever more dependent on the minibus to bring him to and from the centre. Without it, he would be extremely isolated with no means of getting to and from the place he loves and where he has made so many friends.
Jim thoroughly enjoys local trips out for cups of tea and the occasional trip to the seaside but without the minibus, Jim would be unable to go anywhere as the only time he leaves home now, is on the day centre minibus to see his friends.
When you speak to Jim his face lights up. He told us, “if I couldn’t come to the day centre during the week and without the support of the staff, I would more than likely have been in a care home a long time ago.”
Patrick has been coming to the Day Centre two days a week for about two and a half years. He was a qualified engineer and had many interests in his younger days, including gardening, clay pigeon shooting and holidays abroad. Unfortunately, because of ill health, he took early retirement. Patrick has had many illnesses over the years and has lived with Type 1 Diabetes for over 30 years, during which time he has undergone many surgical procedures, including amputations, which have affected his mobility. He now walks with the aid of a walking frame but cannot walk any distance.
Patrick lives at home with his wife and started coming to the Day Centre following concerns the effect his ailing health was having on her as a result of being his home carer 24/7. Patrick told us that his wife is a great socialiser and is extremely creative and active in their local community and that he was afraid she would lose her independence, which in turn would have a negative impact on her emotional wellbeing.
Patrick feels that being picked up in the minibus and coming to the Day Centre two days a week is enabling his wife to fulfil her independence through her activities and the pastimes she loves, without having to worry about his safety or wellbeing, which makes him happy.
He is a very active member at the Day Centre, is on the Amenities Committee, bringing many good ideas to help improve the service we provide. He also supports the Centre by regularly donating items to sell to raise funds for activities and entertainment.
Patrick has made many friendships and during his visits, he particularly enjoys his chats with fellow members and is very welcoming to anyone new coming into the group, ensuring they have a positive and enjoyable experience.
He always joins in with activities and is a regular participant in the competitions run in our monthly newsletter. He is appreciative of the staff and all they do. Knowing they are always there to support him, particularly on his ‘down’ days, gives Patrick great comfort in the knowledge he can voice his concerns and anxieties, without worrying his wife.
One of his daughters lives in America and Patrick loves sharing his experiences with her through the monthly newsletter. She has even contributed an article.
Patrick is proud to be a member of Brandon Day Centre and told us, “Coming to the Day Centre means everything to me. I enjoy seeing my friends and it gives my wife a well-earned break knowing that I am safe and happy.”
My name is Sandra and I live in Supported Housing for adults with a learning difficulty in Attleborough. I was lucky to find a home with three friends that I have known for many years.
About three years ago, my sister decided that she wanted to be my Deputy, appointed by the Court, to manage my money. I didn’t want this because since living in Attleborough, I had learnt to look after my own money and bank account.
I told my Carer [House Leader] that I didn’t want my sister to take control of my money and she helped me to fill in a form for the Court of Protection to tell them this.
My sister would not listen so my Carer helped me to get a solicitor.
I told my solicitor what I wanted and why I felt I didn’t need my sister to look after my money. I told her about the work I do at Onward Enterprises [day services] where I help in the office with the wages, filing, answering the phone and taking messages, as well as working in the Factory.
I told her that I had learnt many things, even how to use my debit card on my own. All the things I didn’t do when I lived at home with family.
I had to go to a meeting with both my sisters and their solicitor and my House Leader and Service Manger came with me. At the meeting, I told my sisters that I wanted to look after my own money. Even after all this, my sister still tried to be my Deputy.
My solicitor helped me to find someone to be my Counsel, as the case went to Court. I met with my Counsel and told her what I wanted. I went to Court twice and had many meetings with my solicitor. I asked my Carer to come with me and she supported me at all of them, as well as going to Court.
At the last Court meeting, I got to speak to the Judge without my sisters being present. I told the Judge what I wanted, and I answered questions about where I live and what I do. The Judge agreed with me and said it was not in my “Best Interest” to have my sister as my Deputy as I appeared to be doing very well by myself.
I was very happy that I won. I feel very proud for being brave enough to stand up for myself.
Having left residential care in Thetford, Tilly was keen to live a more independent life and felt that supported living would give her the independence she so desperately craved. Whilst waiting for the right opportunity to come along, Tilly went to stay with her aunt.
Having heard about a supported living vacancy in Attleborough, Tilly visited the property several times with her social worker and key workers from Attleborough Hub (where Tilly attends three days a week) to see if this would suit her needs and to meet her potential housemate Patsy, who is already being supported by the Empanda learning difficulties team at Oak Trees in Attleborough.
Tilly fell in love with the property and the Oak Trees team worked closely with her Social Worker to facilitate the move as soon as possible.
Whilst arrangements were being put in place, unfortunately, Tilly became very ill and was admitted to hospital. Tilly was born with Hydrocephalus and the two shunts she had fitted in her head had become infected. Her stay in hospital meant the move had to be put on hold for just over a month.
Thankfully she is now fully recovered and following a short holiday with her aunt and two cousins, with help from the Oak Trees team, Tilly finally moved into her new home on 5 August.
I caught up with Tilly just a few weeks after she moved in to find out a little bit about moving in day and how she was settling in.
Tilly explained that moving in was a hectic experience but with help from Debra Bray, Services Manager at Oak Trees, her five bags were soon unpacked and it wasn’t long before she was feeling at home and enjoying her new independence.
She told me that her housemate Patsy was a lovely lady and that she knew her before they became housemates as they had done pantomimes together in the past.
With support from the learning difficulties team, Tilly is learning the skills necessary to live more independently, including budgeting; cooking; day to day chores, including how to use a washing machine, cleaning and ironing; gardening; paying bills; opening a bank account; looking for any part-time or voluntary employment; and generally getting used to the area she lives in and sharing a tenancy with Patsy.
Tilly is able to go out into the community and has been accompanied into town while she gets used to her surroundings and understands the risks associated with going out on her own.
Her favourite tasks include washing up, hanging washing on the line and housework, and her least favourite are weeding and mowing the lawn because of her fear of insects. Tilly is also becoming more proficient with her cookery skills and takes it in turn with Patsy to prepare the evening meal. But mealtime is more than just cooking. Careful consideration goes into preparing the weekly shopping list and menu planning each Tuesday, ready for the supermarket shop the following day. Tilly is rather partial to chicken, rice and plenty of garlic, so these are shopping list regulars.
As well as learning new life skills, Tilly enjoys spending time on her hobbies which include knitting, adult colouring books and embroidery.
Tilly attends the Attleborough Hub three days a week where she enjoys various activities and outings including the ’29 club’, where she spends time doing crafts and music; coffee mornings and indoor sports. Fridays at the Hub are Tilly’s favourite, when she spends time at the local supermarket doing the weekly ‘recycling’ run, followed by a trip to McDonald’s for a McFlurry and then on to the weekly disco where she gets the chance to take the stage to sing along to her much-loved One Direction.
When asked about her aspirations for the future, Tilly replied, “I’d like to live here for a few years to gain new skills, but I’d love to move in with my boyfriend at some point in the future.”
We all wish Tilly lots of happiness in her new home as she starts her journey towards independent living.
Our volunteers’ stories
Alice has been an active volunteer for about 34 years since moving to Brandon and over the years, has held two or three voluntary roles at a time.
She first started volunteering at Brandon Day Centre when it opened in 2000 and stayed for about six years before leaving to take on a new voluntary role at a local Seniors Club. She returned back to the Day Centre on a regular basis about a year ago, and now volunteers once a week with our members.
“I wanted to become a volunteer because I needed something extra to do”, says Alice. “I find most people are fascinating if you give them the chance to talk. I particularly enjoy that sense of achievement when you have been able to help or support someone. After all, most people can do with a helping hand sometimes.”
When asked what a difference volunteering has made to Alice’s life, she told us, “Volunteering and keeping busy makes me happy. It is uplifting and improves my general wellbeing.”
“My advice to anyone considering volunteering would be, don’t sit and think about it, find out what opportunities are out there and see what you can do to help.”
Janet has been volunteering at Brandon Day Centre since March 2001, which makes her our longest serving volunteer. She spends time at the Centre two mornings a week and travels in with our members on the Day Centre minibus.
Janet was born in West Hartlepool in Durham, but was brought up in Guildford with her parents. She started her working life as a GPO trained telephonist. Having learned shorthand at night school, Janet realised her dream to become a private secretary in a private medical practice in London, where she stayed for 17 years. Janet came to East Anglia and worked locally in a solicitor’s office for 24 years until her retirement.
When asked why she became a volunteer, Janet told us, “I worked until I was 65 and when you retire, it doesn’t mean you come to a halt. I wondered what I might do with my time after retirement and at the time, Brandon Day Centre was being built. I would occasionally pop down during my lunch break to see what was going on and one day I enquired about volunteering.”
Volunteering is very important to Janet and she told us, “It’s a privilege to come through the door and speak to the interesting people about the lives they have led and still lead, to learn of their adventures and to experience their sense of humour. The Day Centre gives me so much and has enriched my life. Each time I visit, I learn something new. It’s a continuation of my education.”
Apart from meeting and spending time with our members, Janet particularly enjoys taking part in quizzes and listening to people. She has a keen interest in classical music and plays the recorder. She told us she is outgoing with a natural leaning towards meeting people. And whilst some members easily make new friends, there is always someone with whom she can build a rapport and spend quality time with to build their confidence.
When asked what advice she would give to anyone thinking about volunteering, Janet told us, “When you come through the door, slow down. You will need to adapt to the pace of those you will spend time with. Try to think of something new to say, try to get on with people and appreciate what they have to offer. Volunteering is the right choice if it seems right to you and you will miss it if you weren’t doing it – It was certainly the right choice for me.”
Katy is a volunteer at Brandon Day Centre and has been spending time with our members a couple of times a week since joining us in October 2018. Originally from South Africa, Katy has lived in the USA, Australia and now the UK where she lives with her husband. She has a Master’s Degree in Health Research and a passion for understanding and improving the wellbeing of a community, so she has made an excellent addition to our volunteering team.
Katy has much experience in designing and conducting surveys and has enjoyed designing and conducting a survey for our daycare members and staff to enable us to see whether we are offering members the experience and opportunities they want from the Day Centre. Katie’s hobbies include painting and drawing and she loves gardening and walking her dog through the forest.
She told us, “I recently moved to Brandon and wanted to give my time and experience as a Health Research Graduate to my community. I thoroughly enjoy having the chance to talk with the members and I have made some great friends outside of my generation. Whilst we share quite a few interests, our experiences have been completely different, so there is always much to talk about.” She went on to say, “Volunteering has made a huge difference to my life. It has taught me to appreciate small gestures of kindness and how they can make a big impact. A smile and a friendly “hello” go a long way. It works both ways. I always feel so welcomed when a member says “good morning” to me.
“For anyone thinking about volunteering, I’d say, give it a try! Even if it’s just a couple of hours a week, you will not only be able to give someone enjoyment, but build lovely friendships. Knowing that I’ve made someone’s day better, definitely puts a smile on my face”.
Lorraine is a ‘Meet up Monday’ volunteer, a group which is held in Café 27 at Brandon Day Centre every Monday morning. She joined the group when it first launched back in July 2018 as a service user but pretty quickly took over as host and has been supporting the group ever since.
Lorraine was born in Hackney and spent time in and around Walthamstow, East London before settling in Rayleigh, Essex where she lived with her family for 30 years. She moved to Brandon about two and a half years ago. Lorraine has three sons who live in Norfolk, Berkshire and Essex and two lovely grandchildren.
Lorraine started her career in retail and when the children were young, she worked as a dinner lady for about 10 years before working alongside her husband as a supervisor ‘picker/packer’ in an Essex-based shipping company for the next 15 years. She gave up work when she moved to Brandon and with her husband out at work in the day, Lorraine began to feel isolated and felt the need to get out and meet new people.
Lorraine told us, “Volunteering wasn’t on my agenda when I first joined the group. I had seen it advertised and thought it would be a good way for me to make new friendships over a cuppa and a chat. An opportunity then arose for me to host the group and that’s how I became a volunteer.”
She added, “We have our regulars who join us each week. A few people pop in from neighbouring Heathcote House, and of course, it’s nice to chat with the staff teams at Café 27 and Brandon Day Centre. Most of the people who come have recently lost someone dear to them and ‘Meet up Mondays’ helps combat that feeling of isolation. From my perspective, it’s a great way of meeting new people. I enjoy the company and learning about the people who attend.”
When asked what volunteering means to Lorraine, she said, “Meet Up Mondays has made a huge difference to me. It has brightened up my life and, apart from getting me out and about, it has given me an opportunity to be with new people which is great as I now have something else to talk and think about. I hope that through the group, I am able to help others in a similar situation.
She added, “Café 27 is an informal and pleasant setting for people to relax and enjoy each other’s company over a cuppa, and we talk about anything and everything. It’s good fun and it would be great to see some new faces at the group. I would encourage anyone reading this to consider volunteering. It makes you feel better knowing that you are helping people.”