On Monday 29 April, the Sense Get Out There (GOT) group, a community-based short break service that supports young disabled people, celebrated its 10-year anniversary. To mark the occasion, HRH The Princess Royal visited the group and was presented with a book of stories written by disabled people marking their growth in independence.
Each person’s story reveals how much their life has been touched by the Sense GOT group. For some, it is the opportunity to experience new things and visit new places that keeps them coming back. For others, it is simply the chance to make friends. One thing is for certain, everyone has a story to tell.
Here is a selection of stories from the young people. We wish them all a Happy Anniversary and look forward to many more years and many more stories.
My name is Kathryn Willoughby; my friends know me as Kat. I am eighteen years old and I am visually impaired. I’m from Praze (near Camborne), where I live with my parents, but I’m currently living in Exeter, where I go to university and study English Literature. Before university, I went to Camborne Science and International Academy, where I did my GCSEs and A-levels. In my spare time, I like reading, playing the piano and ukulele, listening to music, and hanging out with friends.
“I love the sense of community and support that the GOT group promotes and it has given me many life changing opportunities.”
Just a few to mention, travelling (Isles of Scilly, Ireland, Romania, and Australia), meeting HRH Princess Anne at our awards ceremony, creating and performing our own plays, co-piloting a plane with the Douglas Bader Foundation (something visually impaired people are usually kept well away from!), theme park visits, concerts and shows, overnight stays, the list goes on!
The friends I have made through GOT have something different to my friends outside the group – a sense of empathy for my visual impairment. The fact that we are all similar in our abilities puts us on a level playing field and allows us to just live and have fun without worrying about the impact that sensory loss has on us (particularly socially). This has really boosted my confidence!
The GOT group has really improved my confidence in myself and what I am capable of – there have been so many times where I’ve worried about doing something before deciding “it’ll be fine – I’ve done it with GOT before!”. The level of empathy in the friendships I’ve made, as well as unconditional support from Simon, Heather, and the volunteers also helped me to claim my identity as a young woman with a disability as we all show so much power and resilience. Through GOT I have learned valuable life skills and ways to adapt to living with a disability.
It’s really good to hear that there are now more Sense GOT groups starting up throughout the country and that more young people like myself can enjoy ‘Getting Out There’.
Happy tenth birthday GOT Group.
Hannah and her twin brother Ben were born in 1992. Hannah had Cerebral Palsy, a learning disability, visual impairment and epilepsy, but as she grew up and learnt about her surroundings, she just wanted to be involved with everything that was going on.
Hannah attended Curnow School, which she loved but as she grew older, weekends with parents were becoming a bit boring. We took Hannah along to the first meeting of the Get Out There group at Dairyland and although she was in a wheelchair, she wasn’t the only one and her ready smile made her part of the group and she went onto to enjoy many outings and activities around the county.
Highlights included travelling on the minibus or the train, going bowling, being whizzed around in her chair at a disco, a ride on a boat in Falmouth and being one of those who received an award from Princess Anne at the annual GOT awards ceremony. She also enjoyed being part of a GOT flash mob that danced in Truro and visits to the pantomime and cinema.
With the help of Simon and his team of volunteers, Hannah had the opportunity to go out and about, independent of parents, with a group of friends, just like any other teenager. This independence has for the last two years enabled Hannah to go into supported living and share a flat which she has loved.
Hannah passed away just before Christmas 2018, but we are encouraged that she had many friends and enjoyed many opportunities of which the GOT group was a part.
My name is Richard Kelly I am twenty years old. I joined the GOT Group in 2011. I live with my mum in a seaside village called Crantock. I have a collie dog called Ruby she is ten and has lots of energy and I walk her every day. We have three cats Lenny, Lily and Neddy and two guinea pigs called Boris and Barney.
I have enjoyed the GOT activities here in Cornwall and making new friends. We have been to some amazing places especially when I was in the GOT 2 Act drama group. We went to Belfast and Bucharest to the International Deafblind conferences where we performed a play on the life of Helen Keller. I played the part of Arthur, Helen’s father. We also went to Perth in Western Australia to perform the play and meet with families from Senses Australia. This was amazing and was the first time I travelled abroad without my mum.
I have so many great memories of the things I did in the GOT group. I liked the activities which gave me an adrenalin rush, like canoeing in Bude on the canal. I even managed to capsize and needed to dry off in the sun. I also loved going to Alton Towers in the minibus. I was the only person to go on all the fast white knuckle rides. I have also been surfing with the GOT group and managed to stand up on my surfboard, something I am incredibly proud of being able to achieve.
“By joining the GOT group it was my first experience of being accepted for who I am and making lots of new friends.”
My peer group at school did not always understand me. I have made lots of friends in the GOT group and I am still in touch with most of them.
I now attend Truro College where I study English, maths cookery, car mechanics, photography and sport. I have also done my bronze and silver Duke of Edinburgh and have started my Gold medal.
My name is Tommy Samways and I am eleven years old. I live with my mum, my stepdad and my three sisters. We have two dogs Brian and Liz and two tortoises.
I like football and riding my bike. I love the GOT group, I’ve met so many friends. Before GOT I never really had friends before, because nobody understands me. My friends at GOT are just like me and we have so much fun. I wish I could see my GOT friends every day.
I have enjoyed lots of activities especially going horse riding, country skittles, Newquay Zoo, Trevaskis Farm, Trerice Country House. Without GOT I would never have been able to go to these places.
I had never been to Flambards theme park before, but GOT took us. I loved the rides so much and it was the best thing ever. It was so funny on the rides and on the log flume all of us got soaked and all the volunteers were screaming.
I am so much more confident when I’m with GOT because I feel safe and I have all my friends around me, I have never felt like that before.
“GOT has helped me in lots of ways and help me to be Tommy and not care what anyone else thinks because I can enjoy being me. GOT is the best!”
My name is Lydia, and I live with my mum and stepdad in Newquay. I have a cat called Alfie, and a dog called Phoebe. I am attending Cornwall College, Camborne, studying Level 2 Hairdressing, and I am enjoying the course.
I have loved all the activities and my favourite was going horseriding. Another favourite was travelling to Belfast, to take part in the Deafblind International Conference, in Ireland. I had never been there before so it was a new experience for me, and the conference was amazing, and I met so many wonderful people.
The most enjoyable thing about the GOT group has been making new friends and getting a chance to socialise. The group has also helped me to ease my anxiety, and made me much more self-confident.
While I was attending Truro College, I did a work placement with the GOT group. I felt very involved and part of the group, and learnt new skills, which included risk assessments, petty cash, designing posters and ringing round the activity providers to obtain a good price. I loved my placement and now volunteer with the GOT.
I have also learnt Makaton sign language and went into Nancelverne School to teach some Makaton to the children. I loved it and now I am doing an online British Sign Language course!