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'It takes 2' update: July

Jim Lord, Community Development Worker, gives us an update on Avenues project 'It takes 2' and how it's going in Bromley so far.

As this is my first blog … ever! I thought I would say a little bit about myself.

I live in Bromley. I am married and have two children, one is studying music at university and the other is (hopefully) going to university to study Psychology in September.  I am a member and an elder at my local church. I play bass guitar in a local rock band and also a concert band. I retired from the police in 2011 and have worked with adults with learning disabilities for the last three years.

I was recruited by Avenues to work as Community Development Worker on ‘It Takes 2 back in January. I must say my induction and welcome to Avenues was brilliant.

It takes 2 is an exciting new Big Lottery funded project running across Bromley and Greenwich. Over three years we intend to connect 100 people with learning disabilities with 100 people from their local community who share the same interests. Lots of people with a learning disability do not think they have enough friends so they might possibly feel lonely or isolated. That’s the driving force behind It takes 2; to create genuine friendships.

I am working in Bromley and my colleague Carly is working in Greenwich. Carly will be talking about what has been going on in Greenwich next month. 

My first job was to really get to know the people I am working with in Bromley, their interests and their passions. I have been going along to some of the activities that they are currently involved in to get a sense of their lives at the moment. I have been to churches, gateway clubs, choirs, boccia groups, car shows, speaking up groups to name but a few.

I have also been starting to identify local activities and organisations where people might make connections and friendships. This has included Arts Clubs, Green Gyms, Walking for Health Groups and Choirs. This is just the tip of the iceberg.

We’ve already started to make some connections, including two people who enjoy card making, and people who love gardening, singing and walking. We absolutely cannot do this without the support of Avenues staff at all levels. They bring a lot of skills, gifts and talents that are vital in forming connections. They are the bridge for people we support to connect. We are on this journey together.

One important part of the It Takes 2 is about how we see the community members coming into the lives of others. Many projects use word such as ‘volunteers or befrienders’. Whilst we value the people we support getting involved and  taking on volunteer roles, we are not asking the people who come into the lives of people we support (community members) to be 'volunteers' or ‘befrienders’. This is because we feel that it suggests that there is not enough about a person for a real connection to be made. Words like ‘volunteer’ and ‘befriender’ can be unhelpful labels in this context when thinking about forming genuine, long lasting bonds.  Volunteers can come and go in people’s lives, we want real sustainable and reciprocal relationships. We have been working hard to recruit people who want to take part and are still looking for people from the community who want to get involved.

So far the project has really highlighted that although people with a learning disability might be more likely to become lonely and isolated this is a problem for whole communities. It takes 2 is a real drive to tackle that, allowing people to form meaningful and lasting connections within their communities. I am really looking forward to seeing how we can make a real impact in people’s lives.

Find out more about It takes 2 and how to get involved.