Achievements in 2021
As we come to the close of 2021, we want to take this time to reflect on the past year and talk about everything we’ve achieved over the last twelve months. This year has been a challenging one as we’ve all worked hard to get back to normal life, but that isn’t to say that people haven’t done and achieved some incredible things. We want to use this month to celebrate all the many positive things that our staff and the people we support do every single day, for themselves and for each other.
This page will be updated every week with new stories, so keep your eyes peeled!
Interview with Philippa
We spoke with the determined Philippa in West Yorkshire about going back to work after the pandemic
(Philippa was supported by Support Worker Jo to complete this interview)
Philippa has been with her service since 2011 and said “I like it here.” She has a very busy schedule of activities throughout the week: “On Mondays we go shopping and Tuesdays we go to the gym and do our routine,” explained Jo, as Philippa flexed her muscles. “On Wednesdays it’s a day off, then Thursday Philippa’s at work and I meet her afterwards and we go and get Thai food. Philippa’s order is chicken fried rice. On Friday mornings we go to the local market and do a bit of shopping with Philippa’s mum and dad. At the weekend, Philippa hangs out with her friends at the service.”
While this is Philippa’s routine now, a few months ago work unfortunately wasn’t in the mix. Last year, Philippa had an eye operation in October ’20 to help improve her eyesight which took three months to recover from, and she said is “all good now”. When it was time for Philippa to head back to work, the UK went into another lockdown, meaning she would have to stay off work for a bit longer. “In total, I think Philippa was off for almost a year and a half.” Said Jo.
During this time away from work, Philippa kept busy. “I loved lockdown as it meant I could stay at home and do what I liked,” she explained. “We went on day trips when we could, including a visit to Manchester. Philippa had a pink t-shirt made which said ‘I love lockdown’ to have a bit of fun, which she wore on her trips” said Jo.
One of Philippa’s goals for this year was to return to work, despite enjoying the free time at home. “It was hard to go back at first,” she said. “It’s a bit of a travel for Philippa to get to work, so we have to get up early and then get on the train and then in a taxi from the station to the café. All in all it takes around an hour to an hour and a half,” said Jo. “She’s been back a few weeks now and has got back into the swing of it.”
Philippa has been working at the café for over ten years now, so is “very well experienced!” said Jo, who said she can make a very good brew. Her favourite part about work is “putting the tables out and seeing the dogs who come to visit” as the café is by a park. “There are regulars who have been coming for years and they always stop and have a chat with Philippa.” It’s been a great way to meet people; as Philippa said “the customers all know me well now.”
While Philippa might have enjoyed lockdown, she missed seeing her friends. At the time of the interview, Philippa was getting ready to go on holiday to the Lake District to see a few friends over the weekend, and was very excited about being able to go again.
After smashing her goal to go back to work, Philippa is “not sure” about what she would like to achieve in 2022 just yet. “One of the goals we are thinking about is going cycling again,” said Jo. “Philippa used to have a three wheeler bike that she loved to go on before lockdown, so we think there could just be a new one coming her way over Christmas time..”
“In hot pink!” said Philippa.
Lynn in Calderdale
We spoke with Lynn about her goal to go on holiday this year, and that it was worth the wait!
(Lynn was supported by Support Worker Nicky to complete this interview)
The lovely Lynn in Calderdale and Kirklees has been with Creative Support since 2014. She likes to go charity shopping and finding treasures like nursery rhymes and CDs with 60’ and 80’s music. “I also like to watch TV and doing embroidery”.
Another thing Lynn absolutely loves is airplanes, and she set herself a goal to fly on one in 2021. “Lynn loves airplanes and can spot them from thousands of miles away”, explained Nicky. “Unfortunately, due to Covid-19 this wasn’t possible, so we thought it would be nice to book Lynn a British holiday to Butlins instead.”
“Two days before we were supposed to go in September, I tested positive for Covid so I wasn’t able to go,” said Lynn. “I felt much better not too long after, so we rebooked and I went for Halloween week instead. I had a really nice time and did loads. I went to a fancy dress party and dressed up as a witch. I also went for nice meals, to a farm and saw some animals, and watched lots of shows including a Queen tribute band.”
One thing Lynn really enjoyed while she was away though was trying something new. “I went swimming for the first time at Butlins and really enjoyed it.” Said Lynn. “I’ve been lots since, almost every day since I got back. I go with Nicky and we do lots of practice together. I hold onto the side and kick my legs, bending down and doing lunges.”
On the day this was written, Lynn and Nicky were planning to go swimming the following day. “It’s like doing exercise in the water, and we’re practicing kicking our legs really fast in the water to keep ourselves up” explained Nicky. “We’re going to try a new swimming pool in Huddersfield tomorrow, and then will grab dinner afterwards.”
As for goals for next year, Lynn hasn’t got any holidays booked in yet but is still looking forward to going on an airplane whenever she can! One thing she is definitely excited to do next year is her visit to the theatre. “We’re going to the pantomime in January, and I’m really looking forward to it.” Said Lynn. We hope you have a lovely time and a great 2022!
We spoke with the brilliant Sarah in West Yorkshire, who told us about taking the plunge and applying for an IT course at college which she “absolutely loves”!
“My name is Sarah and I live in West Yorkshire.” She began. “I’ve been with Creative Support since 2011 and live with my husband. We knew each other before joining the service and have since lived here together.
“I have lots of interests, and like going to the cinema. Recently I saw James Bond which was really good, especially the dialogue. I also love doing different activities with Creative Support, including Creative Together’s Zoom sessions which have been lots of fun- I think the disco is especially amazing!
“I’ve not had too much time to do these things recently though, as I’ve been so busy doing my IT course! Earlier on this year I applied to do the course at my local college. It’s been something I’ve wanted to do for a really long time, but what motivated me to go for it was seeing how much is going on online, and wanting to learn more about it. I was so excited to start and now I’m almost halfway through, I absolutely love it.
“I originally wasn’t sure what kind of course I wanted to do, but I knew that I was already passionate about IT and thought it would be something different.” Explained Sarah. “I was already quite good with technology, and I like looking up things online and using social media, so felt it would be a good fit.
“We’re currently doing research into how people sell things online and are looking at the website ‘Vinted’. I’m also learning how to use Excel, which is one of the things I was most excited to learn about.” Sarah said, beaming.
“I’m doing the course in person and have a really lovely tutor. I’ve also made lots of new friends from the course too which is great.” Said Sarah. “I’m currently doing Level 3 IT, and will be doing the course until March so I can get the Level 1 qualification.
“We’re on a break over Christmas, and to celebrate, we’ve booked a holiday to Blackpool. We’ll be spending the week and celebrating New Year’s there. I’m looking forward to doing lots of fun things, including seeing the illuminations, getting fish and chips, watching the entertainment at the hotel, and maybe even visiting Madam Tussaud’s as it’s been a long time since I last went!” She said, smiling.
“After I finish the course next year, I would like to do even more qualifications! I would like to study more on IT as there is so much going on and I would like to develop my skills even more. I would like to do the courses at my current college as the tutor is so helpful and then I can keep meeting new people and making more friends.
“If there is anyone out there who would like to do something or achieve a goal that they’ve wanted to do for a long time, I say just get it done and dusted and just do it! If you’re interested in something then you should do it as you will really enjoy yourself. Taking that first step is hard but it’s worth it.”
We chatted with Flamur and his support worker Wendy, who helped fight for him to get a British passport to visit his family in Albania.
Flamur is currently living in supported housing in Manchester, and has been with Creative Support for 5 years. He is originally from Albania, and has been living in the UK for 21 years. Flamur has been unable to visit Albania since 2008. After many years of trying, Flamur has finally received his passport and is able to go and visit his family in Albania!
“The Home Office was saying that Flamur was here illegally, and we had to go all out to prove that he has the right to be here. We connected with immigration services and had to send supporting statements- it was a lot of work. We didn’t think we would ever get his passport. He is so happy he finally has proof of his identity- it means so much to him” said Wendy, Registered Business Manager.
Flamur even sent a card and a big chocolate cake for the staff team at his service, and another one for staff at a neighbouring service. “When I saw the paperwork, I was like ‘guys, I’m lost’. Everybody helped me, and I appreciate everything they have done” said Flamur. “It means everything to me to go back to Albania.”
Flamur had previously lost contact with his family in Albania, and was isolated for a number of years. “During those 6 years, Flamur went through quite a dark time with his mental health, and he wanted to be isolated. With support and his own hard work, he’s come such a long way” said Wendy. 2 years ago, a contact of his in Albania reached out and put him back in touch with his mother. Flamur hasn’t seen his mother for years, and when he first joined Creative Support he did not even know if she was still alive. “I never expected this to happen,” said Flamur. “She was crying- I didn’t know she was alive. I just wanted to go and see her because she is very old.”
With his passport, Flamur is now planning to visit his mum this month and spend some time in Albania. “Staff have worked so hard to get him to this point” said Wendy. “He has come such a long way in terms of his mental health, and he was in a really dark place when he came to us. I didn’t realise how hard it was to get a passport, and we’re all really pleased. He engages so well with the support from staff.”
Jason, West Midlands
Jason in the West Midlands has put together an article with support from staff about his amazing weight loss journey in 2021
“I am very happy that I have been losing weight this year. I was very big and I had to buy clothes online in 6XL because I could not buy clothes from shops,” Jason writes. “I have lost weight and wear 3XL now, which means I can go to shops and buy new clothes. This gives me more options to choose from.”
Jason also wrote about how this has affected his health. “Losing weight has changed my health too. I have Type 2 diabetes and every three months I have a blood test to check on it. My levels were in the 80’s but over the past year it has been going down. The standard level is 42, and at my last appointment, my level was down to 44 and I am so happy. If I keep going I might even be able to stop taking my tablets and just use diet to help my diabetes.”
The staff at Jason’s service have been incredibly supportive of his weight loss journey. “My Key Workers Laura and Elaine are my favourite staff as they have helped me the most.” Jason said.
Jason’s staff team at the service spoke about the amazing work he has done: “Jason is very proud of himself for the lifestyle changes he has made, and so are all the staff here. He is hoping to continue to lose weight and improve his health.”
Senior Extra Care Worker Kat took part in the Milton Keynes Memory Walk back in October, in aid of the Alzheimer’s society. She talked to us about why this is a cause close to her heart, and how fundraising can make a huge impact.
“Dementia wasn’t something I was really aware of growing up,” said Kat. “I’d see adverts for other fundraising opportunities or charities, but nothing really for dementia. Since growing up and learning more about dementia, and then going on to working with people who have dementia and experiencing it first-hand, I have come to realise how serious it is and how we should do more to fund the research.”
The walk took place around Willan Lake in Milton Keynes. “It was wonderful, and there was a great turnout.” said Kat. At the starting point there were stalls for you to donate to, as well as a tree where you could write a message in memory of who you are walking for. “Half an hour before kick-off there was a warm up lead by a Zumba instructor, which was great fun, but I’m not co-ordinated enough!”
“The walk was either one lap (3k) or two laps (6k). Me and my friend decided to do one lap, and then see how we got on. It was brilliant so we did both laps! We thought we’re here for a reason, so best to just go for it.” At the end Kat and her friend both got a medal for completing the walk. “It really is a great experience, and I would definitely recommend doing it.”
Kat raised a fantastic £100, which was her goal. “I strongly believe that with more fundraising and research we can find medications that make dementia more manageable, and potentially even work towards a cure. One thing I’d like to highlight as important for all people to know is that just because someone has dementia, it doesn’t mean they’re not human or deserving of dignity. They just want to be loved and shown attention just like everyone else does. We need to educate, fundraise, and research so we can better support and help people with dementia, and that’s why I did this walk.”
Paul, West Yorkshire
We spoke with the brilliant Paul in West Yorkshire about his goal to return to rock climbing in 2021, and what’s next for 2022.
“I have been supported by Creative Support since 2007, and have been at this service since then.” Said Paul. “I really enjoy doing physical activities and do quite a lot of them, including swimming, and walking, and lots of different things. I also do a lot of housework and cleaning when I’m not working doing some gardening in the community or working at the café.”
“I was introduced to rock climbing by one of my Support Workers almost two years ago,” he said explaining where his passion started. “He started talking to me about it and what was involved and it got me right interested. I asked if I could try it and so we went a few times to indoor climbing spaces and outdoor climbing spots. My Support Worker lends me the gear, but I’ve got the shoes and clothes, and we try and go as much as we can.”
“Because of the pandemic, I wasn’t able to go for a long time so one of my goals in 2021 was to return to rock climbing as soon as I could. I enjoyed it so much, I couldn’t wait to go back.” After waiting months for the go ahead, Paul was finally able to return recently and has been enjoying himself since!
“I bought new rock climbing trousers and shoes, and I still borrow the indoor and outdoor kits from my Support Worker or from the climbing centres.” When asked if he would like to keep rock climbing next year, Paul said passionately “if I can!”
Next year, Paul would like to do a sponsored climb on behalf of Cancer Research, along with a sponsored walk for the charity too. These are two of his goals for 2022, along with some other summery ventures. “I’ve been gardening for different people for a while now, and I also enjoy growing vegetables and flowers in my own garden. It’s something I’d like to do in 2022 as well as we have raised flower beds and a greenhouse at my service.”
For anyone who would like to start (or restart!) an activity, Paul said: “When I first started rock climbing, I didn’t understand it. I would try to race to the top and come back down quickly, but now I try doing different routes, like only using the red foot and hand holds, and know it’s not about rushing it. You learn over time, and it comes flooding back after a while. When I first went back after the pandemic, the guys were so surprised by how well I did it!”
Lexi and Lucy, Leeds
Lexi and her support worker Lucy talked to us about taking part in the Pretty Muddy Race for Life.
Lexi, a person we support in Leeds, recently completed the Pretty Muddy 5km race. Lexi is blind, and completed the entire obstacle course by touch. As the race was in aid of Cancer Research, Lexi was taking part in memory of her dad, who sadly passed in 2009 from a brain tumour. Her support worker Lucy also got stuck in, as well as being the honorary photographer. “I wanted to take part for the cancer charity, and also so Lexi wouldn’t be racing be on her own” said Lucy.
Do you remember what you were feeling leading up to the race, were you nervous or excited?
“I was mostly excited by the obstacles,” said Lexi. “I enjoy adventurous things, I don’t find walking or running 5km very interesting. I liked that I didn’t know what challenges were coming.” Lexi has anxiety, but describes herself as a ‘lightweight adrenaline junkie’- meaning she enjoys the thrill of the adrenaline, despite it not taking much for it to come on! “I enjoy certain kinds of adventures because of the feeling afterwards, and the sensory part of getting physical.” As Lexi completed the race by touch, the excitement for her came from not knowing what obstacle was coming next. “You’re excited, and when you get to the obstacle you have to work it out and negotiate your way around.”
Leading up to the race, Lucy was feeling the excitement as well. “We didn’t know what to expect. The atmosphere was amazing, and everyone was encouraging each other. It was very uplifting!”
Lexi was also feeling nervous due to the fact she hadn’t been able to put in as much training as she would have liked. Around the time of signing up, she began having problems with pain in her left leg, as well as a disruption when the support staff who was initially signed up for the race had suddenly left. Lucy stepped into her place last minute, and despite all of these ‘obstacles’ coming her way before even getting to the real ones, Lexi did not let it deter her and the two of them arrived to the field- almost late! “My mind was everywhere, so I nearly even missed the start anyway! I was wondering whether I’d be able to complete the race. I didn’t care about how fast I’d be, but I really wanted to go into it feeling like I was prepared and ready to take on 5km.”
What was the most challenging thing about participating?
“I think maybe not knowing what the obstacles were like until we got to them,” said Lucy. “We had to walk so far to each one, but they were all different and a lot of fun.”
“After climbing up the wall, it was so difficult to get down as I’m doing it by touch” said Lexi. “One of the marshals was trying to guide me by holding my foot, but it ended up giving me sensory overload as I need the freedom to feel my way around.” The marshals for the event were especially helpful to Lexi as she felt her way around the course. “They bent over backwards to make it a good time for me, keeping the course open longer, fetching a bottle of water when I was desperate for one, and generally helping us stay on the route.” However, they didn’t hold back on getting her ‘pretty muddy’, making sure she was regularly doused in water. “It was quite funny actually as they kept joking about the mud being like a spa treatment.” Nothing like a nice relaxing mud bath!
Throughout the race, Lexi had to consistently gather her endurance and keep going, despite her exhaustion and the tough conditions at times. “The hardest bits were definitely when I got soaked and had to keep walking to the next obstacle. It was so cold, and that’s when you think ‘oh I’m so tired, I’m so cold’ and you have to dry off and get the energy up to keep going. That’s the time when you find it’s the hardest.” Despite all of this, she never gave up and completed the race.
Although finishing the Pretty Muddy race is a fair challenge on its own, many of us would consider it ‘impossible’ to complete without sight. But this is Lexi’s normal, and for her, there is a simple tactile way of navigating. “One of the most frustrating things is that a lot of stuff for blind people assumes that sighted is normal, because it deals with the idea that people have sight, and then lose it. My whole way of interacting with the world is tactile, so I need to be guided to follow the route, but when climbing up the wall for example you’re just feeling what’s there and responding to it, and that is my normal. It’s completely immersive and you’re using your mental agility to manage the situation you’re in.”
“The final obstacle of the race was a giant slide that went down into a pool of water, and Lexi told us about how she gathered the confidence to throw herself into the unknown. “My biggest anxiety was when I was sat on top of the slide. You’re terrified to go, you don’t know what’s ahead of you, you don’t know how much water is at the bottom or how far it is to drop down into, and you’re going to have to get out of it. That was genuinely terrifying. You know you’re going to come out the other side, so sitting at the top prolonging it is no good. I counted back from 8 slowly, and when I got to 3 I went down. I knew it was me that had to make it happen.”
What were your favourite parts of the race?
“One of my favourite obstacles was ‘entrapment’, we had to step over wires and feel my way through. I had a sense of complete focus while navigating it.” With her every step of the way was Lucy, who also managed to take some fantastic photos. They used a disposable camera, which was the safest option considering the wet and muddy conditions! “It was amazing and much more fun to have somebody enjoy the obstacles and share the experience, as well as splashing around with me. To be honest, we each made sure the other got really muddy!”
“We made it fun- we raced each other, splashed water, and had a laugh!” said Lucy. It certainly sounds like muddy good fun!
What are you most proud of about completing the race?
“I am most proud of Lexi for doing all of the obstacles” said Lucy.
“I think I’m just proud of myself as there wasn’t an obstacle I didn’t tackle,” said Lexi. “That was my goal and that was what I did. Even though I had all kinds of trouble with the space hopper (I would have thought they’d be adult sized space hoppers, but it was rather small!) I never gave up, and had a right good go at it, even when I felt cold and soaked and uncomfortable when I started walking after having the water thrown at me. I didn’t lose heart.”
“At the end, the media team came up to me for an interview, which was quite a shock! They wanted to know who I was running in memory of. I felt so happy and euphoric for finishing it- I felt like a Paralympian. I have my medal for completing it, which I had to work for, so I’m really proud of that.”
Lexi also spoke about how she wants to take the skills used to complete the race into her everyday life. “I’m grappling for the possibility of a braver Lexi. I can use those frameworks in my everyday life, I see the potential of it. It’s different when you’re doing something like a race, and you know it has an end and you can recover afterwards, but in real life you don’t know when those feelings have an end. I would like very much to take that feeling of when you can’t go on, you can feel the cold all through your body, but you do carry on and you don’t fuss about it. There are lots of time in my life when I feel like that.”
“When I’m on an adventure and I’m being brave, I can tackle being uncomfortable and being able to keep going, to get back on track on my own without any help. I faced my anxiety on top of the slide, I felt sick and my heart was racing. I was in that anxious bubble alone trying hard to find my way. But I did it, and I’d been brave. I can carry that medal.”
You certainly can, Lexi- you should be so proud of your incredible achievement. It takes an unbelievable amount of strength and endurance to complete something like this, and you are already a huge step towards a braver Lexi.
We spoke with the lovely Rupert in London, who took on a big cleaning project over 2021!
(Rupert was supported by his Key Worker Charlotte to complete this interview)
Rupert has been with Creative Support for around nine years and loves his support team. He likes reading books, using computers, and listening to music- especially Elvis!
He also loves big cakes, particularly chocolate, and is excited for his birthday in April because of his birthday cake!
With the support of staff, over the past year Rupert has cleared out his flat and arranged for a cleaner to come in once a week, to keep on top of his sparkling new space.
“It made me really happy,” said Rupert. Charlotte explained “Rupert really likes books and likes his flat to function as a bit of an office, so he has a lot of cabinets and three computers. Over the years, his room became quite full with bits and bobs like newspapers. He was finding it hard to move around, so we started doing some clear-out days. Rupert got so into it that he started to take out piles of newspaper by himself! He chose what he would like to keep and what he would like to get rid of and he’s very happy with his decisions now his space is much clearer.”
“We took our time, and it was really good that Rupert was the one making the decisions of what to keep and what to get rid of. After we’d done quite a bit, I asked Rupert if he would like to ask a cleaner to come in to help him keep his flat nice and tidy, which he said yes to.” “It was really good,” said Rupert.
Over the course of three weeks, Rupert and Charlotte cleared out almost 50 bin bags worth of things he didn’t want anymore. “I really like my flat upstairs now,” said Rupert, giving us a big thumbs up.
“It’s a really nice space for Rupert now,” said Charlotte. “It’s a lot more manageable, and it’s made him really happy.” Rupert nodded and said “It feels like a new place.”
“I feel quite strong and proud.” Rupert said, flexing his muscles. “I deserve a big cake!”
Rupert really likes helping around the service and does a lot of cleaning. “It was really nice for him to work on his
flat and he got really stuck into it!” said Charlotte. “He’s really happy with the results.”
Alongside clearing his flat, Rupert has also started a computer course this year, which he’s excited to continue with in 2022. He’s also excited to buy new clothes and celebrate his birthday!
Rupert’s advice for anyone worrying about starting a project is to “do things bit by bit, and you’ll do a good job!”