Get yourself active blog

Volunteering from a personal perspective – this is my story!

Friday 2 June 2017

This week, 1-7 June 2017, we are celebrating National Volunteers’ Week. Get Yourself Active volunteer Iyiola shares with us his own personal experience of volunteering and the positive impact it has had on his life.

I volunteer because…

I volunteer because I want to give back

I volunteer because it enriches me

I volunteer because I meet new people

I volunteer because I was isolated

I volunteer because I learn from people

I volunteer because I teach people

I volunteer because I am a citizen

I volunteer….

In a world where people view everything from the prism of political tribalism, ideology and even cynicism it is not surprising that some people view volunteering negatively.

I can delve into the history of volunteering in this country or around the world and highlight or espouse how it’s been used by different Governments to further agendas that suit the political or economic realities they faced. I can even chuck out statistics on how often people volunteer in the UK or around the world and whether indeed there is a slight decline on the numbers of adults volunteering in the UK and why.  But I won’t. Instead I will tell my own story of my personal experience of volunteering and its positive impact on my life.

I started volunteering about fifteen years ago in Nigeria when I connected with a disabled activist (now a life-long friend and mentor) who encouraged me to use my legal qualifications to help campaign for anti-disability discrimination legislation to be passed into law in Nigeria. I became a volunteer with a local disability group which my friend formed and started campaigning for disabled people’s rights with a few others. I used legislations from other African countries like Ghana and Uganda to argue for similar legislations to be passed and for a culture change from disabled people primarily being perceived as objects of charity and pity to instead become equal citizens with rights and dignity. Becoming a volunteer with the group opened my eyes to the incredible poverty and disempowerment many disabled people were facing in my country and challenged me to give back to society what I had as a lawyer.

When I moved to the UK in 2006, I researched about volunteering opportunities that could enrich me and add to my skills set. I chose a national disability organisation where I learnt about the UK disability landscape and campaigning.  The opportunity this gave me was valuable, however volunteering there also opened my eyes to the continuing form of institutionalisation that organisation still practiced.

My experience at the national organisation has made me choosier, and subsequently I now only volunteer with organisations where their ethos is embedded in social justice and rights.  I have thus volunteered with a local user-led disability organisation in Islington where, for close to six years, I was a management committee member.  Being a management committee member does not mean only attending meetings and eating biscuits but also involved coming into the office on occasions to help with phone calls and advising people about what they are entitled to. Volunteering with this organisation connected me with people at a grassroots level and enabled me to form new friendships.

When I was out of work recently, I decided to leave my comfort zone and volunteer at Disability Rights UK (DRUK). I chose its project on sport and getting active. The project is premised on the concept of rights and inclusion for disabled people in physical activity and sport. Volunteering on the project has expanded my horizon beyond social care, education and injustice. Inclusion for disabled people should be in all human activities and Get Yourself Active is helping to achieve that.

I am back working part-time but decided to continue to volunteer not only at DRUK but also for my local disability charity in another capacity as I am no longer on their management committee. Volunteering has become personal for me and nothing politicians or Governments do or don’t do will stop me from volunteering. Through volunteering I have become a more rounded person and I believe the more we volunteer and engage with people from different perspectives, religions (or no religion), cultures, backgrounds and experience, the more we achieve a more equal and cohesive society.

Iyiola Olafimihan is a volunteer at DRUK and his views are personal to him and not representative of the organisation.

Representing DRUK at the National Para Swimming Championships

By Sophie Maziere, Trustee DRUK

druk-team-at-parallel-londonOn Saturday 10th December I had the pleasure of representing Disability Rights UK (DRUK) at the first day of the National Para Swimming Championships at Manchester Aquatics Centre, the home of the British Para-Swimming Team. The event was partnered by the English Federation of Disability Sport. The day got off to a great start with some of the medal winners from the Paralympics in Rio having the opportunity to be celebrated and to have their achievements recognised again with a ‘Parade of Champions’.

During the day, competitors as young as 10 years old and medal winners alongside aspiring champions competed in a range of events (breast stroke, freestyle and individual medley) with medals awarded for the first three placed competitors in each individual classification event, along with points to add to all competitors’ running totals. The event was a fantastic example of participation in sport, of achievement and sheer hard work. Young swimmers had the chance to be inspired by the performances of their peers, some of whom have become household names this year.

parallel2

One of DRUK’s key priorities for 2016 to 2019 is Independent Living: getting a life. We believe it is your right as disabled people to be active in any way that is right for you and to choose, if you wish, to use your personal budget to achieve this. Our project, Get Yourself Active, launched in June this year in partnership with Sport England, supports disabled people to get more involved in physical activity and sport. It is working to break down barriers to participation and promote choice and control for individuals. Get Yourself Active is not only helping DPULOs to create physical activity opportunities but is also working at a national level to raise understanding of the value and benefits of using personal budgets for physical activity and sport.

parallel-londonThe English Federation of Disability Sport has the vision that ‘disabled people are active for life’ and whilst not everyone may be heading for Paralympian levels of sporting success (me included although I am very proud of achieving my first 5k for Parallel London this summer!), we all can benefit from the positive impact that more activity has including greater inclusion in our local communities.

Meeting New Role Models – My Time with Get Yourself Active

By Emily Yates

Emily-joining-in-with-the-football-sessionHaving volunteered at the London 2012 Games, and consulted for access and inclusion for the Rio 2016 metro systems, I’ve now got quite a good handle on major sporting events and how they work, especially for athletes, staff and spectators with disabilities. It’s incredible that so many determined, talented and flipping hard-working individuals can come together from across the globe and create something that not only gains medals, but wins over hearts and, most importantly, changes minds, attitudes and outlooks.

What I slowly came to realise, though, is that competing on the world’s stage is not possible for everyone, disabled or not. It then went deeper than that: without the correct information, funding and support from those in the health, social care and sporting sectors, many people with disabilities were finding it tough to get active at all. Sport is great for keeping fit and healthy, but it also has so many social benefits, as well as being one of the best things to promote confidence and self-esteem. Many of the people I met whilst filming were not getting that mind, body and soul fuel before the likes of Get Yourself ActiveCCIL and Scope in Chester worked their magic. And what a difference it has made – see for yourselves in the films!

Melyssa, Ben and all the guys at Scope Chester were great to work with, and their passion for the sports and activities they love will hopefully rub off on all that watch the videos, as it has with me. I met some true local role models, and hope that this fantastic initiative will create many more, all striving towards their personal best with their personal budgets. Let’s all get active and help each other, regardless of where it may lead.

Emily is the presenter in our latest films which follow different people getting active in a way that is right for them! You can find out more about Emily by visiting her website or following her on twitter @emilyryates

 

Getting active…the way you want

By Liz Sayce

Disability Rights UK, Lloyds Reception at the Houses of Parliament. 15th October 2012.

I’ve always found a short jog better than benzodiazepines (minor tranquillizers) for anxiety. Not everyone’s the same, but for me stress melts away with the rhythm of each step, the physical buzz, the relaxation that comes with a bit of gentle exercise. Right now I’m excited to be preparing to run (well, jog slowly) at Parallel London – where I’ll be jogging alongside people who are wheelchair racing, walking and otherwise covering the distance (which is anything from 100 metres to 10 kilometres). It’s inclusion in practice.

Wouldn’t it be great if everyone could easily get active, in any way they wanted? People are very different in what they do want. My sister in law thrives on swimming all year, even when it means breaking the ice, which to me sounds like torture (in fact when the world cold swimming championships happened in Tooting Lido, some participants complained the water was too warm because it was marginally above 0 degrees centigrade). Other people want to play softball, climb mountains or do a myriad of other things.  Which is why we need a personal approach to enabling everyone living with impairments or health conditions to get active. It’s no good promoting outdoor swimming to me or mountain climbing to the person who wants to try softball.

This is why the Get Yourself Active programme is so important. It starts with what people want to get involved with – and makes getting active just one part of planning the support you want, to have a good life. It enables people to use a personal budget for any support you require to do the things you want to do, including physical activity. And it works to break down any barriers in the way. So in principle the sky should be limit in what people can choose to do.

Earlier attempts to engage disabled people to get active have not always been personal in this way. Particular sports have promoted what they offer – but that’s no good if sky-diving (say) isn’t your thing. Others have scouted for new talent for future Paralympics – but most people will no more be Paralympians than any non-disabled member of the British public will be an Olympian. And while health promotion campaigns are vital – and often great – there is still a risk that they can come across as telling you about the exercise you should be taking, rather than making it easier to do the exercise you want to have a go at.

So Get Yourself Active is important. It is testing out how a much more personal approach may encourage people to try getting active on their own terms. Disability Rights UK will share the learning far and wide. You can start by watching the latest in our series of films which follow different people, getting active in a way that is right for them.

Oh and if anyone would like to sponsor me, I am planning (rather optimistically) to jog 10 kilometres at Parallel London in September – see  https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/LizSayce

Interested in taking part in the Parallel London event at the Olympic Park on 6th September? Find out more here.

See the new Get Yourself Active films showing how people are getting active…in the way they want!

It’s a walk in the park

By Sue Bott

Sue BottDon’t you just love the new Get Yourself Active website?  What could be better than a walk, run, roll in the park especially in the spring when the sun is out and the birds are singing?

For me doing something active has always been the answer to any upset I have experienced or argument I have had. Even as a child if I got told off I’d stomp off and go for a walk.

Doing something physically active in whatever way, however small just makes such a difference to your sense of wellbeing. It amazes me that the health and social care worlds just don’t recognise what a difference a bit of exercise makes.

I’m not saying it is the cure all but shouldn’t disabled people and people with long-term health conditions be given a chance to rely less on medication, to have the chance to be mobile in the swimming pool, to pull weights in the gym?

The problem is that the worlds of sport and leisure, health, and social care don’t talk to each other let alone join up but they need to if people are going to have a good quality of life. The result is that millions of pounds are wasted on solutions that simply don’t work for disabled people and people with long-term health conditions. One of my friends has rheumatoid arthritis. On holiday in Holland, she hired a motorised tricycle.  It did wonders for her mobility. When she next saw her consultant she asked if she could have a personal health budget to get a tricycle to reduce her reliance on medication. As it happens the consultant was very supportive and thought it a good idea but said she had no idea how she would get through the bureaucracy to make it happen.

Personal budgets give people an opportunity to decide what works best for them within the resources available. If that includes a chance of sport or exercise why not? Isn’t it up to us, the disabled people and people with long-term health conditions, to decide what our priorities are and what works best for us? So come on any health and social care professions reading this. Don’t put obstacles in our way let us improve our wellbeing.

And woe betide anybody who stops me taking a walk in the park. I will become very depressed, very grumpy and I won’t be responsible for my actions. So there!

Sue Bott is Deputy CEO of Disability Rights UK has been active in the disability movement in the UK for many years.

Follow Sue’s guide dog @guidedogfaith to keep an eye on her movements!!

Public services: only a means to living full and active lives

By Rich Watts

Rich and logoThere were some headlines recently about how people were using their Personal Budgets. Concerns were raised about whether items like games consoles, a summer house and satnavs were the best use of public money, with the inevitable calls for resources instead to be focused on traditional ways of doing things – beds, staff, medical equipment.

A positive aspect of the debate was it provided an opportunity for people who have Personal Budgets and the professionals who support them to explain why they’re so important in meeting their care and support needs. Kevin Shergold, for example, highlighted:

“The PHB has given us freedom to live our lives as we choose – in a way that’s sensible and cost effective. Developing a severe disability might seem hopeless, but I want people to know that it’s possible to live a good, full, interesting life when you have the right support and choice.”

This gets to what I think is a vital but often unasked question: what is the point of public services and so the money that funds them?

The vast majority of people with lived experience and who have used care and support services say that they want a life, not a service. Their focus isn’t on getting a few more hours of home care here or seeing an occupational therapist there; it’s about living as full and enriching a life as possible.

Norman Kirk – a New Zealand Prime Minister in the 1970s – described it this way:

“People don’t want much. They just want someone to love, somewhere to live, somewhere to work and something to hope for.”

He could well have added “something to do”, because wanting to be physically active or play sport is often reported by all people, including disabled people, as a key source of general wellbeing.

The point of public services and the money that funds them, therefore, covers being a means to support wellbeing and achieve what people want to do in their lives – including being active and playing sport. We have already heard from a number of people through the Get Yourself Active project that using their personal budget in this way has changed things for the better.

This means there are three main reasons why I feel Get Yourself Active is such an important contribution:

  1. It helps to support people who use care and support services and the professionals who work in them to recognise the value of physical activity and sport
  2. It provides a much-needed wider focus on how Personal Budgets can be used to directly support such activity, and not just focus on traditional ways of meeting people’s needs
  3. And, by the way, it helps councils and their partners meet the general wellbeing requirements of the Care Act

If this leads to more stories about how Personal Budgets are being used to fund exercise classes, gym memberships or being involved sporting activity, I for one won’t be disappointed. It will mean that public services are doing their job well.

Rich is a member of the Get Yourself Active Steering Group. He works on the Integrated Personal Commissioning Programme at NHS England, which is seeking to join up health and social care for people with complex needs. you can follow Rich on twitter @rich_w

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