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Breda O'Kane (Link Me Project)

"I used to see people out and about helping people with learning disabilities and I thought I would always love to do that. I have a daughter, Grace, who has a learning disability and I would love to work with adults with a learning disability. I like to meet new people and also see what’s out there in the community that my daughter might be interested in. That is what inspired me to volunteer with the Link Me project".

When I first started with Link Me I supported older people with a learning disabilitiy in a group setting. I then moved on to 1-2-1 support with a gentleman called Stephen. I was responsible for teaching Stephen how to walk from his home to a local leisure facility in the Omagh area. I was a bit nervous at first but I met with the project officer who explained the arrangements that had been put in place and we drove the route to risk assess together. There was very good communication to ensure I was happy with the role and follow up communication after each supported session.

Stephen was very nice to support and is a very intelligent and outgoing man. Stephen was very engaged with my support and took everything I was teaching him on board and I am very pleased to say that he is now independently walking to and from his local leisure facility. I gradually reduced my support with the guidance of the project officer until we both felt that he was ready to try and walk the route on his own. I have to say that I was a bit nervous when I knew he was going on his own but he did really great! I communicated to his using Makaton (a language programme using signs and symbols to help people to communicate) to say well done and that I was very proud of him, he smiled and signed back that he was also very happy that he walked by himself.

Now that Stephen is independent, I hope to support some ladies attend their knitting class on a Tuesday evening in the local library with the aim of reducing mu support until they become independent.

I have now got a huge amount of experience working with people with learning disabilities because of my daughter, it is really interesting to get to know each person on the project and understand their ways. I feel that patience and understanding are very important when supporting people with learning disabilities. Every beneficiary is different and it is really important to get to know each person.

I really enjoyed getting to know all the other volunteers, it is also interesting to find out and learn about different disabilities, I am learning all the time!

I would encourage others to get involved as you come home from supporting the beneficiaries feeling fulfilled and happy because you have given your time to help make them be part of their community and you have made the smile. The beneficiaries really love being out and about and really enjoy themselves; it is nice to see. You will have the opportunity to interact with different people and get to know their personalities. The beneficiaries have a great sense of humour and it's amazing to see the abilities that people do have. The training that I received was really good and it really helps! I have great support when volunteering and training gave me a good insight into different things such as if circumstances arise, how to manage. Volunteering gives you such a good feeling and volunteering for Link Me is great to be part of!