I’ve been in Keynsham for 13 years. I moved here from Devon, and met my husband when I was in Bristol. He is from Bristol. We decided that Keynsham has everything we need within walking distance. It has the vet’s, schools, shops, parks. He works here too now, so we have no need to commute into town every day which is great.
I’ve got three kids and two are back to school now. One in year one and one in year six, so that’s one at either end of the primary school. It’s a time of uncertainty really isn’t it? You feel like you’re moving forward one minute, then back the next. My kids have gone back to school. I wasn’t sure if it was the right decision or wrong decision. It’s hard isn’t it? So far, it’s been the right decision for their well-being and mental health. They’ve picked up that there is a difference in how they have to behave at school at the moment.
I work for Keynsham MENCAP as their fundraiser. I had three children at that point in time, so I was thinking of a work-life balance. I have a background in marketing, and I wanted to get that balance. I think the name MENCAP doesn’t give much of an idea of what services we provide. We have seen a big increase in autism diagnoses coming through. Maybe families out there don’t realise that we provide these services. We have seen a shift in our membership.
I organise events, do grant applications, and maintain stakeholder relationships, making sure that we are keeping in touch with people who support us and our community. I’ve been doing this for four years. At the moment of course our clubs aren’t open, but I am still working and finding ways of supporting the charity in terms of fundraising. I have done some online virtual fundraising using Facebook and You Tube. It’s been a different string to the bow. In terms of fund raising and raising awareness of our organisation it has been good. We have another one coming up actually. It’s a virtual quiz hosted on the Keynsham MENCAP Facebook page, with a different theme each time. Come!
We are affiliated to the national MENCAP charity, but Keynsham MENCAP it is actually an independently run charity. It provides activities and social events for people with learning disabilities and autism. We run ten clubs ranging from social clubs for adults and children to three sports clubs to a music man project. That’s our latest project actually, and it’s going very well. It’s a national celebration of music run by the founder of The Music Man Project. Some of our members performed for the local community and also at the Royal Albert Hall in London. There were two hundred people with learning disabilities performing It’s only been going for two years and the membership has doubled. There are twenty regulars now and it is going from strength to strength. They have done Christmas concerts and sung with Grenville Jones and his Good Afternoon Choir. They have performed a lot locally too, doing things like performing in local supermarkets to raise money.
Keynsham MENCAP is over 40 years old. It was started a group of parents who were frustrated at the lack of local service providers for their children. They started meeting up and going on community outings, and, well here we are 40 years later.
This wasn’t my first community job in Keynsham. When Tesco’s first opened ten years ago I was their community champion. I acted as a bridge between the big name and the community. I helped to generate awareness about the work Tesco’s could do to support the local community in a variety of ways. We had a budget to donate, but more than that it was a programme to encourage members of staff to work with community groups. For example a few Tesco’s employees painted the Brownies’ hut one weekend. Employees took time for volunteering services out of their normal working day.
A lot of our members are very well known. We have a team of ambassadors who might come along to community or council events. For example if an organisation supports us or perhaps donates, these people might collect a cheque for a photo opportunity.
Things have certainly changed since lockdown. The clubs closed straight away. A lot of club leaders have taken to providing some other form of support to our members. The children’s clubs have put together some online story times and other activities. We have been doing lots of Zoom meets and catch ups. Our biggest project is called Club 25, which is for adults over 25. They have been playing fancy dress bingo on Zoom. We have got two minibuses, so some of our drivers have been driving the bus around to members, giving them a wave and a chat. The members love it, that familiar bus with our branded logo is just another way to reconnect. Volunteers have been phoning buddies and keeping in touch via text message too. It’s all helping to prevent our members from feeling more isolated. They might feel more isolated than other people would.
Obviously, our clubs are usually open, but now our resources such as toys and equipment are in storage, so we have set up a toy library. This allows our members and their families to borrow and use things for a few weeks, then swap around. It’s great for our younger members, and of course for their siblings too.
Considering that we are a small team of people, so much gets done. We have really amazing volunteers, many of whom have been with us for years. It has a real family feel. We are one of the largest local community groups. We have worked with other community groups such as Keynsham in Bloom for example. We look after four planters in Sherwood Close. We have been involved in the scarecrow and umbrella trails too.
There is a Saturday club held in Threeways Odd Down. Then there is the Keynsham juniors club, which is called Sensations. That is held at the Pavilion at Somerdale on Tuesday evenings. They do a variety of activities. It’s a social club youth club, and they play games, and use third party service providers, so they might have someone in to do some dance, science, theatre, or puppets. Then we have the Go Explore club for 11-18 year olds, then the 25+ club. We have something for people who are 4 and older.
We run three sports clubs. There is a general fitness one for example. About thirty of our members attend. There is a football club with three teams. There are thirty people in the club altogether. It’s not just for boys. They play in both the Somerset Ability Counts League and Somerset Football Association Disability League. Our A team has been ranked quite highly in previous years. The guys train every Tuesday. Basically, there is loads on!
If you’d like more information about Keynsham MENCAP, please get in touch via firstname.lastname@example.org