March 23rd, 2020, the world changed as we knew it in Britain. Shops closed, restaurants closed, schools and nurseries closed, churches closed, parks closed, garden centres closed, not to mention many other small and large businesses. A week prior to the full lockdown, we received one call from Nottingham City Council, instructing us that for our safety and the safety of the members of Open Wings, that we needed to disband our service for a while.
We quickly collated together some things which we might have needed to be able to work from home and we closed the doors at our lovely base at Sherwood Community Centre. We could never have anticipated what came or what was yet to come. We had not envisaged not being able to return to work for such a long time.
With little information with regards to what the future would look like we set about continuing to support the citizens who attended Open Wings. In the first instance, we were calling citizens regularly, texting them, sending videos and gradually as we worked out all the techy bit we moved onto providing some support on line. That was a learning curve!
As a smaller service within Nottinghamshire and currently a private service we were feeling quite isolated with the change and the enormity of what might lie ahead.
We started off slowly by providing one off one to ones using zoom as our virtual platform. Over the months we have built up and we have been offering a session each day where citizens can come online and continue to be part of the group that they were once part of.
For some citizens this new way of working has actually been really positive. They seem to like working online and seeing us each day. They seem to like the short burst of 40 minutes to do an activity. They look forward to building this into their day. For those citizens that wish we also offer one-to-one support online and again these have been really successful sessions. In order for all of this to happen it has become essential more than ever for us to work closely with parents, carers key workers and residential homes. All the parents and carers have also been thrown into a new learning environment having to learn new technology. It’s great to see the parents online supporting the citizens and even better when the parents and carers are getting involved in the sessions like having a lovely dance at the VE Day Celebrations.
So, what does our week look like? Well we start our week off with Monday motivation. This session does exactly what it says. it helps to get citizens into a positive mindset for the rest of the week. We aim to have as much fun as possible in the session and make it very interactive. It’s a good session to start the week off with and everyone enjoys it.
TUESDAY AFTERNOON TEA
Tuesday afternoons are our Tuesday Afternoon tea. We share a biscuit or cake and a pot of tea together and we do some online activities which stimulate the brain and memory but are also fun.
TRANSFORM TRAINING – SURVIVING LOCKDOWN – MENTAL HEALTH SUPPORT WORKSHOP
Wednesday morning has been all about our mental health and this workshop was offered by the wonderful Transform Training. This has been a highlight of our online work during the coronavirus pandemic. The trainers ran the workshop in a person-centred way and during this time members were able to talk about their feelings regarding the current situation. There were lots of interactive, thought provoking activities. Transform training have been excellent and I would highly recommend them to provide workshops to any groups that may benefit from their expertise.
THURSDAY DISCO DANCE
Thursday afternoon is the most energetic part of our week where we come together at 4 o’clock for our online action party disco dance session. Here we get chance to watch YouTube videos, follow some dance moves. It’s great for our mental health but also great to incorporate some form of exercise and fitness into our week.
FRIDAY – THE FABULOUS OPEN VOICES CHOIR CONTINUES ON LINE
Friday mornings are dedicated to the Music for everyone Open Voices choir. This continues to be phenomenal and members of the choir look forward to this all week texting on the WhatsApp group which songs they would like to sing. Our thanks go out to Victoria Barlow and Cliff McArdle for ensuring that this vital part of our week could continue.
Alongside our weekly workshops we also run individual workshops for members that wish to have these. We send out online work and activities and over the lockdown we have provided opportunities for members and families and parents and carers to enjoy some online social events. One of our first events was VE day celebrations. We had an on-line afternoon tea event. We danced to songs from years gone by and remembered those that fought for us.
We also facilitated a virtual prom which was truly wonderful. Everyone got dressed up dicky bows in the mix too. We danced together on line and had a great time. A week later came out on line fancy dress. A great time had by all. Costumes ranged from Pirates, to 60’s rock chicks and Where’s Wally. It was absolutely great fun.
OPEN WINGS has worked tirelessly to ensure that we have continued to provide a service that meets the needs of the individuals that we serve. It is not been perfect, and not without some difficulties, but under the circumstances we have done our utmost.
Although the doors to the Community Centre where we are based are still closed (due to re-open soon) Open Wings is not Closed it is very much open and has been throughout the lockdown, it’s just that we have been working in a very different way. We are looking forward to the future and although there will be some changes we have shown that we are able to adapt and we have all shown resilience during this trying time. It has shown us that Open Wings is more important than what we had imagined in the daily days of our members and for that we are thankful that we can make a positive difference, as this is what we originally set out to do.
We would like to share our past and present story with you about our Open Wings journey.
As with all business ventures right now it is a time of great uncertainty but we remain committed to supporting members who attend Open Wings and beyond. If you know anyone who is feeling isolated and demotivated who has learning disabilities or other difficulties they are welcome to join in with any of our on line activities during the week.
We may not be able to run our usual sessions and life has changed dramatically for all of us but we are finding new ways of maintaining contact.
Please do read the following blog. Written by Dr Juliet Kele from Birmingham University Business School
It has been some time since we released a blog post. There are various reasons for this, the main one being that we are so busy running our service giving all we possibly can give to our citizens to make sure that they have the support they need from us, that unfortunately, there isn’t too much time for things like blogs! We work in small intense groups and also sometimes on a one to one basis. This can be quite demanding. Structuring sessions around individual needs and interests to make learning more fun. We are always thinking of ideas and our brains never really stop. Therefore at Christmas we take the time out we need to recoup our energy so that we can give more year on year.
This year there have been some personal circumstances which we have also had to navigate and whereas some would not forge ahead, we have remained committed and ensured our service runs smoothly for all those involved. Unfortunately even after breaking my nose and looking like Quasimodo, I still continued to work to ensure everyone in our service received the support they needed.
Sometimes support isn’t always academic sometimes this involves helping our citizens in their personal lives, helping them to source alternative accommodation, helping them to remember Dr and Dentist appointments and sometimes even helping them to get to A and E and remaining with them until their families were able to support them. Our commitment to our service cannot ever be under estimated. We give all we can.
The year ahead may see some changes we really want to forge ahead and increase the uptake at our service. We tailor make a package to suit the service user. It isn’t the right place for everyone but it will be for some. We also offer citizens the opportunity of work experience in their chosen field, so, If you know anyone with a learning disability or difficulty, please do tell them about us. Please ask them to get in touch so they can visit. We offer a free taster session too. Please share this blog via your social media links. Please help us to reach a widespread audience.
So here’s wishing you all a wonderful new year ahead. 2020 here we come, and hopefully there will be a little more blogging and social media highlights.
Open Wings wishes all the citizens attending our service and their families and carers all the best for the New Year.
Five years ago, I was diagnosed with quite a severe unexpected hearing loss. It was a shock as I thought I was managing but all my family and friends knew I had a problem. Unfortunately I was the last person to believe it until a hearing assessment revealed a 70 percent hearing loss in both ears. I found it difficult to accept at first and delayed getting hearing aids as I thought this would make my hearing worse. In the end I realised I was unable to function to the best of my ability without some type of hearing device. Life has been better since but even with my hearing aids there are some things which hinder conversations. So, to honour Deaf Awareness week I thought I would put some suggestions together for when you need to communicate with people who have hearing impairment. My tips on communicating with me as experienced by me are:-
Do not mumble speak clearly and concisely but do not shout.
Don’t over emphasise your facial expressions.
Keep your hands away from your mouth as I could automatically be lip reading.
Don’t walk away from me as you start a conversation with me.
Before starting a conversation make sure you have my full attention. Do not try to start a dialogue when lots of other things are happening, I won’t be able to concentrate or hear you.
Don’t start a conversation and put the kettle on or other appliance all I will be able to hear is the appliance noise.
Don’t turn lights off at bed time then try to talk to me in the dark, I won’t be able to hear you, I will have taken my hearing aids out and it will be too dark for me to see your lips to read them!!
When I am tired it will be more difficult for me to hear. I have to concentrate really hard so please be patient with me.
Wearing hearing aids can help but it can also be really draining so please understand when all I want at night time is silence.
Please let me have the subtitles on even if it bothers you as I might just want quiet time after a hard day. No voices in my head.
In a Drs surgery or hospital waiting room don’t put the chairs miles away from where the drs will come out to call my name. I won’t be able to hear.
If you are talking to me on a mobile please do not put me on loudspeaker or even worse be driving. I won’t be able to hear! All I will hear is the background noise and our conversation will make me very stressed.
Please please do not call me on the phone and carry on with your housework or washing pots all I will hear is running gushing water and crinkle crackle sounds!! Worst of all don’t start eating your favourite flavour crisps!!
Having a conversation with me through a closed door will not work! Are you listening kids?
When you come into house come and find me and tell me you are home safe otherwise I won’t have heard you come in and you will give me a big fright when you make me jump out of my skin because I didn’t think anyone was home.
Oh yes and nearly forgot, if you are a passenger in my car please be patient I will more than likely not change gears as fast as you do because I won’t hear the engine, and yes I can look at revs, but I have to concentrate so hard on all the other stimuli around me I do sometimes keep it in the wrong gear for an endless amount of time! Don’t get cross just put your hand over mine on the gear stick and remind me nicely it’s time to go up a notch!
So this is my experience of the last 5 years of living with deafness. Life can be difficult because of it at times and I do find some things hard to deal with as I imagine others with hearing impairment do also. What we really need to help is an understanding of how best to communicate with us. Simple small things can really help.
I have never highlighted my hearing loss and with family and friends I even laugh and make a joke about it but it does sometimes upset me. I hide it as much as I possibly can but I have opened myself up in this blog as if I can raise awareness of how to communicate with me then it might just help one other person in their life who has hearing impairment and they will struggle less.
I don’t want pity. I don’t want accolade I just want awareness.
Every Friday morning Open Wings is proud to be supporting and working with Music for Everyone to run their Open Voices choir. Every week a group of adults with learning disabilities meet at St Martin’s Church in Sherwood. . Each person attending is a unique individual full of their own astounding qualities and abilities.
From the very first week that the choir began back in September I have seen these unique individuals grow in confidence, in social skills and in their ability to make new friends and be part of a larger group.
An individual who would never smile now carefully spreads her mouth wide shows her teeth and let’s out a little giggle. An individual who uses a wheelchair has no verbal communication but sits next to the piano taking in every single note the wonderful pianist plays, her eyes alight with joy. A unique individual that communicates only through verbal noises volunteering to sing a solo and being so clear when singing Hallelujah! An older man with Aspergers, joining in and singing let’s go fly a kite, arms up in the air and clapping his heart out to Lilly the Pink the pink the pink, and a Spoonful of sugar, as he remembered days gone by. A solo of don’t you want me baby and another of Joseph! Absolutely wonderful to watch the joy on every single participants face.
Twisting and shouting, pointed grease lightening fingers and rowing our boats down the stream singing I dream a dream and flying a kite and finding our way to Amarillo, smiling laughing, dancing and jumping, clapping and hand signing. The mornings can be overwhelming as I observe everything taking place in such a short time. It’s not just the joy of singing which takes place. Friendships forming, communication skills being enhanced confidence and reading and listening skills not to mention a heap of other things which there are no words to describe.
There are so many times during the mornings that I myself become overwhelmed with emotion as I observe the participants. Singing is a joy and every single one of the individuals attending always leaves feeling positive about themselves, confident but what’s more happy to take on anything the rest of the day has to offer them equipped with self belief in their own abilities. They feel exhilarated and powerful, they are part of something exciting, something new, something that will grow and change but their contribution is invaluable. They are part of a team, a family .
You cannot put a price on this opportunity to experience the joy of music and singing and therefore if you haven’t already done so please please take the time to vote for music for everyone’s Aviva Community Trust Project – Sound Waves. Please share this blog on your personal page ask your friends to vote, it takes less than 2 minutes but could change the life of someone with learning disabilities.
If you know any person with a learning disability or difficulty that might benefit from attending the choir please get in touch. The choir is inclusive and manages all levels of difficulties or disabilities. They won’t regret it! Share this blog so that we can spread the word and open up the possibilities and opportunities for adults and young people with learning disabilities. Help us by casting your vote and sharing and spreading the word about the choir.
Here’s the link again go vote now! Please. There’s only a few days left!
We are proud to promote to you our up dated website. It now tells a better story of exactly who and what Open Wings is and why it was formed. We hope you like it and if you have any comments that you would like to share about it please feel free to get in touch.
Our service won’t suit everyone but it will fill a need for a more bespoke service which is smaller than most day centre provision. We are not saying that day centre provision is not adequate, in fact the day centres in Nottingham they do some fantastic work, but, we are saying that it’s not always the best place for everyone and we want there to be something a bit more individual out there for those that would not really fit into a day centre service. That’s one of the reasons we established Open Wings. A programme is designed around the individual and the individuals’ needs.
For example a young person or adult who has Dyslexia and needs a little bit of extra support to help them pass their mainstream college course, an older adult that would find day centre provision too noisy or too busy, and adults who really want to experience the world of work in some way but just need some underpinning skills to help them.
Our aim is to provide work skills to citizens who wish to do some work experience or even paid work. It’s not impossible. We would help them with interview skills, social and communication skills, confidence building and job skills. Wherever suitable we would establish a correctly matched work experience environment for the individual citizen.
We intend to work closely with local employers to offer suitable experiences. So if you are an employer reading this and would like to get involved or if you know of an employee who might be interested please share our details with them and ask them to get in touch about our employee forum.
We would like to be helping more adults with learning disabilities so please share this blog on your social media sites so that people may find out about us.
We have some exciting plans ahead, including a choir class in conjunction with Music for Everyone. If you know an adult or young person that might enjoy this on a Friday morning that may be interested, again ask them to get in touch.
That’s all for now, but we will be working harder over the next few months to keep our blog a little more up to date but please do share so that we can reach the citizens we want to help and any comments or suggestions about our work please forward them to us via our contact page at www.openwingsadultlearning.co.uk
Our workshop at Rumbletums last week provided us with some ideas about what confidence means to adults with learning disabilities.
Using hands to communicate
Looking at people
Not worrying if you have been called names or people have been nasty
Forgetting about things
Trying things out
Not giving up
These were comments made from the trainees whom we had the pleasure of working with.
They were brave enough to speak about past experiences and how this had affected them and then we spoke about letting go.
Our day was jam packed with non stop practical activities to raise self esteem and belief in ones abilities. We danced, we shouted, we team built and we let go of the things that had hurt us in the past. We made plans for the future.
It was a day of looking back and a day of hope. Hope for the future.
People with learning disabilities are labelled all through life and assumptions made instantly on their abilities. If they are not given opportunities to try out new things, make mistakes, learn from them then how will they ever know what they are truly capable of.
Every single trainee was nervous at first to try out a new task/challenge but with a little support and encouragement they were able to realise for themselves that by giving things a go they learn, they grow, but most of all they experience.
From experience they are able to learn and if this experience is not available to them then how can they possibly show what their true talents/capabilities are? How often does society restrict the experiences which adults with learning disabilities can have? That’s another question perhaps for another blog another time.
Just like in our confidence building day learners were encouraged to join in with the challenges and not be afraid to make mistakes or be judged, I will take my own advice and post this blog, maybe learning from it, maybe making mistakes, maybe taking a risk with some of the things being said and maybe being judged. Being confident is letting go of fear just as we did with the trainees letting go of their balloons, their fears, the past, being corageous, then I also will be brave and post this blog. I hope you enjoy reading this blog, if you enjoyed this please do read our other ones too, like us on Facebook and Twitter and connect with me on linked in.
If you are an organisation working with adults with learning disabilities or other difficulties and are interested in Open Wings running a workshop for your organisation please do get in touch.
So here I am really late, unable to sleep as I feel too excited about the year ahead. All these plans are buzzing through my brain and I can’t wait to tell my sister, my business partner, tomorrow. We need to establish them all as part of our business plan review for this year. To tell you all of our plans would be telling so we’re not going to do that right now but what we will say is there will be lots of opportunities for adults with learning disabilities in Nottinghamshire to get involved with us. We also want to extend our service in the community and take teaching into community and residential settings. If you can’t get to us, then we can come to you. If you are a member of staff in a school or college and you feel any of your learners could benefit from us coming into your organisation to give a brief outline of what we do and how we may be able to help, then please don’t hesitate to contact us. Get in touch either through the website or Facebook or Twitter.
We would like to draw attention to what has started to take shape already here at Open Wings. We are becoming increasingly known as a quality provider of day services to adults with learning disabilities and difficulties. We intend to go nowhere We are in it for the long haul! We are committed to what we believe, our mission of opening up choices possibilities and opportunities to adults with learning disabilities
We are able to support a variety of needs. It may even be that you missed school when you were younger and would now like to catch up but in a small safe and unthreatening environment. You may have dyslexia, or anxiety and lack confidence to try new things. Because learning is individual for every single adult walking through our door then we can tailor a package to your needs.
We have so much we want to do this year so we need your help to help us to do it. If you are reading this and you are part of a social care team or you know someone who would benefit from our service, please ask them to get in touch.
Insomnia can be quite good for business it’s a quiet time for the brain to gather, organise and plan. Sometimes insomnia is the bit of the day that allows us to do just this. Where else would we fit things in? A night of insomnia isn’t bad in fact quite the opposite. Often it’s when the biggest plans start to take shape. In fact, Open Wings was first born via a night of insomnia.
I for one am glad that every so often my brain won’t allow me to sleep. I feel that’s when I’m at my most creative. Many people would say “well what about the next day. I bet you can’t do anything”? In fact the insomnia gives me the motivation to do even more the following day. Crazy how it works but it’s true? What do you think? Any insomniac business entrepreneurs out there? Any tips for a good night’s sleep?
So the end of the year is upon us and it’s a time to reflect on what has been achieved and what a more appropriate way of doing just that by redesigning our website.
We are very proud and excited to announce we have upgraded from just a landing page of information to a whole new website with a gallery, photos, blog, social media links and more. Please take a look and give us your feedback we would love to hear what you think!
Next year we want to achieve a larger customer base; it’s ok talking to potential customers about what we offer but what they really want is to be able to see our services. Our Services page and gallery on our website gives them a more thorough understanding of what we offer.
Our links to social media from our website will help to inform others out there who may not be aware of our services so we are hoping with this our business will grow. if you haven’t already liked our Facebook page and followed us on Twitter then please do so and don’t forget to share!
Open Wings is about making a positive difference into the lives of adults with learning disabilities/difficulties and we want people to know about us so we have the opportunity of doing just that. Once you’ve connected with us you will see our regularly updated newsfeeds and posts. You will be kept informed of any new developments and there will definitely be some in the new year. We’ll be posting lots of photos and lots of general information of what’s happening in the world of adults with learning disabilities by sharing posts from other organisations in this field. Our website will be constantly updated and current.
We are relying on you to share our information with the world out there to raise awareness of what adults with learning disabilities can achieve given the opportunity.
Thank you for reading our blog don’t forget to press the Like and Follow icons for our Facebook and Twitter.
What makes you happy? This is the question I based a learning session around for our health4life course today.
Of course there were the standard things that people usually say: money, food, friends etc but all of the attendees wrote a comment or expressed their comments by stating “Open Wings’ – coming to Open Wings makes me smile I like working with the two sisters and we have lots of fun but I learn loads too.”
Another learner said Open Wings gives me something to look forward to in my week.
This gives us a great sense of pride and purpose in what we have began to achieve. A place where adults can come where they are safe to try new tasks as they will not be judged, ridiculed or condescended to. They will always be encouraged and stimulated to believe that they can achieve as much as they ever want to.
We set about establishing open wings approximately 6 months ago. A tiny room in a local community centre. A place specifically chosen for it’s location a safe haven in the heart of Sherwood in Nottingham. To be honest we weren’t quite at the point where we were ready to start the journey into business but the room being available to rent was too good an opportunity to miss. And to think if I had not gone to do a yoga class that night when I saw the advert. our journey may not have ever got off the ground. So, we began transforming an old office room with green standard council carpets with a few stains on into a bright more modern room yet still in keeping with the original features of the building. After all we are based in the oldest house in Sherwood. We painted all the walls ourselves neither of us having done much decorating in the past. We got a nice new rustic floor laid and we filled the room with a few tables and chairs. We were set the room was fresh, small and unique, just like our business.
We got a website business cards and a business banner. We were set to go and then the hard work really began follow our journey as we travel along our path and our dream of making this venture work for all those we intend to work with.
Wednesday, March 10th, 2021 at 7:09pm
Thank you @BuenaVidaNottm for collaborating to ensure inclusion and accessibility to access your online community Zumba sessions. Everyone at Open Wings really enjoyed the sessions and were so happy to be part of the group again. Thank you 🙏🏻