It is with the greatest pleasure and honor that we have some wonderful news regarding our service and we would like to share this with as many people as possible.
Many of the citizens, parents and carers we work with will know that this has been an idea in our heads for some time. The lockdown time has enabled us to follow through on the procedure necessary for becoming a not-for-profit company.
Open Wings is now officially registered as a not for profit, Community Interest Company. This means that any surplus money will be ploughed back into offering more choices, possibilities and opportunities for those we work with benefitting the local community.
We have a wonderful new Director, Juliet. E. Kele who was chosen specifically for her work in inclusion and diversity, and we know she will be a valuable asset to us. We are looking forward to working with her and thank her for her commitment and enthusiasm towards our service.
So, what will becoming a Community Interest Company (CIC) mean for the day to day running of the service?
More collaboration with local and national organisations to provide excellent learning opportunities
More collaboration with local employers as we continue to establish a local Employer Forum and work experience opportunities for adults with learning disabilities or differences.
Access to funding opportunities which will allow us to be able to offer some new and wonderful experiences.
Marketing of our service to local Community and Learning Disability Teams to ensure that they are aware of what our service can offer and how we can work and an increase in our general marketing.
An increase in volunteer work within our service.
Plans were made prior to the pandemic to work with organisations to help with issues such as food waste and sustainability and this year, this will be developed.
We really want to do good and open up the opportunities for citizens attending our service and beyond. They are all individuals, with specific individual needs but they are all able to offer and give something back to the local community. What we need now is opportunities of projects, voluntary work and community development work which we can be involved in, so if you have an idea of how you can work with us, please do contact us. If you are a local business, we are particularly interested in working with you regarding our Employer Forum, but if you have other ideas then please contact us.
If you have any skills which you feel you could offer tasters in for the members that would be wonderful too. It is always great to welcome new visitors. Maybe you have a skill you would like to share.
Becoming a Community Interest Company has been very important to us. We are now therefore committed to making a difference in our wider community but we cannot do this alone. We need the support of the local community and local business. We need your ideas.
To coincide with becoming a CIC, we also have a brand spanking new website! We feel it really demonstrates our story. What we need now are more stories so that we can keep our website updated and informative. Collaborating with local business and community is paramount and we need your help in order to offer further opportunities for citizens and in order to be able to expand the services we offer to make our story bigger and better!
It is hard to believe that just over a year ago we had to close our physical service at Open Wings which is based within the beautiful Sherwood Community Centre. At the time we had no idea that we would be working from home and that running the service would change entirely into a whole different way of working.
A whole year of being isolated from friends, family and loved ones. It is with great appreciation that we can say a grateful thank you that we all live to tell our story. How a group came together everyday come rain or shine. The tale of how a group supported one another virtually. The tale of how a group were always there for one another and helped to make each one of us smile. How a group supported one another with their mental health to get through their good and bad days. Supporting one another with their keeping well and wellbeing. Celebrations of special times and birthdays together that could not be celebrated in person. How our work supporting families became vital, to give structure to their day for the people that they were caring for and how so many families and carers/support workers have been so appreciative of the work we have been doing.
And we could write on and on.
As difficult as the last year has been there have been some inspirational moments. Things we never thought we could ever do we have done.
We have all had to become more tech aware, pressing buttons we never knew what they were for, fixing cameras up in our homes, learning to google at all hours and becoming sound technicians.
Some have learned to share their voices openly which they would not have done a year ago.
Some have had a go at new things which they would never have tried.
Some have dressed up had fun had a dance sang a song and had the confidence to do so and just for a time forget all about the virus.
We did return to offering a very small sterile service in November 2020 but we were only able to operate for a very short time before having to lockdown again. Here are some of the members making handmade Christmas Decorations. It was a nice time. People were glad to be able to be back so it was sad when we did lockdown again.
Over the last year we have had some amazing moments of great achievement. However, the most amazing aspect has been the resilience, the commitment, the enthusiasm, the loyalty and the willingness of our team members. They have truly been inspirational and we have learned much from them.
Some new skills I have developed are: lip reading – had to get much better at this as you may know I am deaf and use hearing aids but watching people’s mouths is really important to me so that I can hear them.
Our week consisted of: –
On a Mondays we became a comedian and a bit of an exercise guru as we learned new dances from around the world and had some Monday Motivation fun. We have zoomed around the world in 30 minutes, we have been celebrities in I’m a Celebrity Zoom me out of here workshop and we have zoomed around the house looking for items we can use to keep fit.
On Tuesdays we became a game show host as we played many online games and activities
On Wednesday we became a Nurse advisor all about keeping well, getting our injections, and exercising
On Thursday we became a DJ at our regular online disco slot
On Friday we became a singer at the wonderful Music for Everyone Open Voices choir.
Some weekends we became a member of ABBA, dressed up as a Vintage woman for VE Day, and a mermaid for an online fancy dress, others we were just ourselves, but what a great time we all had together with the others, from pirates, to Where’s Wally to monsters, ghouls and witches.
We have continued individual learning online, and those sessions have encouraged the use of many skills whilst learning about History, Geography, Arts, and Basic Skills. We are continuing these sessions, so anyone interested in private one to one tuition please get in touch.
We have formed strong bonds with various organisations and have also ran 3 motivational and fun workshops for Transform Training as a thank you to them for running their Lockdown sessions for us last year.
This year we ran the following workshops: –
Zoom around the world in 3o minutes
I’m a celebrity zoom me out of here
Zoom around your home – House Scramble
These were all fun workshops designed to enhance wellbeing, give a sense of a group belonging, therefore reducing isolation and a chance for people to have some fun and laughter in these very trying times. It was an opportunity to forget about the pandemic for a short time. We cannot re-iterate how wonderful it was to work with Transform Training and we will most definitely be sharing and collaborating in the future. To find out more about Transform Training click here http://www.transformtraining.org.uk/
This sharing of ideas and resources has been invaluable and created a strong positive relationship between our organisations. If you know an organization that would be interested in any of our Zoom workshops, please ask them to get in touch or indeed if you have any other ideas for workshops which you may wish us to run, please let us know.
We are nearing the end of this dreadful time and we can see through the darkness a light shining which is getting stronger each day. Spring is finally here, and the world is starting to feel a little different, more open, brighter, shinier, more accessible.
We want all our team to keep walking brightly with us not long to go now and anyone else who would like to join us on our journey to the end you are welcome to join in with any of our online activities.
As Sir Captain Tom always said, “Tomorrow will be a good day”. Let us embrace it together and all the days ahead.
Please share the blog with friends, family, supporters, and carers. Please ask them to get in touch with us if they are interested in any of our services. Here’s to looking forward to a brighter year ahead.
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?