Resources | Include.org

Award-winning volunteer – Sofia

What does it take to be recognised as The Mayor’s Young Volunteer of the year?

Please meet one of our most generous, energetic and versatile volunteers…

Sofia first got in touch with Include aged 13, to ask if she could do her Duke of Edinburgh (DofE) Award volunteering section with the charity.

For some young people, volunteering as part of DofE may a bit of a “tick the box” exercise to get the award. But not for Sofia.

She says, “I wanted to work with people. All my friends were going, ‘I just want to get this bit over with so I’ll just go to the public library for a few weeks and quietly help out there.’  But I didn’t want to go to the library! (I thought) ‘I don’t think I can cope with that! So, I’ll find something else that will be more fun’.”

What she didn’t have in experience she made up for in enthusiasm, empathy, humour and versatility. Include’s volunteering experience is a great fit for Sofia.

“Include is for everyone that wants to learn and wants to have fun and meet new people that they wouldn’t necessarily meet.”

Sofia’s talents and willingness to learn new things – mean she has helped Include in a wide variety of ways. She famously understates her contribution as “I just do a little bit of everything!” But really, she is an essential part of the charity – keeping important things like AV technology running smoothly during rehearsals, helping people to feel welcome and calm, and creating accessible Easy Read resources.

This last year has uncovered even more of what Sofia has to offer. She helps Include to rise to the challenges of Covid19 – adapting to new platforms like Zoom, piloting a covid-safe roadshow and doing more than ever on our social media channels to help raise awareness of what we do to break down barriers for people with communication needs.

Follow the Include Instagram account that Sofia manages here

When asked how volunteering for Include has benefitted her, she says, “I got to do so many things that I wouldn’t have. I’ve been responsible for things and I’ve learnt how to be responsible for other people and, you know, build trust with others. Obviously being the youngest, you don’t know if people are going to trust you that much. But I’ve been trusted with big things. And taken them forward and have kind of shown that I can do it.

“So yeah, it’s fantastic to have a charity that have just gone, ‘Yep, Sofia can do this. She’s our girl.'”

A few years down the line, working with people with additional needs is something Sofia is embracing in her working life too. She landed a teaching assistant role in a local school, working with a young boy who has autism.  Being able to help calm and distract him are skills she has used in choir rehearsals. She remembers one rehearsal: “A member of The Include Choir was having a hard time because there were lots of upcoming event date announcements and then it was break time, when people go to get a cup of tea and chat. I noticed that he got a bit stressed. I took him to the side and was like, ‘Do you want me to get you your biscuit and a drink?’ And I told him, ‘I’ll get the dates printed out for you.’”

Sofia also works behind the counter in Boots and her Include experience has been helpful there too.  As an Include volunteer she has learnt Makaton signing to support people with a range of communication needs, and this has given her the confidence to also learn some British Sign Language.

“I see a lot of deaf customers in Boots. My colleague was struggling to help a deaf couple once, and was just shouting. So, I went over and I signed, “Do you want to buy with cash or card?” and ”Can I take my mask down so you can lip read?” Now if deaf people come to Boots, they seem to navigate in my direction!”

“I try to do my bit in the community to make everyone feel included and I just love seeing people who join Include connect. It’s like a big family. Seeing the support workers get involved as well as the members, when everyone is joining in, is fantastic!”

“I remember watching two Include Choir members with different levels of communication adapting to each other. He was signing to her using Makaton signs that he just learned from a song – really trying hard to sign and talk to her. She is limited verbally and does use a lot of Makaton.  He had an idea – and went to get an iPad with a supported communication app on it – and then those two were having like a conversation on the iPad and it was so sweet. And it’s in moments like those that all our team’s hard work is so very worth it.”

Everyone at Include is proud of our girl Sofia for the wonderful achievement of receiving this award and for all the creativity, energy and warmth she brings to everything she does.

See Sofia and find out more about volunteering with Include here

https://youtu.be/HEjBa1A6i0A
Penny Sims
Penny Sims
Include Choir Coordinator

Improve your listening skills…

Include is well know for Makaton signing and singing – another important skill that we try to teach and enhance is listening.

Our FREE Easy Read resource this month is about how to be a good listener. You can download it here:

It is so important to make sure people feel listened to and understood, especially if communication is not easy for that person.

Really listening to someone can make them feel good. It can really turn someone’s day around.

We spoke to one of our members Josh about why listening skills are so important.

We asked Josh because we have seen what a careful and patient listener he is in person and via Zoom, one to one, in a big group and as an interviewer. Josh’s top tip is:

“Don’t interrupt – it’s annoying – just listen.” He says “If you are in a big group wait your turn to speak, if you are on Zoom you can go on mute. When they have finished speaking you can reply.”

Josh thinks it is a good idea to make sure you have understood correctly – either by asking someone to repeat what they said, asking questions or saying back what you’ve heard.

We talked about how important it is to pay attention to non-verbal communication. And if you are talking to someone who is blind you need to remember that your own body language, smile, nod or Makaton won’t easily let them know that you are listening – you need to say something.

As well as listening to people speak, Josh loves listening to people singing in choirs – which is one reason he is a member of The Include Choir. One of the commitments all our choir members make is to “be good at listening” – these are lyrics in our Include Choir Agreement song, which is a code of conduct written by members.

Please let us know what you think of our resource – we’re ready to listen to your feedback.

Our guide is based partly on Samaritans’ SHUSH listening tips. You can learn more on their website at samaritans.org/shush

Our thanks also to www.changepeople.org for their Easy Read guide called What is Safeguarding.

Penny Sims
Penny Sims
Include Choir Coordinator

Sometimes we have cake…but we try to be healthy

When The Include Choir meets virtually or in person we often talk about food!

Last week we voted on whether we thought it was good to have pineapple on pizza – or not.

Quite a controversial topic!

Good nutrition matters

When we can meet up in-person we have snacks available, ranging from the very healthy like carrots and seaweed to treats like biscuits, and we’ll admit it…sometimes we have cake!

We take care to offer a range of food options. While food can be fun, we know that being healthy can be a challenge for people. We also know that sometimes it can become a serious issue for people with learning disabilities or autism.

“Good nutrition is vital to the health and wellbeing of people with learning disabilities, but they are more likely than the general population to be underweight or overweight/obese, in most cases due to lifestyle factors and not to causes inherent to their learning disabilities.”

LeDeR Programme Fact Sheet 28, 2019

Free Resource about being Healthy

During Healthy Eating Week this June we know quite a few of our members have been paying special attention to what they eat. Well done everyone.

Our Choir Rep Hannah has worked alongside our volunteer Sofia to produce a free Easy Read resource about being healthy. We hope this will be useful to other people too.

We are producing one free Easy Read resource each month for a year as we explained in our blog last month.

A bit about our role model

Hannah is a very active member of The Include Choir.

She works hard to get the balance right between having fun and enjoying food and being healthy.

During lockdown she has been exercising at home and sometimes shows us what she has been baking.

Hannah keeps track of all her activities on a weekly planner.

One way she keeps fit while having fun is doing Bolly X, a fitness class inspired by Bollywood dance.

Hannah works in a supermarket where she can get free recipe cards and she also subscribed to Easy Cook magazine. One of her favourite recent bakes was Cinnamon Bun Muffins – don’t they sound delicious?! Her favourite healthy snack is melon.

Hannah says; “It’s ok to have some unhealthy stuff but not every day. It’s a good idea to look at the back, at the ingredients, to see how much sugar is in it.”

Hannah knows that what she drinks is important too. She likes cranberry juice (cranberry light) and also drinks about 6 cups of water a day.

We hope our free Easy Read resource inspires you to try one of Hannah’s ideas…

Penny Sims
Penny Sims
Include Choir Coordinator

Free Easy Read Resources from Include

To celebrate our 5th birthday year as a charity, we’re producing and gifting the world some Easy Read resources!

Our friends over at Photosymbols.com answer the question “What is Easy Read” brilliantly (do take a look).

In short, it means writing and designing information in a way that all people, including people with a learning disability, can understand.

The techniques include using plain English and clear fonts alongside photos or symbols to enhance understanding.

The need for Easy Read information has been highlighted by Covid19. Everyone needs access to clear, easy to understand information about things like lockdown rules and how to stay safe.

By using Easy Read standards for other topics too (not just Covid), we can make many aspects of life more inclusive and accessible to all.

We’ve searched for Easy Read resources ourselves, and in some cases struggled to find any.

For that reason, our volunteers and member/volunteers are working together to produce Easy Read resources on topics that interest us. We hope these will be useful to other people too.

We plan to give away one Easy Read resource each month for a year. Starting this month. Here’s the plan:

June – Healthy Eating resource

July – Listening skills resource

August – Digital Photography resource

September – Recycling / upcycling resource

October – Black Lives Matter resource

November – Kindness resource

December – Christmas Decoration Making resource

January – Mindfulness resource

February – Chinese New Year resource

March – Pancake Making resource 

April – Easter resource

This is the plan, but if you want to suggest a different topic for our series, please let us know. We’re open to ideas!

Penny Sims
Penny Sims
Include Choir Coordinator

Resource title

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