Personal stories – Livability

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Personal stories

People consider Livability in their will for a wide variety of reasons, all of them personal and meaningful.

Here we share just some of the stories.

Sally’s story
Sally’s story

Sally’s story

Sally's connection with Livability goes back to childhood, when she attended Victoria Education Centre (VEC) in Dorset as a child in the 1960s.

"In those days, schools for disabled children were residential so I went off aged five and pretty much didn't see my parents during term-time". Sally continued her secondary education at another Livability school before starting a career with Barclays Bank.

Not one to be discouraged by barriers that might present themselves to wheelchair users - "if I'm told I can't do something, I pretty much want to do it". Sally has lived a rich and varied professional life, including travelling and sailing in her spare time. In the late 1990s, she returned to Victoria Education Centre, this time as a governor.

"I absolutely loved it, and went on to be Chair of Governors," Sally says. "I loved seeing the advances the students made."

This led to Sally serving as a trustee for Livability (then The Shaftesbury Society) for several years, and the charity's ethos continued to impress her: "The agenda of the charity has always been to do the best for the people we serve, and the staff."

Sally has seen the impact of Livability Holton Lee's work more recently, at horticultural therapy project Flourish, where James*, a family friend and Flourish participant, has gained confidence, skills and new friends. When Livability's patron HRH The Princess Royal visited Livability Holton Lee in early 2017 to open the Spinal Injury Centre, James was chosen to present a posy to the princess, something he was thrilled to do, thanks to his new-found confidence.

James' experience reflects the belief, foundational to Livability's work, that everyone should and can take part, contribute and be valued. Sally feels this is evidenced in action 'very, very clearly - no doubt' at Livability's services.

”It's too easy to dismiss someone because of their ability. We need to think more roundly about including people. To be truly inclusive can take a bit more effort but what resources and potential are we overlooking in people if we don't do this?”

Livability's work resonates loud and clear with Sally's personal values and aspirations for disabled and vulnerable people. 'I've always liked the ethos of Livability, of supporting people who are marginal, who are on the outside and find it hard to thrive in the environment they find themselves. If you can reach out a hand and support people, it can make such a difference - it may be that they just need that extra help at a particular point for their lives to flourish. With a bit of support, so many people can do great things.'

Livability's Christian ethos is central in gaining Sally's support. "Christian care in action is who I am. As belts get even tighter and mainstream funding and support is dropping away, the church community is more than ever going to be a lifeline for people who are on the edge of what is considered 'normal'."

For Sally, her experience of Livability in action over the years all added up to her decision to leave a legacy to Livability.

"Making a will took me an awfully long time! I gave it a lot of thought and prayer. I have left something for my godchildren but I also wanted to leave money to work I admire, so in some small way, I can help it continue. People may think that the little they can leave won't be much help, but if lots of people leave a legacy it all adds up and is valuable to the organisation to enable their work to continue and grow.

There are so many good causes in the world and they're all valid. But I know the impact Livability can have because I have seen it.”

Julia's story
Julia's story

Julia's story

Julia Brooker became a dedicated supporter of Livability after she experienced first-hand the difference that specialised equipment and respite care can make to disabled people and their families. As a passionate advocate for inclusive churches and communities, Mrs Brooker decided to leave a gift to Livability in her Will.

"I'm a retired Occupational Therapist and I've worked with people with disabilities and their carers for many years. Several years ago, my husband and I were thinking about making new Wills. We felt so blessed with five healthy children and wanted to give back.

I know personally how much special places and equipment can mean to disabled people and their families and carers. Not only in specialist centres, but also in the home. Just the smallest piece of equipment which can enable a child to feed itself when they are hungry instead of that food being spooned in, can make a tremendous difference to quality of life."

Having seen the impact of disability on families for many years, Julia cares deeply about including disabled people in their community. Recently she and her husband visited Livability's Holton Lee, where they saw personally the difference that a gift to our work can make:

"Visiting Holton Lee was amazing. It was totally focussed on need, and on developing the skills of people attending. They made sure that people could enjoy friendships, self-confidence, increasing their wellbeing… it just catered for everybody. It made a huge impression on us.

The whole ethos of Livability is about enabling people to be included in society - and that aligns itself with our ethos. We are 'people' people, we want everyone with disabilities to be included."

Making sure people are included has always been a part of Julia's life, and she still makes an effort to catch up with the parents and families she worked alongside throughout her career. Speaking about her connection to Livability , Julia said, "Livability is a good match for us. People need to be included. It's not frightening. Let's include them and give them a seat beside us. Showing by example is tremendously important. You include them - you visit people, you take them out for a meal. Include them in your family. It doesn't cost the earth."

Julia hopes that her gift will enable the inclusive nature of Livability's work to continue well into the future and that the emphasis on wellbeing will continue to help people through her gift, "To have respite is so important. It's important for the person concerned to get the support they need, but also so necessary for carers. Respite means that freshness is bought to a relationship which is stressed. I would like that ethos to continue through our gift."

And her message to others considering leaving a gift? "Just do it. Get involved!"

Gisela's story
Gisela's story

Gisela's story

Mrs Brownscombe, a former secondary teacher and now primary school governor, shares her reasons for leaving her gift for the future.

"My husband and I decided to choose a few charities who we support financially once a year and some others that we're going to leave money to in our Wills. We chose Livability because they work with disabled people, they are a Christian charity, they provide residential care and they make disabled people feel valued in society."

"We as a family had to deal with discrimination and the way people looked at disabled people - they weren't really part of society. I like the fact that Livability work very much on inclusion, to break down the barriers between disabled and non-disabled people. I think that's really important. My son is now in his mid-40s and things have changed a lot since he was born. His disability is cerebral palsy - it's affected his body very badly, but not his brain. He's very bright - he's got a PhD. My son is quadriplegic and can't even pour himself a glass of water. He lives on his own, but as he gets older, that will not be possible." "I think Livability's residential homes are really essential, where people can help each other and live together in communities, and contribute. If I could change one thing for disabled people, it would be to bring them into a community, even if it's a small community of just the house they live in, because people can be so lonely on their own."

"I think it's lovely that you keep us in touch with what's happening and we very much enjoy coming to Livability Christmas celebrations, at St Martin in the Fields and the Rose Fellowship celebration in the crypt. I think Livability is a really good cause and you do things really well.”

Miss Fisher's story
Miss Fisher's story

Miss Fisher's story

Miss Fisher was working as a nurse at Barts and wanted to do something beyond her work. That juncture was a Mr Nash - a surgeon there who asked Miss Fisher if she might be interested in joining the Trustees at the Shaftesbury Society - and she said yes. She was the chair of Trustees for her last three years, from 1995-1998, when she ceased active service but continued as a supporter.

When we asked Miss Fisher what particular areas of our work she is most interested and passionate about, here's what she had to say:

"I think it's just the whole approach to people with any sort of disabilities and the way it has developed - from physical disability which Livability are still involved with but also doing so much more on the dementia side and the mental health side.

Miss Fisher also shared with us what inspired her to leave a gift to Livability in her Will:

"It's a big concern with all these cuts to services that should be being provided. Ideally this charity shouldn't have to exist and you want to get to the point where it no longer exists, but for all the time it is necessary , hopefully you're plugging these holes.

Families who have a disabled child have to go through too many loops and hurdles which ends up being one battle after another and it's that which you want to get rid of.

I always remember Coney Hill School when the pupils did the performance and they were fairly young - under 12. This one chap with his two crutches was absolutely beaming and he fell flat on his back so the curtains went down, they came back up again and there he was beaming away carrying on. At the end of the concert, they sang that song 'thank you god for making me, me'. Here were children with severe disabilities, standing there and singing their heart out with broad grins on their faces singing 'thank you god for making me, me' and I thought it was so telling.

If you're not personally involved with someone with a disability, you don't know much about it. Nowadays, it should be a bit different. People don't know how to approach people. They talk over them. I always remember that someone was making a cup of tea for the person in the wheelchair and asked the person behind the wheelchair 'does he take sugar' and in fact he could perfectly well answer the question. People all of a sudden don't know how to talk to you, it's quite extraordinary.

Livability is a Christian organisation with a good Christian ethos that works with disadvantaged people who are people first and disabled second - who are people like ourselves and Livability helps them to enjoy a life as normal as possible.

I've always supported Livability and I'm keen for the work to continue. I think the original ethos has remained very strong and I hope it continues.”

Tim’s story: Living life to the fullest
Tim’s story

Tim’s story: Living life to the fullest

Supporting people’s involvement and participation in all areas of life is a strong commitment at Livability. We are passionate about people living their life to the fullest, and being able to pursue the things that matter to them – barrier free.

Participation at church – Tim’s story

Tim is a committed Christian and playing an active role in his church community is really important to him.

Through the support he has from Livability, Tim has been set up and leads a local church and ministry group, which is having a really rich impact on the wider congregation.

Tim has Down’s Syndrome, set up his group, ‘Lighthouse’, which creates a place of welcome for people with learning disabilities in his church and the surrounding area, as he says: “to show light to all the nation.”

About Lighthouse Tim says “I’m happy when I’m there. I always enjoy it with all my friends, and all the leaders. It’s really nice. When the group started I got a lot of friends. There’s not any more days now when I get lonely. My life is too busy to be lonely.”

A gift for the future – Roger and Jacky’s story

Gifts in Wills is such an important way in which people support the work of Livability in to the future. When people leave wills – it can help more people like Tim live life to the full.

Tim’s parents, Roger and Jacky, have chosen to include a gift to Livability in their Will. They told us how Livability has helped enable Tim to live the fullest life possible.

“Tim had fewer friends before he came to Livability. Being involved has given him a lot of confidence.

Tim has been at the forefront of breaking down barriers at church. We have a large group of disabled people in the church, and the main barrier has been people not understanding what these individuals can offer and what they can do.

I think people should look beyond the Down’s Syndrome … people often think of what he can’t do…. But they need to get to know him as a person… He’s got a lot to offer.”

Roger and Jacky had this heartfelt message for all of Livability’s wonderful supporters:

“Thank you to all of you who donate. You are supporting a part of society who are not recognised to the extent that they deserve to be. Thank you for joining us in including Livability in your Will.”

Jacky and Roger Newman, Tim’s parents

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