Bede House celebrates years of service

IMAGE: Leslie Burnham (left) and Ciaran Bailey (right) helping out householder Jean Foley (centre) Leslie and Ciaran give their time as part of Bede House’s Inside Out project, which introduces volunteers with a learning disability to frail and elderly householders

In the UK, around 16 million people have some form of disability – that’s nearly one in four people across the country. UK Disability History Month, currently taking place until Saturday 16 December, aims to raise awareness of some of the challenges faced by people living with disabilities. The annual event provides a platform to focus on the history of the struggle for equality and human rights.

Here in Canada Water we’re proud to support the work of Bede House, a local charity that’s been changing lives and responding to the area’s changing needs since 1938.

Bede House’s roots stretch back to 1883 when Samuel and Henrietta Barnett pioneered London’s settlement movement. It brought volunteers from privileged backgrounds to live among and assist low-income communities. Bede House was founded as a new settlement in 1938, raising £400 to buy a former bakery that still functions as the charity’s main office today.

From the 1980s onwards, the charity expanded its community services to support people with learning disabilities and domestic abuse sufferers. Next year it celebrates 20 years of its Inside Out Project, which supports people with learning disabilities and autism to do jobs for their elderly neighbours who are often housebound and living alone. Volunteering teams visit multiple times a week to maintain gardens, do shopping and carry out household tasks. The scheme, which also includes visits to the local Stroke Club and to residents’ homes with a therapy dog, won The Queen’s Award for voluntary service in recognition of the way it connects people from different backgrounds so they can make life better, together.

One person who’s benefited from Inside Out is Brenda Watkinson. She said: “It’s been a marvellous service and I’m very grateful. The service is excellent, my shopping is always accurate. Bede always come on time, which is very important for someone like me who is disabled.”

Householder Susan Gathercole added: “[Inside Out volunteer] David was amazing and worked really hard to clear the path of weeds. I am so pleased with the results, I wanted to hug him.”

Bede House is currently looking to recruit people with learning disabilities to become Travel Buddies. Travel Buddies help people with learning disabilities who have difficulty travelling alone make their way from home to the Bede Centre on Abbeyfield Road. After a period of volunteering, they’re paid the London Living Wage.

If you’re interested in the fantastic work that Bede undertakes, would like to support them or get involved yourself, you can learn more on their website or contact them at [email protected].

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