Bee Together is a Time to Shine funded project aimed at older people with a learning disability.
During the project many of the people I have spoken to said they wanted a friend, someone to go places with, someone to chat to.
People with learning disabilities seldom have the same opportunities to make mutual friendships. Friendships are born from life experiences, working environments and shared interest groups. People with learning disabilities go to day services but don’t choose who to go with.
They live in supported environments but don’t choose who they live with. Inviting a new friend around for coffee has to be checked out and approved.
To address the balance I have set up Bee Friends, which are social groups in cafes around Leeds. They are safe places for people to call in, chill, chat and meet new people. The first Bee Friends Afternoon has been running for over 18 months and has regular visitors. During that time many younger people have come along as they too want to make friends; and who says just because you are over 50 your friends have to be too?
It took time to build up to this, and some weeks no one turned up at all. Getting through to the support staff and carers has been a huge task. But persistence and lots of emails and handing out flyers worked and there are now four cafes in different locations in Leeds
There is much going on in Leeds but finding out about it can be tricky, which seems ironic in this digital age. There are added barriers such as transport and fitting things into schedules, just deciding to do something if you need support is not that easy.
I am having the same difficulties with the new cafes @TCVHollybush (Hollybush Cafe, Kirkstall) @thebarnmeanwood (The Barn Coffee Shop, Meanwood Valley Urban Farm) and @TLCHarehills (Toast Love Coffee Community Café, Harehills).
So please spread the word. If you would like to host a Bee Friends group please get in touch.
Anna-Marie Garbutt, Project Coordinator
0737 570 0117