Supporting adults with learning disabilities *

Share is a social enterprise and charity in London, providing training and employment support for disabled people. A volunteer befriender offers support and friendship to adults with learning disabilities, autism, or any kind of physical or sensory disability, and mental health needs.

I’ve volunteered with Share over the last few years while working at Green Element. In December 2020, I started supporting Share’s new Befriending project. As a volunteer befriender, I meet up weekly with one of the members – Edmond, to chat, build social connections, and have fun together! We’ve been meeting up for a few weeks now and are building up a really lovely community friendship. 

Alex and Edmund meet up for a chat in a pub after lockdwon

Building a community friendship

During our first meet-up, Edmond set a goal to go to the pub or clubbing after lockdown. As soon as the pubs opened, off we went! Edmond said, ‘It’s going well, I’m enjoying my time with Alex and we might go to the pub again next week for another cheeky half pint!’

Over lockdown, we saw the impact that prolonged periods of isolation have had on those who are vulnerable within our community and how facilitating like-minded people to go out and about can be really positive. To combat this Share tries to offer a space in the community for both members and volunteers to feel more socially connected, make positive choices, build healthy relationships, increase social connections, work towards goals, and become healthier and more independent.

Myself and the other befrienders support members to maintain positive mental health and encourage communication on meaningful topics or shared interests, helping promote positive outlooks and raised confidence. I answered a few questions for a case study with Share, which I’ve shared below.

Why do you like volunteering at Share?

‘I’ve always thought that Share as an organisation provides great services to all involved, which is obvious in how the students act when there. There is also lots of support for volunteers, well organised and is always made enjoyable by the staff.’

What’s your favourite thing about befriending?

‘I enjoy being able to spend time consistently with Edmond, getting to know him. Getting to do activities together that we don’t normally do is always fun. We’ve got to do lots of nice walks around his area together and visited his local pub.’

Why did you want to get involved in the befriending project?

‘I had stopped volunteering with Share during the pandemic in 2020 and this stood out as a nice way to get back involved. Being a befriender was a way to volunteer consistently, getting to know my befriendee more.’

What have you learnt?

‘Through the training provided from Share I’ve received a greater awareness of different disabilities and learning difficulties.’

You can find out more about the project and how to get involved on the Share website.

Find out more about Alex here!

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