Mencap NI’s Link Me project, which connects older people with a learning disability to their community has held a celebration event to recognise the involvement of their volunteers from Larne, Carrickfergus, and Newtownabbey.
The Link Me project has been running for over four years and volunteers support older people to attend fun activities in their community such as dancing classes, Knit and Natter, arts and crafts or just a game of pool at the local pub.
In East Antrim, for example, Link Me works in partnership with Volunteer Now, Carrickfegus Senior Gateway Club and is funded by the Big Lottery Fund’s Connecting Older People Programme.
Rosie Edge, a Link Me Volunteer from Carrickfergus said: “I have loved volunteering on the Link Me project with Mencap, I have learned so much and the people we support get so much from doing new things and meeting other people.
“The training has been great, I have learned and gained so much being involved in this project.
“You realise that all people are individuals who should be respected equally and not be defined by their disability.”
The project aims to reduce social isolation for older people with a learning disability and help them engage with more people and activities in their local community.
Volunteers in the Mencap project receive extensive training and support to develop their understanding of people with a learning disability and some have decided on new careers in social care.
Christine Mulvenna, Community Support Officer for Mencap NI, said: “Our local volunteers are central to the Link Me Project and we want to recognise their valuable input as the project depends on their commitment. They give up their free time to support older people to get active and connect with other people in their community. The volunteers have been fantastic on the project and have helped open a whole new world for older people with a learning disability.”
Working in partnership with Volunteer Now and Carrickfergus Gateway Club has been a key part of the Link Me project, helping to develop greater connections with the local community.
Speaking as the project held its celebration event for volunteers in East Antrim at Brekenhill Activity Centre, Denise Hayward, Volunteer Now Chief Executive said: “A big thank you to all the Link Me volunteers, you make such a difference to the lives of the people taking part in the programme.
“Volunteer Now is delighted to be a partner in the project and to join Mencap in thanking you for taking part.”