Weekends away from home are a normal part of life for many young people, which is why a project at Mencap in Kirklees offers those with learning disabilities the chance to travel and have adventures.
For members of the More2do club, outward bound outings everywhere from Blackpool and Staffordshire to York and nearby Hebden Bridge are an opportunity to socialise and get away from it all. As Shelley Lane, project leader, explained: “We support young people 18-plus with mild learning disabilities to gain independence, to have fun and try new things. They try a whole range of activities and enjoy visiting somewhere new.”
The group meets once a week at Waverley Hall, home of Mencap in Kirklees, and at the Salvation Army Community Centre in Mirfield; and then once a month the 20 or so members head off on a full action-packed weekend.
“They’ve been climbing, snow-tubing, pedal boarding and to theme parks and festivals,” added Shelley. “We get everybody involved as much as possible in the preparations.”
The club, which is funded for two years through Kirklees Council’s Community Partnerships scheme, started last year and already has a dedicated following.
One of the members, Sam Horncastle, 29, says there have been some exciting moments on their trips and the club is “somewhere new to make friends”.
Michaela Bradshaw, at 49 the oldest member of the group, enjoys the social aspects of the club. She explained: “I live on my own in a flat so it’s good for me to come out and meet people, make friends and have trips away.”
For 25-year-old Ben Seal the weekend expeditions offer him a chance to try new activities and learn new skills. He said: “If you try something you don’t like, you don’t have to do it again. But most people give it a go.”
Recent trips have taken in unusual activities such as bubble football, in which participants wear giant, transparent balls on the top half of their bodies, and football golf. The members have also tried archery, rock climbing, air rifle shooting and camping.
Most recently, they visited Hebden Hey Scout Centre in Calderdale, where they took part in water sports and climbing. Members pay £30 for each trip and stay in hostels or scouting centres. This weekend they’ll be heading to the Wannasee Festival in Huddersfield, closer to home.
Volunteers and staff accompany the adventurers and often find themselves joining in. Catherine Munn, who volunteers at Waverley Hall and on trips, says there’s a have-a-go atmosphere among both members and helpers.
More2do is just one of the many activities run by Mencap in Kirklees at Waverley Hall and the charity’s head office in Lindley. The centres are well used for individual activities such as art and crafts, indoor sports, life skills, IT classes, music sessions, cookery and literacy. Waverley Hall is also a base for two employment training schemes – a cafe, funded by the Big Lottery – and a DIY and gardening skills scheme. And in the evening the hall is used by social and leisure groups, including More2do.
Matthew Jeves, Group Manager for Mencap in South Kirklees, says their services are open to all people with learning disabilities but he’s aware that not everyone knows what’s available. “People fall through the gaps and it can be really hard to reach them,” he added, “often people find us through word of mouth. Those who are supported by social services can find out about us, but others don’t know we’re here.”
Mencap in Kirklees is always looking for volunteers to help out at evening and day clubs, become a ‘buddy’ or work in the cafe. The clubs themselves are also open to new members. For details visit mencapinkirklees.org.uk