A new Love4Life hub in Basingstoke opened its doors at the beginning of the month, meaning even more people with learning disabilities and autism across Hampshire can have a place to socialise, make friends and even find love.
And despite the UK government announcing its increased self isolation restrictions, Love4Life has continued to find a way to ensure members aren’t isolated during this uncertain time.
We spoke to Basingstoke’s Love4Life coordinator, Cader MacPhail, about the new hub’s first month and what Love4Life is doing for its members during the pandemic.
“Love4Life is an amazing friendship and dating project specifically for people with learning disabilities and autism. We opened a Basingstoke hub simply so we can reach more people that need us. There are people in the north of Hampshire who were struggling to get to our Fareham events, and now we can include even more people. That’s only a good thing.
“Our first ever event was bowling which was a great way to break the ice, they were all cheering for each other and it helped them to bond. Everyone got on really well and they all said they wanted to do bowling again. They also said how good the location was for all of them, it felt a lot more accessible as some of our members were previously having to travel quite far to get to our events.
“We’ve also had a pizza night and a brunch which went really well, and it’s given me a chance to get to know our members individually and see what events they would like to do in the future.
“Obviously when things started to escalate in this country with coronavirus cases, members were more cautious about coming to events, and ultimately we had to stop face-to-face events after the government’s advice.
“We already had the Facebook group, so we knew we could use that and do online sessions with all our members, from Fareham and Basingstoke. We have tried to work out how the different ways we can involve everyone. So far we have held internet safety workshops, zumba classes, choir and cooking classes – all online. We are also calling all our members regularly to have a quick chat to make sure they are okay and have enough resources to keep them busy.
“I have loved my first month in my new role as Love4Life coordinator, and working out ways to overcome the obstacles that the coronavirus outbreak has presented. I was previously a Love4Life volunteer, so I had a sense of how it all works, but when you’re actually doing it and organising all the events it is very different. I love how diverse my days are, and you really feel like you are working towards something. I feel like we are all going to grow together.”
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