We met up with FitzRoy’s Love4Life Coordinator, Hayley Ostler-Noland to find out why Love4Life isn’t just about romance. Hayley told us:
Love4Life is a friendship and dating project for people with learning disabilities, autism, Asperger’s, acquired brain injuries and Down’s Syndrome. A lot of our members have had bad experiences, but know that when they come here they’re safe, and supported by people if they need help.
I see somebody with no friends, never going out or having a job, and then six months down the line they’ve got friends, maybe a boyfriend or a girlfriend, they are more confident and their life has completely changed. Sometimes I just take a step back to look at the transformation and I still tear up. It’s incredible.
A lot of people that apply to Love4Life are isolated, they might not have friends, or they’ve been in vulnerable, exploitative situations and don’t have anyone to turn to.Â It can be so difficult when you don’t have the opportunity to meet people, because you might not have the confidence, you might be nervous about approaching other people if you feel they might not understand you. But with Love4Life you have the opportunity to make friends, share experiences with each other and hopefully become lifelong friends.
“Imagine being sat at home and thinking, “if I go to the shops, will I meet someone that going to be unkind to me? Will I meet someone that’s going to take advantage?” If I was in that situation, I wouldn’t want to go out. I wouldn’t trust anybody. Which is why the role that Love4Life plays is so essential – we provide a safe place to make friends, have fun and maybe find love.â
Hayley chaperoned members Lauren and Andy (pictured above) celebrating Valentine’s Day with their second date. They have both only been members of Love4Life for a few months, Lauren joined in September and Andy the following month. We asked Lauren and Andy a few questions.
What were your first impressions of Andy?Â He is good looking.
What is your favourite thing about him? He made me smile and he makes me laugh.
What were you most nervous about?Â It was my first time ever having a date.
What was your favourite thing about your first date? We hugged at the end of date and it made me feel happy.
What are you looking forward to? Seeing Andy again.
Had you had much luck in love before? This is the first time I’ve had a boyfriend.
How have you changed since joining Love4Life?Â I am more confident and outgoing.
What would you say to anyone else looking for love? Just wait and it will come to you.
What were your first impressions of Lauren? Wow she’s stunning I wonder if I have a chance.
What is your favourite thing about Lauren? She is beautiful.
What were you most nervous about on your first date? Not having enough to talk about.
What was your favourite thing about your first date? Lauren turned up despite the snow.
What are you looking forward to? Seeing where this leads to.
Had you had much luck in love before? Not much.
How have you changed since joining Love4Life?Â I’ve got more confidence in myself.
What would you say to anyone else looking for love? Keep trying, never give up, it’s hard but definitely worth it in the end.
A last word from Hayley:
We’ve had lots of successes from dating. We’ve had people move in together, we’ve had people get engaged, we have people in long-term relationships, we’ve had people that have got married. It’s really amazing. It’s not really a job to me. It’s an honour to be part of people’s lives, watch them grow and see them change.â
Love4Life is funded by the Community Lottery Fund and FitzRoy fundraising. If you would like to support Love4Life to help more people like Lauren and Andy, you canÂ make a donation here.