Devalle's on the ball with his new job at SideOut
AFK trainee Devalle joined our Life and Work Programme in the middle of the pandemic after he had finished his Sports BTEC course at college. Devalle has a learning disability and is interested in coaching. During the pandemic, Devalle joined many of the online sessions that my AFK hosted, including an 8-week course around leadership development. A few weeks after completing the leadership programme, Devalle was asked to volunteer during our Easter Holiday Activity Programme. Devalle’s leadership qualities really shone during this opportunity; he confidently led his own session and worked well with the young people.
SideOut have been AFK's long-term event partners for our annual volleyball fundraising event, AFK Beach, and now they're joining our impressive list of employment partners. Devalle completed a work trial with SideOut in June, which resulted in him being offered paid employment at the end of the month.
We're thrilled to see this partnership taking on a whole new dimension and we can't wait to see how the the future unfolds for Devalle!
Mobility Services is still Making a Difference
It's been a very strange, scary, and difficult year for people across the world and the effects on the population have been numerous. On top of the many existing societal barriers for disabled children, young people, and their families, the pandemic has led to increased isolation, health anxieties, and struggles to get the right support and care.
The pandemic's impact will be ongoing and long-lasting, so it has been more important than ever before that we continue delivering our vital services. Despite the various struggles charities have been experiencing, AFK has continued to provide live-changing mobility equipment for disabled children and young people across the UK.
The young people and families we have spoken to have relayed the importance of having the right equipment, especially during lockdown, which has enabled them to explore the outdoors, engage in exercise, and spend time with the family.
We would like to take a moment to thank our dedicated and loyal supporters who allowed us to continue our work. We look forward to working with you and all our new, future supporters in the future so we can continue doing what we love and making a lasting difference.
From everyone at AFK, thank you!
Building Paul's Independence
Paul is a 21-year old man from Kent. He is a lover of adventure and a bit of a dare devil. He enjoys being outdoors and engaging in outdoor activities, and goes horse riding every week. His proudest moment was when he went abseiling, which was both terrifying and extremely fun.
Paul was born with a very rare condition called Sjogren-Larsson Syndrome and has never met anyone else with the same condition. He cannot stand or walk and has driven a powered wheelchair since the age of 5. He has had several orthopaedic surgeries and has spent a lot of time in and out of hospitals throughout his life. Paul also uses a voice output communication aid that uses symbol sets to help him speak, which attaches to his powerchair.
Paul enjoys being independent and adventurous, but he also needs full care to support all his daily activities and living needs. The biggest supporter of his physical, mental, and emotional well-being and independence comes from his powered wheelchair. This means it must be suitable for his needs by having several specialist functions.
Paul applied to AFK for funding for a Permobil F5 VS, a specialist powerchair that meets all his needs and would be crucial for his independence. The powerchair he was using, which was over 5 years old, no longer met his needs. It struggled to cope with kerbs or small steps and sometimes could not even climb a drop kerb, especially when it was wet. This meant that he was not able to go out to a lot of places and had plan all his activities very carefully. This made it very difficult for him to be spontaneous. The Permobil is super sturdy and built to deal with all types of terrains, so Paul would no longer be restricted to paved roads or find himself stuck, as the it can manage cobbled streets and uneven surfaces.
Another great thing about the Permobil is that it has a riser and sit to stand function. Many of Paul’s friends and peers had sit to stand powerchairs with risers and headlights, making them more independent, and he desired that kind of independence too. Having a powered wheelchair with a riser enables him to go out, especially for a meal, with his family and friends more easily. Paul stated, ‘with my old wheelchair, I would go out with friends for lunch and I was the only one who could not fit under the table in the restaurant as my chair did not go up and down’. Not only is the chair crucial for independence, it also has medical benefits, as it is important for Paul to stand to help his muscles and bones. The Permobil enable him to do stretches whilst in college, on work placement or when socialising as he can change positions himself throughout the day.
Paul’s new Permobil powerchair was delivered in August. Him and his family are over the moon and his mother got in contact to say:
‘I just wanted to share with you the wonderful news that Paul has now received his Permobil wheelchair. It’s absolutely amazing and he’s so excited. It’s amazing how he can now see and do things that have always been out of his reach before, looking out of the window, seeing himself in mirrors and opening cupboard doors. It’s surreal to see him moving around in an upright position. The chair is literally life changing for him and will give him so much more independence as well as many health benefits. It’s been such a boost to him to receive this after months of shielding.’
Paul’s powerchair will also be maintained by AFK and we will pay for all wear and tear and repairs for the life of the chair. Covering the maintenance costs of powered wheelchairs is an extremely important service to offer as the cost of keeping the chair running can often be a massive financial barrier for disabled children, young people, and their families. For many of young people and families we work with, it is not financially viable to pay this, leaving the beneficiary without their essential chair as it becomes unusable. We asked Paul to speak about his experiences, and he gave the following response:
‘I have had a privately funded chair in the past, but this also became very difficult to maintain due to the costs involved. A part like a joystick can be £600 and batteries can be around the same and these are the cheaper things that can go wrong! It’s completely prohibitive for a disabled person who relies on benefits to have a private chair and pay for its maintenance. Having a chair that is properly maintained is crucial though. The chair is my legs and my independence, and I am completely reliant on it. I could never have had my new chair if My AFK didn’t pay for repairs and maintenance, I simply couldn’t afford it on the benefits that I get. The fact that these things are being covered and my chair will be properly maintained gives me peace of mind and confidence in my chair that when I got out it’s not going to suddenly break down. My powerchair is no different to a car, it needs to be serviced and maintained to keep it working properly, the only difference is that I can’t have a hire chair if mine breaks down as the chair and seating is bespoke for me, so it’s really important to keep it in good working order.’