Love is in the air as dating and friendship project for people with learning disabilities gets National Lottery boost
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- Love is in the air as dating and friendship project for people with learning disabilities gets National Lottery boost
Love is in the air in Worcestershire as a dating and friendship project for people with learning disabilities has received a boost from The National Lottery Community Fund, the largest community funder in the UK.
Stars in the Sky, run by Kidderminster-based Our Way Self Advocacy, is celebrating this Valentine’s Day after being awarded £110,000 of National Lottery funding. The money, raised by National Lottery players, will help bring together even more people with learning disabilities to find love and friendship.
The project has been playing cupid for almost ten years, resulting in three marriages, over 20 engagements and countless friendships. Stars in the Sky has around 150 members - most are aged between 18 and 45, but there is no upper age limit. Staff get to know them and their personalities through social events, such as coffee mornings, picnics and paintballing, so they can match people to develop friendships and relationships.
The new funding will help to hold more social events in the south of Worcestershire, including Evesham and Worcester. This will provide even more opportunities for people with learning disabilities to connect with others and take part in activities, including go-karting, bowling and walks in the countryside. Support sessions will also be provided around sexual health, consent and contraception.
John Lawley, 32, from Bewdley, and Lara Holland, 35, from Colwall, have been in a relationship for over two years after being brought together through Stars in the Sky.
John said: “I first met Lara on a computer skills course and encouraged her to come to Stars in the Sky. Since then we’ve enjoyed many happy times together at parties and visiting museums. This project has helped me make new friends and feel connected to the community and, best of all, I found Lara.”
Lara said: “Before coming here, I was feeling really depressed after my mother and grandmother passed away within the same year. Stars in the Sky saved my life. I wasn’t coping and I didn’t have many friends. John is my protector and as well as being in a relationship, we’re like best mates. One of my favourite times together was on a canal boat trip in the Black Country. My mental health has improved so much and it’s also helped my dad and brother, knowing that I have friends around me and I’m no longer lonely. John and I are hoping to live together in the future which we’re really looking forward to.”
Catherine Quekett, Manager at Our Way Self Advocacy, said: “This is fantastic news and we can’t wait to bring even more people together across Worcestershire, all thanks to National Lottery players. We match our members sensitively, getting to know their personalities and expectations, as well as provide educational workshops so they understand relationships. Stars in the Sky gives people a fulfilling life, empowering them to become more independent, whilst reducing isolation and loneliness.”
Matt Poole, Senior Head of Regional Funding for the Midlands at The National Lottery Community Fund, said: “We’re delighted to be funding Stars in the Sky, which will provide even more opportunities for people with learning disabilities to come together. This money raised by National Lottery players will help communities to thrive, by building new relationships and friendships and making new memories.”
Stars in the Sky is one of the first projects to receive cash from the newly named The National Lottery Community Fund, formerly known as the Big Lottery Fund.
The National Lottery Community Fund distributes money raised by National Lottery players for good causes. Last year it awarded over £93 million to projects across the UK supporting people with disabilities, and a quarter of projects it invested in were designed to support improved mental wellbeing. To find out more visit www.tnlcommunityfund.org.uk