Our project - 'The Firsts Club' - aims to give disabled people (particularly ASD spectrum and other marginalised people) the skills and experience to tackle the First Big Thing in their life, after leaving school or care.
Our objectives are to give our clients the ability to feel confident about coming First in Life. But! we really need your help to help us at Smart Dog CIC start the very first club like this, here in Shoreham by Sea, which will help people celebrate who they are, no matter what their age, disability or sexuality.
We know, from experience, that people with mental health conditions, (diagnosed or not) can find it very hard to access what the general population find relatively easy - leaving school, college, parents or care, to make their First Steps into adult life and become part of the working and social population.
This community based project won't focus on what you don't have but rather will consider each individual client's strengths, charm and talents and work with them towards their individual goals, which may be personal or professional.
A first date? Intimidating to anyone, but if you have a learning disability or health issue this can be terrifying.
A first work placement? What do you wear? How do you present your disability as OK? Is your carer or parent really ready for you to become independent?
A first job? You have to get an interview first, and we all know how difficult that can be even without any restrictions. Our Club will give you an opportunity to talk to similar people, older people, employers, carers and new friends without any pressure to be the best, but the best YOU can be.
The Firsts Club is going to be an equal place for anyone with mental, physical and gender issues to access a safe place among 'mates' to become socially and physically confident and practice First Encounters.
We are ready to open the first and hopefully the next, Firsts Club down on the South Coast, in a little town called Shoreham by Sea and in the bigger nearby town of Worthing. We already have a loose group of young people who volunteer in various charity shops, and who know each other vaguely, but who don't at present, have a formal way of meeting up and sharing their stories and challenges.
We are very lucky to have Lizzie from the Undateables as our key champion for the project - her experience of being part of a First Date which was televised has given us lots of thoughts about how people with learning disabilities feel about their dream of having a successful first date - lots of lessons for us, as supporters to learn!
We'd love your support to help us bring a group of about 50 young and older people with disabilities together and help them on their path to the First step in their journey to work, social integration and maybe ... LOVE?