Our 'Charity of the Month' blogs are a celebration of the great work local charities do across Britain. Through our ' Local Charity Partner' programme, we work with a diverse group of nearly 500 local charities - and one of those is Watford Mencap.
'The Voice of Learning Disability in South West Hertfordshire'
Watford Mencap provides a range of services for people with a learning disability, their families and carers in Watford, Hertfordshire. They believe that people with a learning disability have the right to enjoy equal opportunities and be valued as members of society, enabling them to lead the life they want for themselves. We couldn't agree more, and last year Watford Mencap became the Local Charity Partner for our Watford branch.
Earlier this month, we caught up with Jane Pattinson, Chief Executive of Watford Mencap.
What do you love most about your work with Watford Mencap?
I really enjoy seeing our charity help people reach their full potential rather than focusing on their disabilities. The "can-do" attitude of our staff is truly inspiring.
One person's story that particularly touches me is Neil who first came into contact with Watford Mencap as a teenager - he was very conscious of his disability and rarely went out except to go to school. He started to come out of his shell at our youth club and when he became too old to attend, he was encouraged to volunteer. Shortly after, a vacancy came up for a play worker and Neil was helped to complete the application forms. Neil is now in paid employment with us and has recently passed an NVQ in childcare. He is a much-loved staff member at our children's centre and is an inspiration to us all - he really shows what can be achieved.
What are your hopes and goals for 2016?
This year I'm really excited about the launch of our Migloo - a portable changing facility that will be available at a number of local community events. When a person has profound disabilities that mean they cannot use public toilets it can prevent them and their families from attending events that you and I go to without a second thought. If we can establish the Migloo as a regular feature at public events, this will open up new activities that families can enjoy together.
What has been your favourite fundraising event or activity?
My favourite fundraising event was the Pumpkin Dash - this was a new event for us and TSB Watford entered a team that came second in the final. We had great fun while raising enough funds to support three children to attend our after-school club for a whole term. Everybody dressed up and had an amazing time dashing round the town centre with pumpkins.
What does local charity mean to you?
It means the community working together to support those less fortunate in their midst.
How has TSB helped Watford Mencap?
TSB have been amazing in their support of us. Not only have they raised funds, they have raised awareness of our charity and the support we can provide for people with a learning disability and their families. In particular I'd like to thank David Wing (from Luton branch) who went the extra mile by representing us in the Herts 100 challenge, which involved cycling 100 km for us - an amazing achievement!
TSB also help us in smaller ways - for example, I popped into the branch earlier today and was really pleased to see how several of our initiatives are prominently mentioned on their community board which publicises them to their customers.