When I first started my job as a part-time carer (or PA, as I’ve always known it), I didn’t know what to expect. As a teacher, I have always been passionate about creating positive social change. This by supporting and empowering children and young people. But I never thought I would provide personal care to young adults.
Caption: Alex Winstanley, Managing Director of Happy Smiles Training CIC
Effective person-centred care
I fell into the role through a volunteer role and very quickly asked myself, ‘Why isn’t everyone doing this?’ I was getting paid to spend time with men slightly younger than me and we had loads in common. Not only did I learn a lot about providing effective person-centred care, but I also learned a lot about myself as a person.
In the past nine years, I’ve been able to keep up my part-time caring roles in different ways, whilst working full-time as a teacher. I have even been able to travel around the world with some of the young people I’ve supported. One of those people being my mate Haydn… which leads to my next chapter!
Hello Happy Smiles!
In 2017, Haydn spent nearly a year in hospital due to multiple surgeries and their complications. So, we asked people to post pictures of their ‘Happy Smiles’ for him, to keep his spirits up. We had a huge response to this, with hundreds of pictures being posted. This led to the creation of the Happy Smiles Blog in 2018!
This started with a video of Haydn and myself, discussing how he communicates and lives his life to raise awareness for the general public. This again had a massive response, reaching thousands of people. So, I continued to interview disabled children and young people.
At the same time, Haydn and I began to deliver trial awareness assemblies in my school and with local community groups. Once again, the impact generated an eye-opening response. I knew that we had to take this further and in May 2019, I took the leap of faith and began working full-time!
Caption: Haydn, Co-Founder of Happy Smiles Training CIC
Since then, we have rebranded and have now become Happy Smiles Training CIC. We have expanded our team to include other local disabled young adults. Aiming to empower our team of Inclusion Champions, we promote positive social change by creating inclusive communities.
We have delivered training to over 3,500 people in schools, community groups, businesses and more. Our team is now made up of over 75 per cent of people with direct and real-life experience of disability. One hundred per cent of our audiences state that they feel positively impacted by our work.
Happy Smiles: giving new meaning to disability
We have even been nominated for two national inclusion and diversity awards. Currently, we are in the process of expanding our team. We hope that more people will see our work, which has been described as giving: ‘A new meaning to disability’. As we were told, having trainers with disabilities is invaluable for our awardees, who rarely see role models with disabilities. As you can imagine, one of my favourite workshops that we deliver is about being an effective carer!
The past year has presented challenges we never thought possible. Despite many ups and downs, we have continued to adapt to try to keep supporting communities and provide meaningful opportunities for our team. I see the impact of our work on both our Inclusion Champions and our audiences, every time we deliver training.
I hope we can expand our impact so that we can create inclusive communities across the UK, that value, celebrate and champion inclusion and difference.
We just need people to care about it.
To support and learn more about our work, visit our Local Champions page or on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube. If you want to improve inclusion for all in your area, whilst supporting a social enterprise, get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.