It's Learning Disability Week and we're highlighting some of the many achievements and passions of the people we support, and how our team empower them to live life to the full, to bust they myths about living life with a learning disability. 

Lorraine, Maxine, Miranda and Karen, who are supported by Aspens in Bexley, recently went on the trip of a lifetime to Kalkan, Turkey, with support from Gill Excell, Service Manager and Donna Jones, Support Worker.

The ladies were keen to visit Turkey after seeing Gill’s holiday photos last year, so Gill set about making it happen!

They share their experiences of the trip here:

Lorraine: “We sunbathed, did water aerobics, went for meals in the evening and danced. We even went on a boat trip with lunch on a private boat and I swam in the sea – I’ve never done that before. The boat stopped at different islands and we’d have a swim. I saw some fish. I tried lots of different food I’ve never tried before, like Turkish style chicken. The people we met were lovely. We made lots of new friends.

It was my birthday and when having our meal in the restaurant the staff came out and sang happy birthday and brought me a cake with fireworks on it. I didn’t know anything about it – it was a complete surprise! I was crying – I’ve never had that happen to me before.

I was really nervous about flying in the plane and I didn’t like landing as there was a lot of turbulence but Gill helped to prepare me for it and supported me during the flight.

It was a really good week – I liked everything about it. Now I’ve experienced it I’d love to go again.”

Maxine: “It was out of this world, really lovely. I didn’t want to come home. Everyone was really friendly. I swam 18 lengths in the pool and had a mud bath in the ocean! It was lovely my skin felt all smooth afterwards.

We went on a yacht – it was fantastic. I swam off of it – I was a bit frightened at first but I was fine as soon as I was on it. I don’t usually like boats but I’ve overcome that fear now. I loved going swimming, dancing and drinking cocktails.

Gill and Donna were fantastic, they looked after us and I felt really safe with them. They helped when I was feeling nervous about anything. I want to go back again next year!"

Miranda: “It was lovely. The people were very friendly. We went on a boat trip and swam in the sea – the water was crystal clear. I saw lots of fish and we had dinner on the boat. I tried some non-alcoholic cocktails too. I loved all of it – it was nice being by the pool and sunbathing and I liked the food. I did some sketching too. We went to the markets and did some shopping. I bought a bag and some shoes and some gifts for people. I did feel a bit nervous flying and felt a bit light-headed on the plane.  Gill and Donna were fantastic, we are really grateful to them.”

Karen: “It was really good. I loved swimming, going to the market and the shops, restaurants and bars. I won the relay race in the pool with Gill! I went on a boat for the very first time – I was a bit nervous but once I was on it I loved it.”

Gill Excell, Service Manager said: "We got the idea for the trip when I was showing the ladies my holiday photos of Turkey last year. They said they’d love to go but didn’t think they’d ever be able to. I thought, 'let’s give this a try', so I spoke to my Regional Area Manager about it who said as long as a proper risk assessment was drawn up with all the safety aspects considered we could go for it!

Anything that they were nervous about such as flying or going on the boat we supported them and reassured them to enable them to do these things. Maxine was terrified of boats and when we were on the boat her sister called on FaceTime and couldn’t believe what she was seeing when she saw her on the boat – she started to cry and said she never thought she’d see the day when her sister would be able to do this and 'live the life of a film star'!

We planned activities together for their time away and it was wonderful to see the them all chatting with other holiday makers. One couple said to me, 'You can see how happy they are. You are an angel. What a fantastic job you do. To let them live this life'. The ladies met so many people and were so well loved. They got everyone up dancing. The people who worked in the restaurants were so kind and if they were unsure of a new dish or drink they tried they would bring them a replacement with no charge.

A wonderful moment was on Lorraine’s birthday when the restaurant decorated the table specially, put fireworks on an amazing cake and were cheering and whistling when they brought the cake out to her. Her face just said it all – she was sobbing. She’s never had anything like that before. It was so special. 

I wanted to empower the ladies to have a holiday like this as they should be free to do what everyone else can do and to have all the experiences we can have. They shouldn’t have a label. I try my best to give them the opportunity to do anything we can do and to be independent and free."