How it started

A new Grace Eyre Friendship group member, Donna, used to play bingo online with her friends. This was set up by another support organisation, but recently came to an end. Donna wanted to set up her own bingo session because she knew how popular it was with her friends.

Grace Eyre Friendship was supportive of Donna’s plan and advertised the bingo session on the Facebook group. Friendship staff spent some time helping Donna get used to being a host on Zoom.

How it’s going

The bingo sessions have been a big success straight away. About 15 people join every week.

Donna says that the responsibility of running the group helps with her mental health:

“I get really bad depression, I get tired easily, I really look forward to mixing with people.”

On one day Donna was due to host the bingo, she told us that she “was having a really down day but the others helped pick me up.” Everyone in the group told Donna how much fun the session is, and how glad they were that she hosted it.

Donna has said how important it is for her and her friends to be able to socialise without staff members in attendance – “we can have a private chat.”

She is enjoying running a group and feels “appreciated” by Grace Eyre Friendship.

She says: “I’ve had volunteer positions in the past but not like this. It is nice to expand my skills.”

What’s next?

Donna’s popular bingo session is one of several member-led activities that Grace Eyre Friendship supports. Two different members co-host a Friday Night Social session on Zoom, and two other members will be co-hosting Friendship’s yoga and art sessions, after attending and enjoying them.

Grace Eyre Friendship’s mission is to support as many member-led sessions as possible. We appreciate the need for individuals, regardless of (dis)ability, to have safe spaces to come together and form friendships.

More importantly, we recognise that people with learning disabilities are more likely to rely on professional support for social connection and engagement. Grace Eyre Friendship addresses this inequality directly by supporting individuals like Donna to develop their skills and confidence to form their own social groups.

Friendship will be purchasing a Zoom account for members to use for their own social and community sessions. We are currently training up eight members who wish to become regular volunteers. Grace Eyre Friendship supports the opportunity of having more paid positions within the team for people with a learning disability or autism.

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