Staying connected online

Mark Smith who lives independently in Bridgwater has received a `Small Sparks’ grant for a new laptop from the Discovery Community Fund; it enables him to give talks online.

Mark regularly speaks to audiences of medical professionals at universities in Bristol and Gloucester about the challenges he faces living independently with a learning disability. His audience largely consists of nurses returning to practice.

Mark recently gave a talk to Spark Somerset as part of its `Covid Community Champions’ project. The organisation supports the voluntary sector and promotes volunteering. Mark’s presentation focused on the challenges he has faced during lockdown. Mark said:

“Now I’ve got a laptop, I can do my work, talk to people; it makes it easier for me. It’s helped me during the pandemic, I can keep in touch with people and have meetings.”

“With Covid Champions, we went through a Powerpoint presentation about the talks I give at universities and how lockdown has affected me.”

Helen Fielding, the Covid Community Champion Coordinator from Spark Somerset said:

“Mark recently presented to our team of Covid Community Champions about his experiences of the pandemic. The Champions share information about Covid-19 and health and well-being in their communities, so Mark’s insight is invaluable. Mark’s presentation was clear and informative. We’re really grateful to Mark and to Gina Pring who supported him.

Mark has already been asked to give another presentation by Spark Somerset. This time it will be to doctors so they improve their understanding of what it’s like to have a learning disability and appreciate the challenges Mark has faced during the pandemic. The organisation has also asked Discovery to provide some disability awareness training.

The Discovery community fund awards grants of between £500 and £50,000 to individuals and groups throughout Somerset so everyone with a learning disability and autism benefits, not only the people Discovery supports. The fund is managed independently by the Somerset Community Foundation.