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Bloom & grow in my AFK’s Edible Garden + Meet our Ambassadors! + Devonshires: 8 years of making a difference



my AFK Magazine

Welcome to the spring 2019 issue! Dear Supporters, Welcome to this latest edition of the my AFK Magazine! As well as some amazing articles, you’re going to read about some of the charity’s phenomenal Ambassadors on pages 6-7, and I’m delighted to be one of them! Being an Ambassador for my AFK has genuinely given me some of the happiest experiences of my life; most importantly, I have joined an amazing family of young people, staff and carers who feel as passionately about supporting independent living as I do! As a doctor, I spend my ‘day job’ supporting patients from all walks of life, and I really believe my disability helps me to relate to them—our differences really can be our greatest assets! The support you give my AFK enables them to help more young people flourish and live independently. I know personally how important that is, so from the bottom of my heart: thank you!

Hannah Barham-Brown (AKA “Dr Pops”) GP Trainee, Disability Advocate, Media Spokesperson. Twitter: @HannahPopsy


What’s in this issue? Pages 4-5

Working with disability: meet our trainees at Nando’s and Sainsbury’s

Pages 6-7

Meet our amazing Ambassadors!

Pages 8-11

How we advocate for the young people we support with mobility equipment

Pages 12-13 See what’s growing in our Edible Garden Page 14-17

Devonshires: 8 years of making a difference

Page 18

Matt’s marathon parkruns

Join the conversation on social media: Facebook: @ThisIsMyAFK

Twitter: @my_AFK Instagram: @my_afk


Life and Work Programme

Service with a smile! Shamsa is a vibrant 23-yearold with a learning disability who recently secured a paid job at Nando’s. Shamsa joined our Life and Work Programme in 2018 and completed a work placement with our partners at Bikes For Good Causes, where staff and customers alike commented on Shamsa’s uplifting nature and positive attitude. Shamsa told us she wanted to get a paid job and to be able to travel independently so she could go to work and meet up with friends. During travel training she proved to be a confident traveller who simply hadn’t been given the opportunity to use public transport on her own.


In October 2018 one of our Employment Brokers introduced Shamsa to Armir Sfarqa, the manager of a local Nando’s, where Shamsa was asked to take part in a customer services exercise.

Shamsa impressed Armir so much in this initial meeting that she was offered a work trial on the spot. Within days of her work trial commencing, she was offered a permanent paid position as a greeter—a perfect role for this friendly, energetic young woman! “I am so proud of the decision I made employing Shamsa!” Armir told us. “She brings life and happiness not only to the team but also to my customers. She has progressed so much from her first day...I would encourage every business to take the risk and get involved. You won’t be disappointed!”

Shamsa (left) and her manager Armir

Employer spotlight: Sainsbury’s Sainsbury’s is a champion for employment equality, and is the largest retailer to have been awarded Disability Confident Leader status—the highest tier of accreditation in the government’s Disability Confident Programme, which recognises organisations who take positive action to employ disabled people and encourage others to do the same. my AFK has been working with local branches of Sainsbury’s for over seven years, during which time nine of our trainees have volunteered, completed work placements or gained paid employment at a branch. One of our former trainees Lily started out with an unpaid work trial in 2012 at her local branch in Dalston, moving into a paid position in 2013. She is still working part time at this store. 21-year-old Lukas was referred to my AFK when he was 16 by his mum, who wanted him to have something purposeful to do which would help him adjust to leaving school and going onto college. He recently got his first paid job at the Hornsey branch of Sainsbury’s, where he is thriving, as well as another part-time role at a department store.

From top: Lukas; Lily with manager; Conor; Hisba with colleague


Meet our Ambassadors! We are incredibly proud to be supported by these amazing Ambassadors, who help raise awareness of my AFK’s work and support our fundraising efforts by participating in and promoting our events and campaigns.

Olaoluwa (Jimmy) Asuni Project Assistant with Lloyds Banking Group, motivational speaker “When I met a group of young adults from my AFK I saw a huge potential in them all, so I decided to show them that, in spite of any disability, they can achieve their dreams.”

The Atwal-Brice family Disability campaigners and media personalities

. .

Paul and Michael are avid campaigners and dedicated ambassadors for several charities who have supported their twins Levi and Lucas, who have severe autism and epilepsy.

Hannah Barham-Brown (“Dr Pops”) GP Trainee, disability advocate, speaker, media spokesperson Dr Pops is a well-known disability advocate and speaker who has supported my AFK for many years. In 2018 she was named on the Shaw Trust’s Disability Power 100 List.

Gaz Choudhry Wheelchair basketball player Gaz is an impressive athlete and advocate. He played for Team GB in the Paralympics (’12, ’16), the European Championships (’11, ’13, ’15, ’17) and the World Championships (’10, ’14, ’18). 6

. .

Marcel Fearon Office Facilities Assistant at Arcadis Design Marcel secured his job through our Life and Work Programme and is now a confident young man who regularly speaks at our events and provides tours of my AFK to new trainees. Marcel is a shining example of the positive impact our work has on those we support.

Jamie Green PhD student at Oxford University

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Jamie is a PhD student in Modern Languages at Oxford University, who received funding for a wheelchair through my AFK. He writes about his experiences on his blog and our website.

Kat Panagaki Artist and disability advocate Kat received funding for a wheelchair from my AFK after a car accident left her paralysed at age 21. Kat is now a frequent speaker at my AFK’s events, including our 2018 reception at the House of Lords.

Tessa Peake-Jones Actress

. .

Tessa, best known for playing Raquel in Only Fools and Horses, has been associated with my AFK for over 20 years. “I think what my AFK offers young people, in terms of practical and emotional support, is absolutely amazing! I’m very proud to be connected to such a worthwhile organisation.”


Mobility Equipment

How we advocate for the young people we support


When our Mobility Services team met 22-year-old Sam, his existing powerchair (which had been funded by his family) wasn’t giving him adequate comfort or support. We knew we could help.

22-year-old Sam Waddington has a degree in journalism, currently leads an anti-Hate Crime project for a local disability rights charity and hopes to secure paid employment with the organisation. Sam has Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, a muscle wasting condition that affects his mobility, and is permanently in a wheelchair. When we first spoke with Sam in October 2018, the powered wheelchair he was using was privately funded by his family, as the NHS was not able to provide an appropriate chair that met his needs. This chair had worked well for many years but, as his condition progressed, it was no longer offering enough comfort or postural support. It also became unreliable, with limited battery life, meaning that Sam was unable to go out for long periods of time and often worried about it breaking down while he was out. Sam applied to my AFK for funding towards a Permobil M3 Corpus powered wheelchair. The Permobil is an extremely specialist chair which meets his postural needs, featuring a function which memorises seating positions that are good for his posture. This reduces the

possibility of pressure sores, cramps, and back aches. Because of its highly specialised features, the Permobil chair Sam needed would cost over £18,000. Sam had already approached several charities, including my AFK, to raise the funds he needed for the chair. He did not need any additional support from us with fundraising, but he was keen for us to help as an advocate. Sam had already contacted his local wheelchair service before he approached us, but hadn’t been able to get the support he needed: “It seemed as if my local NHS wheelchair service were not understanding that I urgently required a new and more suitable wheelchair than the one I was using,” Sam told us. “I thought that given the urgent situation I was in, with the wheelchair causing me a lot of discomfort and regularly running out of battery thus limiting my independence, they would’ve acted quicker to help me get another wheelchair.”


After hearing Sam’s story and his difficulties with the wheelchair service, Julia and Whit from our Mobility Services team offered to provide some advocacy support with Sam’s approval. They believed Sam could be eligible for both an urgent assessment and an NHS wheelchair voucher to be used towards the cost of his chair. Speaking with Sam recently, he said, “I was a little surprised that my AFK suggested I would be able to get an NHS voucher for my wheelchair this time around, given the NHS didn’t supply a voucher for my previous wheelchair.” Despite some concern that it wouldn’t be possible to get an NHS assessment for the voucher as quickly as he needed it, Sam was keen for my AFK to explore these options.

“The financial support from local authorities to individuals and their families when buying equipment should be greater.”


“We approached the local wheelchair service on his behalf and, after several emails and phone calls, we successfully persuaded them to offer an urgent assessment, given the discomfort his chair was causing,” said Mobility Advocacy Manager Julia. Sam said in response to this: “I felt very grateful to my AFK for getting the assessment arranged quicker than it would’ve taken otherwise. Before my AFK began supporting me, I was doubtful the NHS were going to supply a voucher.” But, after securing the urgent assessment for Sam, it looked increasingly likely. To prepare for the assessment, Julia spent time with Sam and his mother talking through the issues they needed to raise with the wheelchair service to ensure that the wheelchair service provided adequate and appropriate support for Sam’s specific needs. Soon after his assessment, Sam got in contact to say that, with Julia’s support, he had successfully secured an NHS voucher of £3,420 to be used toward his new powerchair!

Thanks to our advocacy work, as well as Sam’s own fundraising, we were able to order Sam’s chair just two months after he applied to my AFK, with his chair being delivered shortly after.

“my AFK’s support, not just financially but in terms of the advice, has gone a long way to helping me get the wheelchair. I really do appreciate the assistance, as getting funding in place and the right chair can be a long and complicated process. I’m also grateful to you recommending Recare as a

“I’ve been using my new chair since the beginning of March and I have definitely noticed an improvement from a postural and comfort point of view,” Sam told us. “With the better suspension and smoother tyres, it feels a lot more robust when driving around, and easier to manoeuvre because of its very compact design. It also has a long battery life, so it can be used when I’m out and about for long periods of time without worrying about losing battery.

“It would be difficult to think of one area where my AFK’s support was most appreciated. Everything they did made a big difference.”

supplier. I couldn’t fault how they’ve dealt with me as a customer, or their commitment to making me comfortable in the chair.” my AFK saved a total of £6,929 on Sam’s chair, which can contribute towards other vital mobility equipment for disabled children and young people.


Education and Training Programme

See what’s growing in our Edible Garden! As well as flowers, herbs and vegetables, young people with learning disabilities and autism are growing their confidence and skills in my AFK’s awardwinning Edible Garden. Nestled within Tottenham Marshes, just outside the Waterside Café at Stonebridge Lock, the garden provides a unique setting for students and trainees to prepare for work.


The Edible Garden project is led by the Canal & River Trust, who first developed the garden. Thanks to funds from Tesco’s Bags of Help initiative, my AFK adopted the garden and transformed what was once a forlorn patch of grass into a thriving garden where learners can complete work experience placements as part of the Education and Training Programme at my AFK.

One such learner is Theo, an autistic student from a local school. Theo was signed up to do work experience at the Edible Garden to help him gain valuable skills for future employment, while also developing his confidence and independence. “Theo had previously shown little interest in working at his school allotment,” said our Education and Training Programme Manager Hannah D’Aguiar. “However, during his time at the Edible Garden, Theo overcame his anxieties around public transport and grew into an engaged young man who could work independently on various tasks.” By the end of Theo’s work experience placement at the Edible Garden, his teaching assistant was amazed by the skills and confidence Theo developed whilst working there. Theo’s story is an example of how important and beneficial it can be for young people with learning disabilities and autism to explore and learn outside of

Staff, volunteers and young people have all enjoyed ‘digging into’ this new project!

Theo (right) at the potting station the classroom setting and become part of the local community. In 2018 the Edible Garden at Stonebridge Lock won the Canal & River Trust’s ‘Waterways Alive Awards’ for Best Community Activity. The Edible Garden also won the Project of the Year Award at my AFK’s ‘Community and Trainee Awards’ in 2018, voted for on the night by attendees. Learn about our Education and Training Programme at


Devonshires Solicitors: setting the gold standard for charity partnerships These days, corporate partnerships are about more than just a giant novelty cheque. As a small charity, corporate partnerships play a particularly important role in expanding our reach, amplifying our impact and raising our profile, as well as raising funds in new and exciting ways. This year marks the end of an 8-year partnership with Devonshires Solicitors, where community support and charitable giving are deeply embedded in their culture and ethos. Over the years, this partnership has created many exciting new opportunities for my AFK and the young people we support. Since 2011, Devonshires’ employees and clients have raised over £140,000 for my AFK, running marathons,


competing in races dressed as Santa and superheroes, cycling, abseiling, wading through mud, baking, singing, swimming and competing in our annual beach volleyball tournament. They have also volunteered hundreds of hours, delivering employability projects for young people with learning disabilities and autism and supporting new initiatives, including our first Youth Council elections in 2017. Donna McCarthy, who is part of the Devonshires Corporate Social Responsibility Programme, told us: “I like to think that we have made a real contribution to my AFK over the years. The generous support from our staff ensured that my AFK were able to continue their lifechanging work, and we are grateful to have helped.”

Devonshires’ staff abseiled from the ArcelorMittal Orbit Tower at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in London.

Devon shi raised res over



for my AF in 8 ye K ars!

Devonshires operates in a truly inclusive and accessible way in employment, the environment and within the community. my AFK has developed several new projects thanks to their funds and input, such as the annual panto trip and our

Urban Residential, which features an employability challenge as well as an opportunity for our young people to spend time together and be away from home, often for the first time.

continued on next page 15

“Hosting the ‘Devonshires Does Panto’ was a real highlight for me,” Donna said. “It became very much a family affair, with my children joining the families from my AFK and Devonshires’ staff to make it a fantastic festive event.” As a charity, we have learnt so much from working with Devonshires; we consider ourselves very lucky to have worked with such a fantastic group of people who clearly care and really want to make a difference. “The team at Devonshires are a joy to work with. This partnership has been an absolute career highlight for me,” said my AFK Corporate

Partnerships Manager Lyn Prodger. “Whenever we ask for support, the response is always phenomenal.” We have worked with many corporate partners over the years, but Devonshires have raised the bar for anyone we work with in the future. So as this partnership draws to a close, we can only say the biggest THANK YOU! “There is now a huge legacy of children and young people with better physical and mental health, better well-being and better prospects thanks to this partnership,” said Lyn Prodger. “If that isn’t life-changing, I don’t know what is!”

This page: Devonshires Does Panto (left) and a Christmas card and cake sale (right) Next page: Devonshires’ staff raised nearly £3,000 doing a 10,000 ft skydive! 16

How can your organisation support my AFK? Charity of the Year

Teambuilding Events

Nominate my AFK as your Charity of the Year to support us year-round and make a lasting difference to the families we support.

Choose a fundraising event from our website or create your own, from abseiling to zip-lining, and our team will support you at every step.


Payroll Giving

Volunteering is a great way to get directly involved with the young people we support, either at our office or out on work placements.

Payroll Giving is a way of giving money to charity from your salary, without paying tax on it. Your employer can set this up for you.


Matt’s marathon parkruns! Matt Coyne doesn’t shy away from a challenge to support my AFK. He completed the Superhero Tri with our Ambassador Dr Pops in 2017; he ran the Royal Parks Half Marathon in 2018. But our jaws dropped when we saw his latest fundraising page in early 2019. “Myself and pal Craig set ourselves a ridiculous challenge at the school pickup one afternoon in early January,” Matt wrote. “We wondered if we could run the Sussex parkruns in one day. Then we realised we could add them up correctly to run a marathon in one day, driving between each parkrun.” The runners were joined on one of the runs by 10-year-old Oscar, who received an all-terrain buggy from my AFK last year. “This buggy completely transforms our lives as a family,” Oscar’s mum Debbie told us. “We are very active and the freedom this buggy gives us is great.” We asked Matt what motivates him: “I try to do as much as I can for my AFK, and it’s kids like Oscar that our fundraising directly helps.” “Meeting Matt was really inspiring,” Debbie said. “There are people out there doing so much to help people like us from the kindness of their heart.”


Matt is still dreaming up new challenges; rumour has it he’s thinking of tackling the South Downs in a wheelchair in 2020! Whatever the next adventure is, we’ll be there to cheer you on, Matt. Thank you for all your support!

“The smile on Oscar’s face said it all. He absolutely loved it!” - Debbie, Oscar’s mum

The freedom to move, play and grow stronger 6-year 6-year-old old Eliza Eliza struggles struggles with with her her mobility mobility as as aa result result of of aa brain brain injury injury sustained sustained when when she she was was just just 17 17 months months old. old. Her Her special special trike, trike, funded funded by by my my AFK, AFK, allows allows her her (and (and her her favourite favourite cuddly cuddly toys!) toys!) to to join join in in on on family family bike bike rides rides while while building building her her confidence confidence and and strengthening strengthening her her muscles. muscles. my my AFK AFK funds funds life-changing life-changing mobility mobility equipment equipment for for disabled disabled children children and and young young people people up up to to the the age age of of 25. 25. Visit Visit our our website website to to see see ifif we we can can help help you you get get out out and and about about in in 2019! 2019!

Apply now for mobility equipment Check eligibility criteria at To speak to a member of our team: Email / Phone 020 8347 8111

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Profile for my_afk

my AFK Magazine - Issue 2  

This is the second issue of our rebranded magazine - inside, you'll find all the latest news from national disability charity my AFK (former...

my AFK Magazine - Issue 2  

This is the second issue of our rebranded magazine - inside, you'll find all the latest news from national disability charity my AFK (former...

Profile for my_afk