Podcast Episode 81 By changing attitudes we change behaviour, and this is something the guests on this week’s episode are part of making happen. Celia and Maia from WAVE talk about the ethos behind WAVE, and how it aims to bring people together, and by doing that helps change the way they think and their attitudes.
Celia explains why she started the organisation, what kind of support it provides and how it is grown. WAVE stands for Were All Valued Equally, and Celia explains the importance of this as a value and the way that they break down barriers and reduce the fear some people in the wider community have towards people with additional needs. Maia also talks about her own experiences at WAVE and how it has helped her become more confident and made her feel part of something.
Inclusion is a word used often but not always practiced. WAVE is an example of an organisation practicing inclusion and, by doing this, it really is creating a WAVE for Change.Show Full Transcript
DEBRA: Welcome to Episode 81 of the Journey Skills podcast. Over this lockdown I saw an amazing quote which was shared by Spectrum Designs on their Facebook page. It said, “When social distancing is no longer a thing, make sure it’s no longer a thing.” I think this is a pretty powerful quote and I must admit it’s become a bit of a mantra for me as we move forward. And it actually links really well into this episode.
One of the key things I’ve learned in the time that I’ve been doing this podcast is the importance of inclusion. When I talk to people with additional needs, they aren’t so much polling about whether someone understands them, they also not particularly interested in awareness. Not to be flipping but I think most people are aware of different types of additional needs. Actually for everyone it’s been about acceptance. And I think the natural progression from acceptance is an inclusion and the key to inclusion is actually reducing fear. We fear what we don’t understand is the saying. But like I said, understanding something won’t necessarily do that much.
Fear might be quite a strong word when we talk about how people react to think about people with additional needs but maybe it’s not so much about fear as about stereotyping and making assumptions. The things to change– assumptions and attitudes need to change and that’s what this episode is all about.
I’m talking to Celia and Maia from Wave for Change which is focused very much around changing people’s attitudes– bringing them into contact with each other and breaking down that fear and creating an environment where everyone accepts each other and learns from each other. But maybe other people I talked to, this is an inspiring story with few people stepping up and doing something amazing. Of course, this was recorded before lockdown here in the UK, so some things don’t apply anymore but others will apply even more as we all come out of this effective in many different ways.
Many of you listening will be homeschooling as I am. My challenges are of course unique and I suspect there’s quite a few of us that are finding this not an easy thing to do. Like I said previously though for me, the lockdown has, in a lot of ways, been a game changer in terms of where I wanna take the podcast and the ideas that we have for Journey Skils. In order to do what I think I need to do, it’s important to hear experiences and share the knowledge from people like Celia and Maia.
Celia is more than happy to talk to people if they’re interested planning a little bit more about what she does and I encourage you to get in touch because she’s very happy to share her knowledge. And even if you’re not thinking about doing something like this right now for obvious reasons, thinking ahead is key because like what we’ve just found out, we never know when the world is gonna change forever.
DEBRA: Today I am talking to Celia Webster who’s the co-founder of Wave for Change and also her daughter, Maia. Welcome!
CELIA: Thank you very much.
DEBRA: First of all Celia, could you tell me a little bit about Wave for Change, how it got started but also your background and what I guess motivated you to do something like this?
CELIA: Wave for Change. Wave stands for We’re All Valued Equally. And I’ve got 4 children and Maia was my third daughter and I’ve just found that when I had her I felt quite isolated and just felt that we didn’t really fit in anymore into the previous groups that I belonged to in the circles that we mixed with. And I really wanted to find a group where I’m guessing kind of sense of feeling relaxed and a sense of belonging because I found mainstream playgroups quite difficult places to be. People would ask questions or be looking and in terms of development… yeah it was just difficult.
So I asked around to see if there was a playgroup that I could go to with Maia and I couldn’t find any specific one locally, so I decided to start one ourselves which we call the Challenge Group. We started Challenge Group 10 years ago and I got a team of people together and it’s held at our church. I’m a Christian but it’s a wonderful group because we got people who are Muslim, Jewish, atheist, some agnostics, you know all faiths, all backgrounds and we’ve just got this wonderful space where it’s a bit like having family really. The parents have formed very strong friendships with one another and we’re always welcoming to new people.
We can provide one-to-one support for the children with the team and it’s great for siblings as well because often they’ve missed out a bit on attention because many of us which have appointments or whatever. And it’s a really place where people feel very celebrated.
DEBRA: Is that a group for younger children so for parents who have young children, so what age group does that cover?
CELIA: So that tends to be families that have a baby or preschool child but it’s just a question of getting one or two people together who kind of share of passion even if it was just someone sitting, just a place for people feel welcome and relaxed and can chat about either struggles or successes in the week.
DEBRA: Can we talk a little bit then about sort of Wave for Change because looking at your website you have an underlying goal– changing perceptions?
CELIA: Yeah, the Challenge Group that I mentioned is just part of the umbrella of Wave for Change and our whole thing of Wave for Change is a movement for change and our ethos is very much about With not For. It’s about trying to breakdown the barriers of people’s attitudes and practical barriers that can result in people with and without learning disabilities being socially segregated because we feel very strongly that everybody gains from being together and yeah, it’s just great to have that diversity.
What we would love is although locally it’s grown– I think we have over 200 members now in Muswell Hill which is North London– we’d love it to grow outwards into other areas. At the same time I started the Challenge Group, somebody who I didn’t know very well called me. She said she felt God calling her to give me a ring to tell me that that he was asking her to start something for young people with learning disabilities. And so, we became great friends and Venice, the co-founder started Wave Church which is a monthly service for people with learning disabilities although other people come along. And then we’ve also got a partner group which is called Wave Cafe and that got its own charity and that’s now become a weekly place where it’s a community cafe and people of all abilities, all ages come along. Again just a very welcoming space for everybody. A real mix of everyone which is great.
DEBRA: So the Wave for Change is really about sort of support groups you know in some ways, is it? About giving people support around them because you said, as a lot of parents would say– It’s difficult when you have a young people with additional needs. Your friendship group changes. So is that what Wave is mainly a support group because looking at your website you’re also talking a lot about how you can change perceptions?
CELIA: It’s a real mixture because I think it gives families a support in the way that they realised that they’re not alone and that there’s a lot of other people out there who, even if they’re struggling with different things, we can just share things together and help support one another, help listen to one another. And again, I think it’s also brought support to people who’ve come who don’t have learning disabilities. And again, they find that, you know it’s quite rare in society who can turn up and whoever you are, you feel you’re not going to be judged and can actually be loved for who you are as your authentic self.
And I think very much for Maia it’s really transformed her self-esteem, of feeling that she can arrive somewhere where everybody’s is going to welcome her because I think particularly in the teenage years when you go to secondary school, even if schools are inclusive it doesn’t mean that you get invited to birthday parties or things after school. So it’s trying to provide spaces where people with all ages particularly for over 25 as well can come and just get to know one another really.
DEBRA: Can I ask you Maia talk a little bit about what you get from the groups?
MAIA: Yeah, so when I go to the group I really like it that everyone is I say friendly and they’re really welcoming. Everyone is really including everyone in the conversation. And I just really like being part of Wave because I can make new friends.
DEBRA:This group sounds incredibly wonderful and very welcoming, and one word I might use is safe for people because young people like Maia can be accepted. What are some of the things that you’re trying to do or some of the strategies you have to change the wider world because that’s obviously what you’re aiming to do as well. How do you do that, how do you translate from that environment?
CELIA: Yes, I think that there’s a lot of fear around and preconceptions and certainly I was used to be much more fearful before having Maia of people with learning disabilities. In fact, I’ve never come across people, you know I’ve friends who are from different backgrounds and different sexualities, different faiths but just I wasn’t quite sure how to be with people with learning disabilities and Maia has really taught me that. So I think that fear factor and I think that’s why it’s important sometimes to have a (well maybe always) to have a shared activities. So if it’s something like art or yoga, you can be alongside one another but you can take it to your own pace. And again, I think that thing of feeling safe with that of people who haven’t come across maybe or had friends who have learning disabilities, it’s a gradual process.
Sometimes within the community of young adults with learning disabilities, they can be so used to staying within their own safe groups but then, you know can be the reverse, that the same for them as well that you just get in your own natural get to’s and I think that feeling of being open and being able to take it at your own pace as well is important. But we’re learning all the time, we don’t always get it right. We make lots of mistakes but I think again it’s that thing of them being forgiving of one another that sometimes we’ll get it wrong, or say the wrong thing, or do the wrong thing.
DEBRA: So you are inviting people to come into the group, do you guys go out there and say to people “Look, here we are.”
CELIA: Yes, Maia has invited some of her friends where she goes to college to the Wave Cafe Park and then they’ve started coming. And we’re trying to link up with local schools in the area to see if maybe some of their young people might like to hang out in the cafe at lunch breaks or maybe they could come and do some art or if they’re in a band they could come and play or you know, take part in it. Because I think often there such a lack of community and it’s quite surprising when you actually ask people like sometimes we ask local supermarkets, you know if they like to contribute anything, and people actually are often so ready to feel like they want to be part of something. Some people don’t and you have to get used to again people saying no and that’s fine but I think local schools are a good source of asking people if they want to join in.
With the Challenge Group, one of my daughter’s friends does Instagram because I’m such a technophobic, I can’t do it. So I send her the photo. Yeah, just to make it known really. I think a lot of people particularly with the new young baby are isolated and don’t know what’s out there. It’s trying to publicize it as you say in a way where we get a mixture of people. We don’t want to just target groups that have connections with people with learning disability because we’re trying to get away from that idea that we’re daycare center or anything like that.
DEBRA: Yeah that would be a danger wouldn’t it that people would think it’s just a group for people who have additional needs to go to, to do something rather than a group to change people’s ideas.
CELIA: That’s right. You know and again it’s like trying to approach different places like them, there’s a local nursing home nearby that a couple of people have come from to the group and Maia, I discovered, is amazing with people who have Dementia because she genuinely enjoys being with people who have Dementia and kind of.. I don’t know how she does it but is able somehow to gets alongside. So again of that, just diversity and mixing everybody up.
DEBRA: Well it’s a skill to be patient, isn’t it? And most of us don’t have that skill.
MAIA: Yeah because when I am around old people who have Dementia then I’m really good at making them loved and I’m really good at talking to them and finding out how they’re doing.
DEBRA: That’s a definite skill that we can all do with I imagine. What’s the future for Wave for Change? Where do you guys want to go? You’ve mentioned you want more groups, how exactly is that going to work? How are you going to do that?
CELIA: Obviously, we’re still trying to figure that out the best ways to move forward. We would love to link up and move outwards to other areas of London, to other areas of the UK. If there were people who were interested in setting up anything similar, you know, fill it on their website and thought “I’d love to have something like that in our area”, I’d be so thrilled to give advice and you know, they can come and see what we were doing and they might like to do something similar or different, depending on what, you know, gifts or passions for other people had. So we would love it to spread so I think that there are so many other families out there who benefit from something like that.
DEBRA: From what you’ve said, it’s very much about supporting parents. The three areas that I talk about are about relationships, interpersonal, socialising but also about work and also about daily living which is predominantly about housing really, is there any plans to sort of do more around that area?
CELIA: So in terms of the work issue, I run a group on Tuesdays, again at the church, that’s a community cafe. It’s not actually under Wave but it’s kind of link to the same ethos. We sit together and we make soup and then that’s providing a meal for people who come to the church who might be homeless or ex-addicts, or families again, all walks of life.. elderly but again, it’s that thing of changing people’s attitudes that if you sit with a person with disabilities you’ve got to do something for them. And again, that’s a mixed abilities cooking team and I’ve seen people change a lot there because some people are scared of the nonverbal noises that people make. And some of the people who’ve come have got the confidence from just doing that beginning to now working in the local pubs doing cooking and working behind the bar. So just giving people a bit of work experience.
The housing is something we’re looking into and we’re just at the beginning of trying to work with the local council to try and get some social housing at the end of our route for people with learning disabilities. Again to not have that isolation but to feel that it’s a community so we’re really hoping that that might come to something because I think housing is a huge worry for people and with all the cuts and everything, yeah there’s big issues with that.
DEBRA: Yeah because.. I don’t know about you Maia but my daughter doesn’t really want to live with us forever.
CELIA: Do you want to live with us forever or not?
MAIA: Well, I would like to but if I find a flat somewhere in London with one of my good friends then I think I would want to do that.
CELIA: Yeah, that’d be nice to have the choice, wouldn’t it when you’re older. You can choose whether you want to stay home or to move out.
DEBRA: Can I just ask you finally, you’ve touched some all the way through anyway about the kind of things that people could do, but if someone is sitting at home and they feel isolated and listening thinking “Well I’d like to start something like this wherever I live in the world”, give me a couple of top tips that you think you wish you’d known when you started out?
CELIA: I think that thing of not giving up. I think that it’s very hard to think of even starting something up when you’ve probably got more struggle during the day then relatively than a lot of other people but I think that even if you start very small of just contacting one other person who’s like-minded, I do think that sometimes, local faith groups even if you don’t have a faith can be a good supply of people. They might have a heart for wanting to help. And I think that ability as well to know that you are going to make mistakes along the way but then to learn from them rather than to start something and think ‘Oh this is a failure, this hasn’t work and I’m going to give up now”. Just being prepared to make mistakes and I say, Wave would be so happy to hear from anybody out there. We’d be absolutely delighted.
If anyone wants to come and visit what we’re doing or link up and get any advice. I know it can all sound amazed when you look at the website, you know, but there have been so many tears and struggles along the way so I don’t want to close over any of that. And many of the time I arrive, the Challenge Group in tears and that they may have support lead. yes, it’s a big thing to have a team but it doesn’t mean that there aren’t going to be struggles along the way.
DEBRA: Maia, could I ask you a quick question around the same thing? What advice would you have for young people like you that maybe a feeling isolated and should go somewhere to a group like Wave for Change, what would you say to them?
MAIA: I think I would say to them “You guys can come along to Wave and you guys would be very welcomed. You guys would be very included.”
CELIA: And I think it’s having a place where a bit like groups like chicken chick with the drama, you know, it’s a product that people genuinely would like to come and do whether it’s a cooking group so that it’s something that other people might like to come and do.
DEBRA: Thank you so much for your time. Thank you, Celia. Thank you, Maia.
CELIA: Pleasure, thank you very much and we really hope that we might hear from some of your listeners.
DEBRA: Key takeaway– there’s so much to takeaway as what I got from listening back to this episode myself. I’m thinking about how we need to break down that fear and once we do that, real change will become possible.
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