Tag Archives: special needs

Flipping The Switch At Spotlight Brewing

Podcast Episode 71 Sometimes it’s the small ideas that can have the biggest impact and this is certainly the case with this week’s guest Ric Womersley from Spotlight Brewing. Ric founded Spotlight Brewing to make great beer whilst providing genuine employment opportunities for people with additional needs. Not only is Spotlight Brewing doing this very successfully but through their products they are educating their customers about the challenges people with additional needs can face.

In this episode Ric discusses some of the practical issues around setting the brewery up and running it. He also talks about the challenges they faced as a small business finding equipment, training as well as the obvious challenge of how to fund everything they needed. Spotlight Brewing is a social enterprise and Ric also outlines why he chose that structure over other options. He also talks about what’s next for Spotlight Brewing.

Spotlight Brewing is a perfect example of taking an idea and flipping the switch to get it started. The results are already amazing. Spotlight Brewing might be small now but it’s growing fast, not only in sales and the reach of its products, but, in influencing opinions and changing perceptions of what people with additional needs can contribute to business and community.

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Podcast Transcript
DEBRA: Welcome to Episode 71 of the Journey Skills podcast. I hope you’ll agree that this podcast has always been pretty diverse in the terms of the people and organisations that I’ve spoken to. If you listened to the last episode which was about Yoocan which is a global initiative to encourage collaboration, it makes this episode even more poignant in my opinion.

I’m talking to Ric Womersley from Spotlight Brewing which is a small social enterprise in the North of England. So one extreme to the other, really. The reason I mention this is because I think it’s important to remember that no dream is too big or too small when it comes to our young people. These projects couldn’t be more different but they used to do something amazing; they provide opportunity, they provide hope, and they provide all of us with the knowledge that if we want to do something similar, we now have that example to learn from.

We all want the same thing for our young people — a positive future, and interestingly I was somewhere last week where I heard parents talked about how they weren’t sure about what next. And I think we all get to that when we get near that infamous cliff edge after full-time education finishes. So really what this podcast to in a way share a light in what’s happening out there. Because there is a lot. And every single time I interview someone, I’m amazed and inspired by what people are actually doing.

Talking to Ric was no different. What he has done was simply amazing. I call this episode Flipping The Switch, partly because it’s about Ric just deciding to get on and do something but it’s also about Spotlight trying to educate people as well. But perhaps switching the light on for them that people with additional needs are capable of so much more when given the right opportunities.

I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned that I don’t actually drink beer. Yes, and if you’re wondering that’s the reason I was asked to leave Australia but it seems to me that this one of those industries with low barriers to entry and it has task that are labor intensive and to extent, there’s a sort of system– a systemised way of doing things. So I wonder if that’s one of the reasons why I fell in a lot of brewers to talk to in the podcast.

What I also like about Spotlight (another brewers I’ve spoken to), is that they all say that people are buying the product. They’re buying the beer, they’re not buying it because of who made it. And in my mind, that’s the true definition of a social enterprise. Ric and I are gonna discuss that but he also talks us through some of the practical issues around what Spotlight does and also the challenges he has faced along the way. You’ll also hear that when you listen to Ric that he’s managed to get to where many of us wanna get to– doing a job that he really loves.

DEBRA: Today I am talking to Ric Womersley from Spotlight Brewing. Welcome, Ric.

RIC: Thank you very much for having me.

DEBRA: Can you tell me first of all about yourself and then also about Spotlight Brewing?

RIC: My name is Ric. I’ve set up this social enterprise called Spotlight Brewing. I come from a background with working with people with learning disabilities. My parents set up a care home when I was about 4 or 5 years old. Ever since then I’ve been involved somehow with people with learning disabilities. Obviously, first job was working for my parents but also we’ve lived on site so I shared a home with you know these twelve people that lived with us. I’ve always been involved people with learning disabilities.

I got to the point where about I wanted to a separate project away from what my parents have done. I wanted to do something where… work is quite out in the state from where we are and there’s not that much for people with learning disabilities to do for the day in a lake farm. So, I came with a concept of trying to… a social enterprise which would pay for itself but would involve a few people with learning disabilities. I’m also quite keen on sort of meaningful activity. A lot of times, these guys and girls can end up doing activities that are bit blunt– you know sort of activities that, that said activities, I wanted to create something which are a bit more meaningful and then I thought, “Right, what can I do? I’ve got to say my life was into the beer, love home brewing. Why not set up a brewery?” And yeah, and then we ended up with Spotlight Brewing.

DEBRA: Okay, so how long has Spotlight been going?

RIC: It’s been going about a year and a half now. The idea is maybe sort of 3 years old and it took a while to get the project running. I know, I involved with the guys sort of we’d sit down and we’d create recipes, we’ve had them brew them on my home brewing equipment, sort of taste test, we’d go out and visit local bars with our bottles, see if they were interested in the beer, see if they were interested in the concept.

And that sort of process maybe took about a year, a year and a half. And then we had to build the brewery basically so we had some availability of some premises which were some old sort of farm building damages which we changed into the brewery. So, the 2 main brewers in the project, Kevin and Neil, were involved from the beginning. So they helped with brick laying, with painting, clearing out, cleaning and just turning this old farm building into a suitable premises for a brewery.

DEBRA: What would the biggest challenges then in setting it up? What would you say the biggest challenges were?

RIC: So many. The first one was finance. I was hoping to be able to get some sort of grant for doing what we’re doing but unfortunately, never managed to lay my hands on anything. I think the fact that we were working with alcohol seems to be a little bit of a hurdle for some of the organisations that can provide grants. So, finance was very hard. I ended up putting a lot of my own money into the project and also a business of my own.

It was a selection of many hurdles along the way and because I didn’t have the amount of money to finance brand new equipment which was the first plan, ended up getting hold of some secondhand equipment but that secondhand equipment had lots of problems so ended up having to get a new equipment to sort of budget together. Finally, ended up with some great brewery equipment and which is.. it is half secondhand but we’ve been able to customize it to our needs. So, in the long run, it’s turned out really well but back then, it was like “Oh no, another issue with this equipment”.

I’d say it’s challenging but it’s all part of the process was getting the two guys that are in the brewery up to a safe standard. Myself as well. I had done a few days work with different breweries, done a few coasters but didn’t have lots of experience in the brewery so the first few brews were quite intense I mean to concentrate on providing a service to the guys in the brewery making sure that they were safe, learning and enjoying their time while they were here. And also, try to create a great deal at the same time, so that was the first few brews are very tricky. But we soon sort of fell into the great. We soon fell into sort of working well together and a great routine. And as the brewery gone on with all the people learning which is what it’s all about then. The goals that we’ve got to social enterprise is to get people with learning disabilities to focus on their strengths and hopefully create somebody who’s employable in the future.

DEBRA: So, the two guys that you have working for you who had been with you from the beginning, they’re the brewers?

RIC: Yes, so we’ve got Kevin and Neil which I mentioned which they work in the brewery during the brewing. We’ve also got a chap called Matthew, he’s a very entrepreneurial guy. He’s our salesman and he sort of comes along to sort of farmers’ market and Christmas market and things like that; selling out bottled beers. Also, to look into customers and accounts that we have and sort of he work on that side of the business. We then have a chap whose got bit more severe learning disabilities but he’s a very sociable guy and he’s sort of like my assistant tradesman. He loves sitting and driving around, a perfect assistant tradesman. He’s great company but he’s also a real good laugh, so whenever we deliver, we can always have a laugh with people, have a laugh with the landlords, with customers. So, that’s everybody that we’ve got involved at the moment.

DEBRA: When you’re brewing the beer, what kind of processes do you have involved because you mentioned you’ve got your brewers so they’re obviously involved in the creation of the beer, do you automate the bottling and things like that?

RIC: Unfortunately not, no. We would absolutely love a nice bottling machine, but no, we’ve got a quite basic set up again due to costs but it does involve everyone. So we set up a nice production line with everybody with their own individual jobs on bottling day. So we’ve got one guy pre-rinsing the bottles, I run the little bottling plant that we’ve got then the full bottles go over to Neil who got say taps on the bottles, they then go to be checked for the volume of the beer in the bottle by Kevin who checks that and then put some away to dry in a box until we will spend sort of half a day bottling. I mean, it’s quite a slow process and we maybe due sort of 200-300 bottles in the morning and then we spend the afternoon after lunch labeling the bottles and dating them. It’s very hands on.
But it gets the guys involved; we’re doing tasks, learning new skills and we have a laugh as well, the music’s always on roll, we’re having a joke.

DEBRA: Your accounts, you mentioned, so you sell to pubs, go out and selling at various places, what are some of the accounts that you have and how have you got those?

RIC: Most of the customers are sort of smaller premises that focus on good quality beer. 90% of that beer goes within 30 miles of the brewery in cask and crate. So you know, the best way to go out and gain customers is go out and speak to the landlords which means taking a visit to a pub which isn’t too bad and that’s not how we’ve gained most of our core customers. Some does go out for field so during festival season, we get a lot of beer going all over the country to different festivals and then we just started a little bit of wholesale as well with beer sort of going all over the place with wholesale but yeah, most of it is in the local area.

DEBRA: I assume that when a landlord or a pub takes your beer, they’re most concerned about the actual beer rather than who made the beer.

RIC: Yeah, I mean, I try not to push too hard. I let people know what we’re about. I try and let the beer and the quality of our beer speak. I don’t want people to sort of chooses us as a charity case, if that makes sense. I’d rather a landlord buy a cask of our beer, it goes down well and then go, “Wow! Look at what they’re doing. This is amazing. The beer is good.”

So yeah, I mean, no matter what you do, you can’t tell it’s hard to sell a beer at price we’re asking but it’s good quality beer is important like a brewery our size and then I’m just hoping that social enterprise side is a little bit of a bonus for people. And also, helps educate as well. So, if you look at what we do, we’ve got a range of cold beers which are related to different learning disabilities and our goal apart from providing a meaningful activity at workplace with people with learning disabilities is to raise awareness. And so, each cold beer has that relationship that takes us session pale ale for instance it’s called One More and that’s related to people with Down Syndrome because they have one extra chromosome. On our bottles, we then got a paragraph sort of explaining some simple facts about Down Syndrome, got a little bit more information on our website. It’s just a chance for people at the end of the day to sitting down with one of our beers to be drinking it and have a little read and hope they’re learning something as well.

DEBRA: You’re a social enterprise, so when you make money, does it go back into the business? Do you pay your brewers?

RIC: The money is all gets reinvested into the business, nobody gets paid at the moment. It’s all on like a voluntary basis that’s including myself at the moment. There’s no money taken out as profit because we never got any grants or anything like that. It’s been sort of a quite organic growth that we’ve had and every penny we make then just straight back into the business to help grow it, get more equipment so we can keep up with the demands. And yeah, that’s sort of the stage our business that we’re at at the moment.

DEBRA: But I assume that long term your plan is to have more people involved and I would assume eventually pay people because it’s a social enterprise so it involves making money as well as providing you said activities but I’m assuming that you’d like to pay your brewers at some point.

RIC: Absolutely, yeah 100%! And also, our aim over the next year or two is to open up a couple of taprooms in the local area. This will help with the profit from a social enterprise but it will also provide new establishments for different people to get involved with. When we look at working with us is a certain individual, we look at their strengths and so, you know, the guys that work in the brewery and maybe not the most sociable by people but they’ve got great strengths; Kevin is fantastic at cleaning, Neil is really good at picking up practical spiels really quickly. And if we open up some taprooms, we can look at all their strengths that individuals may have to really help them play to their own strengths and involve more people. And if we can get a little more profit out of it, start paying a wage.

DEBRA: Let’s talk a little bit about what you plan for the future, so we’ve sort of covered that but can I just ask you if someone’s looking at doing something similar because you clearly taken this from sort of nothing and created something amazing, if someone else was around the country or overseas or wherever, because I know that… one of the reasons I’m talking to you is because there was an article about a number of different breweries around the world that were doing similar things to what you’re doing. But what advice would you give someone who’s in the situation when they think, “Actually I would like to do something similar for either my son or daughter or for a group of people I know” or you know, something like that. What kind of advice would you give them? Where would they start? And what are the things that you’ve learned that would help them?

RIC: Well I think, take the time to plan it out and really get it in your head how your project is going to work. If it’s for people with learning disabilities, get to know, make sure you fully know the people that you’re going to get involved in the projects because it’s very important that they’re happy in what they’re doing there and gotta figure out if everything’s gonna work together, where you look at their strengths and also prepare for their weaknesses. Maybe choose something with a little bit less health and safety issues in a brewery. That’s my take. A lot of investment has got into making the brewery as safe as possible than you know, there’s lots of processes within a brew day which really slow us down compared to another brewery because there’s sort of like there’s a dangerous section all about ethics, close off the section of the brewery whereabouts here no bringing this and that or anything like that. So yeah, think about what your project is, how appropriate is for the people that you’re wanting to help and how it can all fit together before diving straight in maybe a little bit like I did.

DEBRA: It’s interesting you’re talking about social enterprise, can I ask why you didn’t go down the charity route? Why you chose a social enterprise over a charity approach?

RIC: I did consider the charitable approach. When I was looking into it, I wanted it to be… the brewing industry at the moment is actually quite tough. There’s a lot of small breweries around, a lot of people who produce and brew brilliant products. And my concern with going to charitable route was extra red take and not be able to (with the business head on) make the charity work as a business and that was a sort of a challenge that I wanted the business to run on its own sort of two feet, if that’s making sense. I wanted to create something which isn’t asking from all over the place and I want a little business to run itself and involve the people that we work with. And that was sort of more my goals. I wanted an enterprise to solve the issue that I saw in the area.

DEBRA: Thank you very much for your time, Ric.

RIC: Pleasure. Thank you very much for taking the time to speak to us .

DEBRA: Key takeaway? If you have an idea that you think is worth starting, you should just go and do it. There are other people out there that will help you, there are other people out there like Ric that have done it before you. And no doubt would support you along the way.

Resources
Spotlight Brewing Website
Spotlight Brewing on Facebook
Spotlight Brewing on Twitter

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Promoting Collaboration At Yoocan

Podcast Episode 70 We can sometimes feel that we are alone in our journey but often by simply looking around we realise we are not. The focus of this week’s podcast, Yoocan proves this in the way they provide an online space to share stories and to inspire each other. In this interview, Moshe Gaon co-founder of Yoocan explains why Yoocan exists and what its primary aims and objectives are.

Moshe also talks about how important collaboration is in advancing the way we do things and helping speed up the pace of change for young people with additional needs. He explains why we need to look outside what we know into other areas to find solutions that have been created for other reasons but help us to solve our own problems.

Moshe also talks about why Yoocan is a social enterprise, not a charity and why this is important in the long term not only for the success of Yoocan as a platform for collaboration but also why social enterprises are a better way to bring about real sustainable change.

The hint in the name really but actually Yoocan is about more than what each of us can do it is about understanding that you can do more when you look at what others have done before you or are doing beside you.

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Podcast Transcript
DEBRA: Welcome to Episode 70 of the Journey Skills podcast. I hope you’ve already heard of the organisation which is the focus of this episode, if not, then like me you’ve been missing out on some great resources and generally, just the website that offers so much in terms of ideas and inspiration. If I had to use two words to describe what I’m talking about with Moshe Gaon, the founder of Yoocan, it’s about connection and collaboration.

Over the last two years of doing this podcast, I’ve noticed an awful lot of replication of amazing ideas. To me, this seems such a waste because we need to be learning off each other. And this is not a criticism in any way at all. A full of admiration for everyone I’ve spoken to who is basically stopped talking about an idea and just got out and done it. But I do think that we need to realise that often the beginning of a solution is already out there for us. And we need to be tapping more into each other’s knowledge and experiences. This is only going to help all of us move forward quicker and help us get our young people to where they need to be quicker as well.

It’s a kind of hope that this is where the Journey Skills podcast fills a bit of a gap; making more people aware of the various projects out there and the various people that doing amazing things. And purely from a personal point of view, I’m starting to feel myself that I am so much better equipped to go out and help my daughter achieve the level of independence that she actually wants.

Moshe and I talk about a variety of issues including why there isn’t’ as much collaboration as they should be. We also talk about connection which is incredibly important as we navigate some pretty rocky roads at times. We also discuss this social enterprise idea and why charities can’t solve some of the issues and why we need to be talking more about enterprise and how doing that and having an enterprise changes perceptions, not just for ourselves, but for our young people and actually in the wider community as well.

DEBRA: Today, I’m talking to Moshe Gaon who is from Yoocan. Welcome, Moshe!

MOSHE: Hi, it’s my pleasure.

DEBRA: Can you tell me a little bit about yourself first of all and then what Yoocan is all about?

MOSHE: Sure. I’m a businessman, an entrepreneur and an investor in early stage companies. I’ve been involved in many, many areas in my lifetime working in advertising and marketing, working with innovative startups here in Israel and investing in numerous areas in industry, financial businesses. And about five years ago, I decided that there is a need out there to start a startup that will help people with disabilities solve two major problems in their lives: one is the frustration of search, looking for different things. They may not find where they are and the second thing is the loneliness; the feeling that people have, that they are all alone and when there is a problem that they’re trying to solve, they cannot find the right people to speak to so they feel alone and it doesn’t make a difference where they’re from in the world, it doesn’t make a difference what they have and it really depends you know if they have a child or it themselves.

Those two things; their frustration of search and the frustration of loneliness are equal around the world. So when I’ve learned this from personal experience from my family which I’ll tell you in a minute about, I decided that there’s a need to start this company that will solve these two major problems. That’s how I started with Yoocan.

DEBRA: Can you explain exactly what Yoocan is? I mean you said before it’s obviously a resource centre but what exactly is the purpose of Yoocan?

MOSHE: Okay, so once I explain the need, the need was to try and give this problem a solution. The idea was to develop a collaborative community; a place where people can actually share their stories, learn from other’s experiences and to put together a community that would bring in solutions from around the world to help one another. It could be solving people’s needs for empowerment, to believe in themselves and to believe that they can do things that’s why we called it Yoocan.

And the second thing was to find the resources to help them achieve these dreams of theirs, their goals. So it could be somebody wants to travel around the world, it could be somebody who wants to play music, it could be somebody who wants to dive or to surf, or it could be somebody who wants to learn about fashion or anything that you would like to do. And it starts from early age, from very young children who wanna do things and their parents wanna help them but they don’t know how to do it. And it goes into older adults who have this dream to do things and they wanna learn from others.

So if you go in Yoocan, it’s really a collaborative resource centre that allows people to learn from other’s experiences, to learn from their empowering stories and an access to solutions from around the world, it could be products, services, activities. That’s what Yoocan is about, that’s why we call it You Can Do Anything.

DERBA: So it’s obviously a business startup, so how did it get started? What did you actually do to get things moving? Because you need to market it, you need to get people involved, how have you done that?

MOSHE: Well, my vision was that the problem with a lot of projects that are starting the disability community is that people feel that it’s Philanthropy. This is something that you need to raise money from philanthropists and it’s not something that you could stand on its own and there is no real business model for it. So, usually, as you go along, you waste most of your time trying to raise money rather than actually build a business or build the solution.

So the idea was that we need to learn from other startups from other industries and build something that has the potential to be a business, something that can stand on its own, something that can actually earn money. So we are in what we call the For-Profit Business; a business which is an impact business, it’s designed to do good and is designed to solve people’s problems and to give them solutions but it’s really also designed to be a business that stands on its own and earns money that we can sustain the business as we go along.

So we’re not profitable yet, I mean we’re still building the business but from the beginning it was designed to be something with a business model and our business model is very simple; we provide free solutions to the community but we hope that eventually suppliers, sellers and people themselves will use the platform to buy things or to sell things. And by doing that, we are able to get a commission from the sales and that commission goes into helping the business sustain itself. So that’s the logic of it. The logic is that but the logic is that it will eventually be a business that will provide people solutions on one hand and on the other hand, by the fact that people find those solutions on Yoocan, we will be able to sell things like a marketplace, and from that commission, from those earnings that we will get, we will be able to build a business, increase the potential of it, build more services into it and sustain the business, rather than raise money from philanthropists.

DEBRA: Can we explore that a little bit more because it’s an issue the whole idea that people expect things like this to be a charity as opposed to being a business and that you have to justify that it is a business and not a charity because people think that people with disabilities need a charity to support them as opposed to a business. Is that something you’ve found as well?

MOSHE: Yeah well there are two problems that have to do with for-profit businesses. One is that the investors that are used to investing in startups which are in other industries, you know like crypto or into marketplaces or into internet businesses, they are used to investing in those businesses and they don’t ask questions about what’s the potential, what’s the risk because they’re more used to it, they are more familiar with these businesses and it’s much easier for them to make a decision on investing.

But when it comes to disabilities, it becomes completely different stories because people are used to the idea that when you’re talking disabilities, this is about Philanthropy, this is about not making money, this is about government’s investing. So why should you invest in these companies? And my vision to the world is that people with disabilities are a very big community around the world. They are buyers and they are people with buying power just like any other communities around the world. And they buy a lot of things just like anybody else buys. When you have a family with a disability, you know that there are much more needs. You usually buy things that others don’t really buy, maybe different things. So your buying power maybe bigger for those areas that are relevant for people with disabilities.

So I think that when you actually explore farther into the disability community, you find that many products that are sold for people with disabilities have a very big potential of selling around the world and becoming very good businesses. So, as we look around the world today, because of the innovation, making in 3D, in internet of things, in driverless cars, people are starting to understand that these are industries that have a lot of potential for products for people with disabilities in video, in smart homes. So, if you look at wheelchairs that are becoming more sophisticated, if you look at hearing aids these are becoming more sophisticated, vision aids becoming much smarter and many other areas as well. I think that we will see much more development, much more innovation in these areas. And people will start getting used to the idea that this is a very, very big business.

So, Yoocan is really an innovator in a sense that we still need to convince people that this is a business and we have invested a lot of money into building Yoocan from private investors, myself included. We’ve put a lot of money into building it because we believe that this is something that we invest in something that has a credibility of becoming a business and not just being a business on its own but also being a promoter of other businesses and allowing other businesses, other innovations, other startups to present themselves on Yoocan.

So, if you go on Yoocan, you will see a lot of innovation, you will see a lot of companies, you will see a lot of startups, you will see a lot of technology that we are actually allowing others to present themselves for free. So I hope that eventually, we will be a place where everybody that is involved in disability will appear, will be taking part in and will collaborate with us.

DEBRA: You mentioned before about taking note of what other startups have done in other industries, do you think that’s a bit of an issue when  a lot of organisations seem to go from the very beginning rather than finding out from others so it seems that Yoocan would have a good thing with collaboration of businesses learning from each other even if they’re not doing exactly the same thing.

MOSHE: It’s a very good point because I think that there are a number of problems in what I would call the disability community but also in the Philanthropy area as well; that people are raising a lot of money for many, many things that are duplicated efforts. And if you look at what people are doing, there are so many people who are doing the right things and from the right place in the heart but these are duplication of efforts. They do the exactly the same things that others are doing maybe in their own neighbourhood or definitely in their own country.

So I think that there is a lot of room and a lot of potential for collaboration. We’re doing things together because I think that could also save money but also can save time and efforts because there are many, many things that you may think that you’re doing innovative but somebody else has done it already or somebody else is already has the database or the marketing effort or the knowledge for something that you think you’re starting from the scratch and you need to build up.

So I think that Yoocan is also about telling people that we don’t have to do everything from scratch, we can actually collaborate and the more we collaborate together, the more the efforts will be effective. You can save money, you can build businesses together, you can build marketing efforts together, you can provide services together.

I’ll give an example you know I find people that are working on developing a product because they may have a child with a spinal cord injury and they want to help them surf. But if you go on Yoocan, you will find maybe ten companies around the world already developing surfing boards and you can actually find many, many surfing boards for people with spinal cord injuries already on Amazon and many of them are actually available around the world. So why would you go investing money now in developing something from scratch if you can actually go on Yoocan and find the solution and just order it and get it in two weeks’ time? Instead of working out three months to develop it. That’s just one example.

It goes to music product, it goes into fashion products, it goes into medicine, it goes into wheelchairs. In many industries, I find that people are trying to develop something from scratch where this product exists somewhere else in the world. And when I go around the world talking to people and they come to me and say, “Moshe, do you know of a vision product that can help my child that has this problem?” and I say, “Sure, there’s this company in Israel. We’ve developed this product, why don’t you just you go on Yoocan and talk to these guys.”

So, I think that it’s amazing that it wasn’t done before and nobody has actually done it and it’s also amazing that Yoocan is trying to do it with very limited efforts because we only raised a million half dollars for Yoocan and it’s not too much and we’re not doing it every year in raising funding efforts and celebrations. We believe that we need to be very effective. But I think that we’ve actually achieved so far is pretty amazing compared to the limited time we’ve been around and the money that we’ve invested in it.

And I think that if we get more companies to collaborate with us and we get more partners to work with us and we get more organisations around the world to help us, I think we can actually build the world’s largest resource centre and collaborative community to benefit everybody and the good thing about it is that it’s provided for free to the people. So that people have to pay for it, they’re getting it for free. The only thing we need to do is to get people more awareness to know about us, to share their stories on Yoocan, to look for things on Yoocan and even maybe to buy through Yoocan so we can actually make some commission on it and build a business for them.

DEBRA: I just want to explore that a little bit more the whole idea that we end up doing things from scratch so do you think it’s because people just genuinely think there’s nothing out there so I’m going to  do it all myself?

MOSHE: It’s that as well, yes, I think that many people think that they’re smarter than others so they want to try it on their own. That’s definitely one of them. They think that they know better and they will do it differently. And people don’t understand that it really takes a long time to learn how to do things and it takes a lot of money to build things right so one of the frustrating things that I learned is that many people try and then that after a while they fail and then their efforts go into the garbage and it’s a waste. And I think that many people need to say to themselves, “Before I start something, maybe I should look around and see what’s out there and maybe we can do together rather than start from scratch.”

The second thing is that I think that people think that their needs are different than others and what people do in one place is not similar to what they want which in many cases is not the right thing. I mean, in many cases, they think they’re different but they’re not because what we find is that the problems that may be in one disability may not be solved by the same disability maybe but from another disability that you could find a solution for it.

For example, if somebody doesn’t have a leg because of a disease, I don’t know if its diabetes or an accident, the solution for its problem may come from another disease that created the solution for somebody that lost their leg because of that disease. If you understand what I’m saying. Because the problem was that the person has one leg, it’s nothing because he has diabetes. So what you need to do is to look for what is the problem that somebody is trying to solve; is he trying to ride a bike, he is trying to surf, is he trying to jump from an airplane. What is the problem he is trying to solve, what is he trying to do rather than what disease he has. And my brother’s son, Erez, who is the inspiration for Yoocan, was born 11 years ago with a very, very unique disease. He has multiple disabilities but is still is a very, very sweet kid, he’s smart, he knows how to do many, many things and he likes to do many, many different things but his disability which is multiple limits the way he can move around. So, if we needed to solve his problem, we may find that solution in a disease which is completely different than his because his disease gives him limitation in movement. So, he could actually have a solution riding a bike that comes from a disability which is completely different which is also about movement disability. If you understand what I’m trying to say.

So I think we need to be very, very creative in the way we approach this rather than say, “Oh my kid has this disability I must find him a solution.” Rather than say, “I’ll look around and see other kids who have a movement disability from different disciplines, from different disabilities and see what they’re actually doing and maybe I’ll find a solution which is better for my child.”

DEBRA: Do you think that that’s partly because we have labels and those labels are quite rigid so a person might have autism and that’s what they have?

MOSHE: Yeah, it comes from these structures of how Philanthropy was actually created is that you have a charity that’s about autistic children so the only focus on autistic children and if you have a charity about spinal cord injuries, that is about that. So each one of them is focused and very, very nervous about protecting its investors or its philanthropists and not sharing knowledge and not sharing services, and not sharing databases. And I think that we need to break that, we need to get everybody together to say, “Here’s what we’re doing, here’s what we’re doing great, here’s what we learned that doesn’t work and doesn’t work for us. Once we share that information with one another, I think we can actually build a bigger community. And it’s amazing because disability around the world is about 25% in every population, almost in every country and it’s a huge power community. I mean, there’s a lot of people, a lot of families, it’s every 5th family disability catches on. And still, if you look at its impact on governments, it’s leverage on companies. It’s very limited.

And I think that companies talk about doing things but compared to what they can do is very minimal; corporations are not investing enough money in this community, they’re not investing enough money and find solutions for this community and these are billion dollar companies. We’re doing very, very little compared to what they can do. So I think it’s all because everybody talks about it– collaborations but there’s very little collaboration and I think that what I see the vision for Yoocan is, to be at the head front of telling people what collaboration is about and if you go in to Yoocan, you will see how many companies and how many organizations are already collaborating on Yoocan. We have now more than 1000 organisations on Yoocan. We’re collaborating with many organisations from around the world, you know, UK to Australia to the US to Israel to Germany to every country around the world almost. We have 105 countries participating. We have storytellers, almost 2000 storytellers now on Yoocan from around the world– sharing their stories from every country in the world regardless if these countries talk to one another, the people talk to one another which is pretty amazing.

And I think is what the vision is about. So I think that if we start collaboration, if we break down barriers, if we share information and knowledge, if we allow people to share their stories with one another, if people create awareness for Yoocan, I think it can really change the way people are actually behaving and sharing knowledge and that will solve people’s problem around the world.

DEBRA: Thank you so much for your time.

MOSHE: Great, I appreciate it and share Yoocan story!

DEBRA: Key takeaway? Well I don’t need to reinvent the wheel to solve some of the issues that I’m looking at solving for my daughter. There are already people out there doing some amazing stuff and I need to go and talk to them and learn from them.

Resources
Yoocan website
Yoocan on Facebook

Please subscribe to this podcast and if you have a story you would like to share I would love to hear from you just email debra@journeyskills.com

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Holiday Take-Homes



Shake things upHolidays are a good time to shake it up. Normal routine is out. Normal sleeping is out. Normal food is out. So with all this disruption, when could be a better time to jolt our children to greater independence? You take more of a holiday. Let them work.

You deserve a rest. You have more time because, presumably, you’re relaxing as a family. So don’t hurry. You don’t have anywhere to be. Use the time as a slow opportunity to solve ongoing problems/issues that you don’t always have time to address. Start the day by letting them get their own breakfast.

We first did this a while back now with our daughter at the buffet breakfast area of the hotel in which we were staying. She enjoyed the adventure. First the juice – bring it back to the table. Next the cereal – back to table. Eggs and toast – table. Then pastries. We did, breakfast pastrieshowever, quickly realise we didn’t just need to show her how to get breakfast, we needed to also teach her restraint and healthy eating. We aimed for a reasonably healthy breakfast, whereas without guidance she went for the less healthy more sugar option.

After a week of this, when we came home we tried letting her make her own breakfast. We put the cereal out, and a bowl and spoon. Except for school days she has always got up before anyone in the house. So when we came down on weekends we found the scattered remains of breakfast. Bowl on the table, the dirty spoon next to it. Crumbs on the bench and a puddle of milk next to that. We realised then this was going to take a little practice and patience.

We also did some practical things to help her: we bought a small carton of milk. She was still a junior school then, and so a large carton of milk was too heavy for her to control as she poured. This is probably the way to go for all children without a lot of core strength, or even having a pre-poured small jug of milk left in the fridge with just the right amount in.

Another thing we perfected while on holiday was getting dressed. There’s ample time and plenty of opportunities as we change from clothes to swimming trunks and back again. It’s also a chance to teach modesty if your child is not as aware as you would like them to be.

Maybe if you’re camping there’s a chance to learn to ride a bike. Balance issues is often a challenge for children with additional needs. I, or should I say my daughter and I because it was a marathon for her too, spent many hours teaching her to ride. Follow the link for our download explaining the steps we went through to solve this. Learning to ride sometimes takes time and perseverance.

On holiday are other skills older children/young adults can develop too. Going to reception if you’re in a hotel and asking for more towels for example. I think that hotels are a relatively safe environment to let my children wander to experience being away from us alone, but that is your call. Independence can’t happen without us letting go to some degree.

If that’s a bit more than what you feel they are ready for, going across to the café for a cold drink while under your watchful eye from the pool might not be. This could be their chance to stroll , get distracted, take forever so whatever they’re buying for you is cold by the time they arrive back – perhaps it’s better to ask for juice rather than coffee.

But seriously though, holidays are a good time to practice independence skills. You aren’t in a rush. Sometimes we do more than we should, and on holiday could be a good testing ground to see what we can stop doing for them, because we aren’t trying to get out of the door by 3 minutes past 8. The benefits of them developing greater independence skills are for the whole family. Other children won’t feel a sibling is being given more attention. You will have more time.  Your child will feel just that little bit more independent, more grown up. In Breaking Bad Habits I talked about the habit loop. We all get stuck in our habit loops, so let’s use holidays as a chance to break some of them. Good luck!

To easy the stress of the travel, Vicki in this week’s podcast Happy Holidays gives useful suggestions on how to cope.  Vicki is a travel consultant, as well as a mother to a child with additional needs.

Is she safe online?


My daughter is safe on the internet. I know she is. I have set up the parental controls and keep an eye on her to see what websites she’s on. I get a a report each week detailing her internet activity. Yes she is safe. Or so I think so…

The ‘A Brush with Authority’ podcast has made me think about crime as it might affect my daughter. She doesn’t go out on her own into situations where she could get into trouble at the moment. So it is online where she most likely to get into trouble.

For us internet time is after school, after homework, after dinner. We have a routine. She has ‘alone’ time, code meaning she’s fed up with us. She has time on her tablet near us but not always with us in the room the entire time. Nothing unusual there.

But what does she do in her internet time. I know it’s not Facebook or other social media because we haven’t set her up on any of those yet. Like all our sons and daughters with additional needs she is vulnerable. Grooming is our chief concern, as for any parent. Yet I think it’s more than that.

She does not always split fact from fiction. She takes things literally, so ‘hit the road’ in our house can mean exactly what it says. This not always understanding language in the same way as peers her age means she doesn’t always know when something isn’t right. Some content posted online is simply not true.  The written word can lie just as easily as a politician can manipulate the truth.

Add as friend imageA few years ago she was on the Moshi Monsters virtual community and someone befriended her. Nothing strange there except their user name was offensive, certainly not something I could write here. Anyone with a better understanding of language would have known this slang term was racist. The website dealt with it very quickly once they knew but it certainly made us extra diligent.

So now we do check her internet history, and pretend to return something to her for the price of a peak to see what she’s watching. Usually not revealing much. Usually vloggers. Two girls, cooking pizza. Nothing dangerous there. But what if…

I don’t think she’d tell us straight away at least. So I’ve started to look outside for advice on how to make her safer online. Some of the websites we have looked are on our online safety page.

The National Crime Agency in the UK suggests 3 steps:
1. Create a family contract. Decide boundaries so it will be easier to keep our children safe.
2. Make sure they know how to get help. Tell them who they should speak to if not yourselves when something upsets them. If they receive an attachment of any sort they should not open it but speak to you first.
3. Continue the conversation. Speak about who their online friends are, and how they be online friends to others. Help them discover websites they enjoy. Discuss the difference between ‘public’ and ‘private’.

Clearly with rule 1 we set this up. Our daughter has her alone time but we limit it. But we don’t tell her what sites she can and can’t visit but we limit these through the parental controls. This contract idea is good, but it’s not always easy to implement it.

Rule 2 might include looking at resources such as the Thinkuknow website. The idea is if children look through this website, they will know how to report problems or concerns to the right people. While this is sensible advice, I’m not sure I want to cause alarm by going to this website more than once to show her it is there. I think I’d prefer the reporting to come about through the next rule.

Rule 3 could be regarded as ironic, especially as teenagers make it their purpose in life to not listen to parents. But for me this one is the key. This is where I can share some interests with my daughter and speak about things other than ‘how was your day at school today’. I’m going to try this one more. Perhaps we might discover we share a liking for Morris dancing, sheep dog trials, or country music.

Many of my thoughts this week have been about crime, hence the internet. Ian in his podcast, made me understand how difficult it is for our young people to report crime if they are afraid of figures in authority. He has made us think we need to do more to help our daughter with this, because it will be the police she will need to call on if she ever does get in trouble.