The unique charity Grace Eyre is re-launching its celebrated Travel Buddy project for 2015 with a ‘dramatic’ day on Tuesday, March 17. Travel Buddy is a fantastic travel training programme in Brighton and Hove which helps adults with learning disabilities gain the skills and confidence to travel safely by bus or by foot in the city.
The project re-launches with a goal of signing up 30 new users over the next year to ‘Catch the bus, Meet friends, Be safe, Get to where you want to go!’ At the launch, Brighton and Hove Bus Company provided a ‘Drama on the Bus’ session for adults with learning disabilities. The sessions offer Grace Eyre users the chance to act out real life scenarios and discuss any concerns they may have about travelling on the bus. Scenarios include situations like ‘You have missed your stop: Stop the bus at the next stop and find out from the driver how to get back to where you want to go’ or ‘You have been bullied by other passengers on the bus: ask for the driver’s help and get an information ticket from him’.
Victoria Garcia, Customer Liaison Officer at Brighton & Hove Bus Company, said,
“We are very pleased about the re-launch of the Travel Buddy scheme. Grace Eyre do incredible work supporting people in the community with learning disabilities and the Travel Buddy scheme is one of the fantastic initiatives that they have in place.
“We will of course continue to support this event and look forward to our continued partnership with Grace Eyre. My heart always lifts when I see all the guys and I always leave with a big smile on my face, they are a fabulous bunch.”
The Travel Buddy Project has been funded by the Big Lottery for the last 2 years and in that time the project has helped many adults across the county gain the freedom and confidence to travel more independently. Some people who take part in Travel Training then start to travel journeys by themselves for the first time. There is also the opportunity for service users to become volunteer buddies themselves sharing the skills they have learnt with their peers.
Ben Gardiner, Senior Project Worker for Travel Buddy Project, said,
“It is clear to me how keen many people with learning disabilities are to have a bit more freedom and independence within their lives. Imagine always having to rely on other people to go out anywhere. To be able to work within a project that aims to develop people’s confidence in what they can do for themselves is incredibly rewarding – you can see it in people’s faces how exciting it can be to have a bit more freedom.”
Achieving full independence is not a realistic goal for everyone but there are many other benefits to taking part in Travel Buddy, including building self-esteem. Even small steps towards independence, like walking home from the bus stop, or travelling a few stops on your own are a significant achievement. Jamie Larcombe and Jonny Schachter have both used the service and it has given them new confidence to work towards more independent futures.
Jamie Larcombe, a Grace Eyre Travel Buddy service user, explained,
“I’ve learnt how to travel with a volunteer on the bus and how to keep safe. I wanted to do Travel Buddy because it’s very important and if anyone can’t travel by themselves it’s a good learning opportunity.
The journey I’d most like to do is to take the 27 to Saltdean because my Grandma and Grandpa live in Saltdean.”
Grace Eyre are also hoping to gain the support of local businesses and increase the awareness of this excellent initiative around the city. Travel Buddy aims to match the wonderful people who access the services of Grace Eyre with equally wonderful volunteers and promote independence for people with learning disabilities. Whether it is to meet friends, visit Grace Eyre, or learn a new journey, users will feel confident and safe after Travel Buddy.
Keith Baldock, Head of Road Safety Team at Brighton and Hove City Council, said,
“The aims and support of the Travel Buddy scheme are excellent and something we love to support. All road users should be aware of each other’s needs, particularly those who require more time or support than others, and I would encourage those who require additional support in sharing the roads in Brighton to access the free travel training provided by Grace Eyre and the Travel Buddy scheme.”
To find out more about Travel Buddy call the Grace Eyre Active Lives team on 01273 201909 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.