One of the great things about our charity is that we work alongside our service users to help them build up confidence and social skills. One fantastic example of this is in Sam Ferguson. He's been coming to MAIN as a service user since he was just 11 years old, and now at 18 years old he is also a member of staff! He's been working for us for around eight months now and has settled into working life really well. We had a quick chat with Sam to find out about his experience with us so far...
MAIN taught me to work in a team, and to not be afraid to communicate with others about my ideas. They also helped me to overcome my fear of being in big groups of people. This has helped me to be able to go to events such as concerts and to be okay in busy places such as train stations, airports and restaurants.
I really like Inbetweeners as we go out often and do activities such as watching movies at the cinema, go-karting and also eating at restaurants such as Nando's, Pizza Hut and Anson Farm pub.
I've been going to MAIN for a number of years now, and over this time lots of people have joined. My experience of MAIN's services has primarily been with Wednesday Tweens and Teens club. When people start, they can often seem a bit anxious or shy. However, after just a few weeks they've made friends and are happily chatting away, participating in activities with their new friends.
The thing that inspired me to work for MAIN was seeing what people can achieve on residential trips. I've been on three residential trips with MAIN, the most recent being to Bulgaria. The people attending are always supported and spurred on in each activity to achieve or surpass their personal goals. These activities have included climbing, raft building, laser tag, kayaking, zip wire and leap of faith to name a few. Seeing the experience and fun that the service users take away from the trips really inspired me to work for MAIN as I felt like I wanted to help them achieve this.
One skill that MAIN has taught me that I now use in work would be to communicate clearly. In the past I was nervous about talking at times, especially over the phone. However, today with help from MAIN, I do not worry about speaking up and I can communicate clearly with the people I am working with.
I started MAIN just a few months after being diagnosed with ASD. At that time, I was very anxious around people I didn't know, and I didn't much like being in large groups of people. I struggled with school, as it was very busy, loud and stressful. However, going to MAIN gave me an escape from all the chaos.
Whilst at Tweens and Teens, I made new friends, learnt valuable life skills and built confidence, both in social scenarios and in myself. Through the structure of the clubs, MAIN provided me with the skills and support I needed to get to where I am today. Without the help I've had from MAIN, I would very likely have struggled to make friends and develop social understanding in situations such as conversations. I still go to MAIN to this day, and have recently moved up to the Wednesday Inbetweeners club. I am looking at going to Derby University to study youth services and community development once I finish college.
At the time I was diagnosed, there was very little information available from CAMHS as to local outreach support services. At around the same time as this, my sister had just finished school and was doing NCS. The organisers of NCS were holding an event which had a number of stalls showcasing local youth and SEND support services, and amongst them was MAIN. After talking to Priya at the stall, we signed onto MAIN's Tweens and Teens club which was based at My Place at the time. I started a few weeks later.
From the offset I would definitely recommend MAIN to anyone. For the past seven years, I've been to both Tweens and Teens and Inbetweeners and over that time it has grown much bigger and much better. From the construction of the outdoor play area and indoor sensory room, to the addition of pick-up and drop-off bus services for a number of groups, I've seen MAIN develop and adapt so much in such a short space of time. It's greater than ever!
I've been all over the place and done so much with MAIN. We've been paintballing, cooking, kayaking, off-roading and even visited the Buzludzha monument and Sofia in Bulgaria! MAIN offers so much to do that I've never got an empty calendar. Few other places offer what MAIN does. They offer regular trips to fun and exciting destinations and help us to achieve our own personal targets and goals, and to break down barriers along the way.
The staff at MAIN are kind and approachable and are a credit to the services that mean so much to so many. I don't know what I'd have done without MAIN's support over the years. If you're looking for support or for a lively social group for yourself, your child or a loved one, then I can say without a shred of doubt: this is the place to be.
If you'd like to find out more about our services, please feel free to get in touch with our team - we'd love to chat!