Volunteering and Autism Activism...
I do lots of volunteering because I enjoy it and I love helping other people and my community. When I was 19-20 years old I was doing roughly 20 hours a week in different voluntary projects, in fact within my first month of volunteering, I exceeded 250 hours of un paid voluntary work.
This is a simplified list of voluntary work I did during a four year period (all of it wouldn't fit on this page!).
1. The 'Chatterboxes' Youth Disability Action project
Chatterboxes is a youth group for disabled young people, and absolutely changes lives. The group gets together once a week. The aim of the project is for young disabled people to produce a quarterly magazine. The magazine is designed for young disabled people in our local community, it showcases what the ‘chatterboxes’ have achieved, what voluntary work they do and what events are coming up in the community. The Chatterbox youth disability group often go into schools and youth groups in our surrounding area (this is called "Chatterboxes on Tour") so that vulnerable young disabled people who are in need of our support,who would not ordinarily be able to access us, can also access our facilities. The magazine is distributed to local youth groups, schools and day centres. The Chatterboxes also design and present disability awareness workshops and teaching presentations to help shape services for disabled people in our area., which I talk more about later on. The Chatterboxes has currently been running for five years and has won a multitude of national awards.
I have been volunteering with the Chatterboxes for five and a half years. My role was a Peer Mentor, Assistant Magazine Designer disability awareness workshops designer and presentator. As a Peer Mentor I was responsible for supporting the young people to help them express their views and opinions so that they could be included in the running, design and development of the magazine. As an Assistant Magazine Designer I was responsible for assembling the work the volunteers had produced, I would bring together all of their wonderful articles and ideas to produce the finished magazine using Indesign software on the computer.With my role as a disability awareness workshops designer and presentator, I Sometimes I travel the country to give speeches at various events where we present, and at award ceremonies regarding life with disabilities.
2. Safe Places scheme
After viewing a similar project on the news, my youth worker and I decided that Bournemouth and Boscombe would be perfect for a similar scheme. The aim of Safe Places was to make Bournemouth and Boscombe town centres safer and more accessible for young people with disabilities by turning shops into 'safe places'. We wanted to make sure that when young people with a disability visited the town centre they had somewhere safe to go if they felt vulnerable, scared, lost or if they need help with matters ranging from missing their bus or train, losing their phone or witnessing a distressing event.
Each Safe Place location will have the Safe Places logo displayed in the shop window, this is so a disabled young person is aware that if they need help they can find it in that location. Each disabled person in the area will have their own Safe Places identity card to carry with them when they visit the town. If they become distressed or need any assistance they can enter the Safe Place and present their identity card to a member of staff who will be able to assist them.
My role in the Safe Places scheme was to choose the safe locations and approach those locations for their support. I designed the Safe Places training manuals for the staff members n the chosen Safe Place locations. I went into them (Beales a large department store, Bournemouth Library, Specsavers, Boots, Bournemouth Odeon to name a few) to train staff members about the running of the scheme. I helped illustrate all the paper work and visual aids to be placed within the locations.
Safe Places Information
3. Access Dorset Trustee
As part of my role as trustee for this remarkable disability and carers action group, I represent the wonderful Chatterbox youth disability action group. Aside from helping design the Chatterboxes insert into Access Dorset's Magazine, (see below), I was also a 'TV news Anchor' and 'journalist' for Access Dorset fantastic TV project called 'Independence Street' (See below). Independence Street was a brilliant community project, that highlighted the talents of disabled people, their real life struggles, and triumphs, and allowed disabled people to go into their communities and forge change, by training local disabled people as journalist to empower them to express their voices about matters that are important to them. Most recently, I have been involved with Access Dorset's re branding and re growth, in moving into their new building 'The Bridge' where we have been able to re vamp our services and grow.
Access Dorset Magazine
'Independence Street' 'Tv' Show
4. Health Watch Dorset Champion
I have been volunteering with Health Watch Dorset in a variety of projects, including helping to design and create a giant patch work quilt, that depicted young peoples positive and negative experiences in relation to their health and social care experiences in Dorset. We did this in order to help shape and change the services provided. I worked with a variety of young people from schools and youth settings, and inspired them to express their voice, by writing, or drawing, their stories (experiences with health and social care) onto fabric squares, which was then sewn into a giant patch work quilt (see below). The finishing piece is quite incredible, and a powerful piece to remind us just how far we have come, and how much more needs to be done. With hundreds of voices being expressed, one side of the quilt depicting negative experiences, the other side depicted positive stories, and what young people think needs to change. I was also involved with the recent 'Be Yourself, Everyone Else is Taken' project and most recently, 'It Starts With You' campaign.
Be Yourself, Everyone Else is Taken - AGM
Be Yourself, Everyone Else is Taken.
It Starts With You Campaign
Patch work quilt blog, from the Children and young persons Annual General Meeting, where I did a speech about the patch work quilt:
5. Bournemouth Council work
Bournemouth council and Bournemouth YMCA invite me to help with five community development projects.
A. Imax Development. The Imax was a large building on Bournemouth seafront, which was disliked by most of Bournemouth’s residents (I think it was the most hated building in the country). I was involved in developing ideas for a suitable replacement
B. Bournemouth sea front development. I was asked to come up with ideas to make Bournemouth Sea front (all seven miles of it) a safer and more accessible place for people with disabilities. - the Bournemouth Sea front has now won an award from Age Uk as 'The Most Accessible Beach in Britain'.
C. Confidential work representing disabled youth. Obviously I can’t discuss the nature of this work.
D. Part of the Interview panel for new Head of Social Care. Bournemouth council was taking on a new Head of social care and I was asked to be on the interview panel. I had to come up with questions and role play scenarios to test each candidate. I also had to give my feedback upon which candidate was most suitable.
E. Bournemouth Transitions Group. I was asked to be part of a new group which aims to identify the relevant support necessary for disabled children going into adulthood. We meet once a month and discuss personal experiences and ideas of what changes can be for the better. I have had a few bad experiences with various ‘support’ workers, so they wanted my insight so they could learn from their mistakes. I really like being part of this group as I feel I can help and make a real difference to young disabled people.
6. Role Modeling Workshops
These were with young people who have, or know someone, who has just been diagnosed with Asperger’s or Autism. The workshop is about building an understanding and changing negative perceptions of Asperger’s, so young people can equip themselves with a better understanding of this disability in the future. I do this with positive role modelling, through doing a speech about what the disability is and what I have achieved with support, easy to understand interactive activities about Asperger’s difficulties and talking through the difficulties I had at school, and how I overcame those difficulties.
Please see "Autim Activism" if you are interested.
7. Public speaking and teaching presentations
I adore public speaking and creating speeches. I have given speeches about my disability to over five hundred people at a time. The events I have spoken at include Diverse Dorset, Schools, Colleges, Universities, Charities and local councils.
I also design and give out teaching presentations about Asperger's, tailored to each event that I help with. Often my audience members are professionals (perhaps from my local council) or young people, who wish to learn about Asperger's syndrome and different disabilities
8. Classroom Assistant at a Linwood School
I volunteered two days a week at my old primary school, Linwood Special Needs School. I worked with children aged four - five who all had various disabilities. I was involved with all areas of teaching and learning, supporting the teacher and assisting the children.
I really enjoyed my time there and learnt a lot from observing the teachers and their methods.
9. Joy’s Fun House
My mother works from home, looking after preschool children. My job title is assistant manager, I currently have my NVQ 3(90% pass rate) in Childcare and a Child Psychology at Level 4 (100% pass rate).
I help with the day to day running of the nursery, looking after the children with learning through play activities, sensory play, arts and crafts and lots of outdoor exploring fun.
10. Being an Author for my book, which is called "AspergerWorld : My Fairy Jam Jar"
My book is an educational tool, and a valuable resource for our autistic community; written from the rare personal and professional perspective, with an aim to create a swell of understanding of the hidden hardships and quirks of the Autistic Spectrum. My book, which has glowing reviews from Autism and Educational professionals, offers advice, guidance and inspiration to the Autistic community, and for those who wish to discover more about the depths of Autism. If you would like to read my awesome reviews, or learn more about my book, please click the link below.
My Awards and What I Do
T List of Awards that I have won, become Shortlisted, Finalist, or have been Nominated for :-)
1) 3rd place Team Winner af the International Media, TV and Radio Awards in all states of the North East USA, in the 'Diversity Empowerment' category, for our episode on USA TV - Fairy Tale Access, I interviewed on, called "AspergerWorld: Her Fairy Jam Jar"
The Fairy Tale Access team have been celebrating bringing real life fairy tales, and people who have overcome their own dragons, to your screens, with another fantastic win, and I am so pleased and honoured to be a part of it, with my particular episode winning 3rd place. To watch the interview, and to learn more about the fantastic 'Fairy Tale Access' team, please see my Videos of Volunteering' page.
2. Won a 'Highly Commended' National Award for 'ItStartsWithYou' with Health Watch England 2017
After my involvement with Health Watch Dorset's project 'Be Yourself, Everyone Else Is Taken', and a speech I delivered as a main speaker at Health Watch Dorset's event celebrating this projects success, I was honoured to be nominated for this national award. In Health Watchs words, As part of my volunteering within these projects, I 'lead the charge in helping health and care services in Dorset understand the issues facing young people'. I submitted a blog about my experiences with Asperger's as part of the 'Be Yourself' campaign, and 'helped inspire 600 people across Dorset' to gather their views, and negative, or positive experiences.
For more information about my work with Health Watch Dorset and my award nomination..
For more information about Health Watch England, and the wonderful work they do to empower local people to shape their health and social care services, please see the link below...
2, Shortlisted for the 'Rock Star Awards', in the 'Inspirational Star of the Future' category, with 'Rock Star Recruitment' 2017
After my "Moving, Heart Warming, Inspiring and Powerful" speech at Health Watch Dorset's 'Be Yourself Project', which Rock Star Recruitment witnessed, I was nominated for the regional award as an Inspirational Star of the Future. Its an honour to be a part of an organisational awards that recognises what young people have to offer, and challenges those negative stereotypes. Just by being shortlisted, I feel so much more motivated to enhance my activism, and make a difference :)
About Rock Star awards:
3. Team National Winner at 'Autism Uncut Awards' with the National Autistic Society Awards for BBC Radio Ones Radio Documentary called 'Stories From The Spectrum'. 2017
I was honoured to participate in the radio documentary with my sister, where we discussed autism s quirks and hidden hardships. The documentary followed different young people with autism across UK, and was hosted by George the Poet and his autistic brother Kenny.
4) Winner of Worldwide ANCA, Naturally Autistic "Community Achievement" Award 2016
I am delighted to announce that I am currently nominated for this prestigious International Award within the "Autistic Persons Individual and Community Achievement" category. It is wonderful to be a representative of England's Autistic Community; and fantastic to be nominated again with such a wonderful organization who share the same values about Autism talents and quirks as I do.
To find out more, and to please donate so I can attend the ANCA World Autism Festival for my Award nomination, see below:
5) Honoured with the ANCA, Naturally Autistic World Ambassador Award 2016
Attending the World Autism Festival with ANCA, naturally Autistic people Awards, was an incredible, life changing experience, not least because of the amazingly inspiring autistic community, but also because I was surprisingly awarded as a World Award!
ANCA honoured me by making me a World Ambassador, a role which you can learn about on my brand new ANCA World Autism Festival page below.
6) 2nd Place Finalist for Worldwide ANCA, Naturally Autistic "Community Achievement" Award 2015
As a representative of England's Autistic community, I am honored to reveal that I came 2nd out of all the other countries nominated, for this prestigious "Autistic Individual and Community Achievement" Award!
I'm utterly stunned; amazed and truly thankful for the volunteering I do to be recognized on such an international level. |
The best part is that my Autism Activist work now knows no limits and my message for positive understanding of the Autistic Spectrum can now help people challenge negative perceptions and release their hidden quirks and talents on a global scale.
I am so honored to have been recognized by such a admirable company, who specialize in celebrating Autism talents, and share similar values to me. Check out ANCA, Naturally Autistic to find out about their incredible awe-inspiring work; including a magazine, prestigious World Autism Festival and much more:
7) Winner of the National “Accessible Britain Challenge” (A team) Award 2015
I worked alongside a fantastic team, to help design and implement the 'Safe Places Scheme' in my community. The Safe Places Scheme gives disabled people public places of safety they can easily access (shops etc) should they need help; for instance if they have been a victim of bullying, hate crime, or theft. Staff at these locations are trained to deal with any disability or situation that may arise, to best help any disabled people who need help.
Its wonderful to see our teams effort become recognized on a national level for improving disabled lives in our community.
For more information about "The Safe Places Scheme" please see the link below, in my "Volunteering - Safe Places" section. .
Minister of State for Disabled People Mark Harper said:
"What’s so special about these awards is that nominations were made by disabled individuals or organisations. People came forward to nominate these finalists because they know from first-hand experience that the work they do is life-changing.
It was an absolute pleasure to attend and to meet individuals who are so committed to making Britain more accessible. I hope this will encourage more organisations to think about the needs of disabled people and help drive the UK forward to become a truly Disability Confident nation."
Gareth Tancred, CEO of the British Institute of Facilities Management (BIFM), professional body for facilities management, said:
"Today’s winners have made a real difference to the lives of disabled people. With the same level of commitment from those charged with designing, building and managing our environment, we can together remove the barriers which prevent disabled people from fully engaging in all aspects of life. BIFM is delighted to be supporting the Department for Work and Pensions in spearheading this work."
8) Nominated for the National Diversity Awards in the Positive Role Model to Disability category 2015
9) Winner of the Prime Ministers "Point of Light" Award 2014
The "Point of Light" is a National Award which recognizes outstanding volunteers and inspiring individuals who are making a real difference in their community.... and I am one of them!
Prime Minister David Cameron said:
"Joely Colmer has not just overcome huge personal challenges in her own life; she is helping other young people in a similar position. Through the Safe Places Scheme Joely is helping young disabled people to feel safer and more independent in public. I believe it is my duty as Prime Minister to hold up examples of great volunteering and service as an inspiration to others. Through her hard work and dedication she is making our communities stronger, and our country a better place. Joely's courage and determination is inspiring and I am delighted to be recognizing Joely Colmer as a Point of Light"
10) Winner of the National YMCA and 01 Telecom of the Year 2013
A National Award which celebrates the transformational work YMCAs and YMCA volunteers do; to honour the young people who have made exceptional progress within their personal lives and their community through volunteering.
Blair Crawford, chief executive at Bournemouth YMCA, said:
“We are incredibly proud that Joely has been given this award. She has shown immense talent and an extraordinary amount of courage and determination in transforming the lives of disabled young people..... “Joely is a true inspiration and we are honoured to have been able to celebrate her journey so far.”
11) Regional Winner of vInspired’s National “All Round Commitment to Volunteering” Award, 2014
The vInspired National Awards recognise and celebrate young people (under 25) and youth workers who have made an extraordinary contribution to their communities through volunteering. vInspired believes in giving young people the recognition they deserve and we want everyone to know about the great things young people are doing.
Upon my recognition as a Regional Winner Terry Ryall, vInspired CEO said:
"Joely Colmer is a complete inspiration...(Joely) demonstrates a complete dedication to volunteering and shows how she has built positive relationships, brought people from diverse backgrounds together and strengthened communities.
Joely has done all this and more and should be immensely proud of her achievements."
12) Awesome for Autism Award from the National Autistic Society 2013
13) Finalist to Bourne Brilliant "Volunteer of the Year" Award 2011