Dates-n-Mates Renfrewshire – creating connections
Focused on building tangible connections for those with learning disabilities, take a peek inside Dates-n-Mates Renfrewshire.
Alongside the basic requirements to sustain life such as food and water, one thing that we all need is to feel connected to those around us. But, for a variety of reasons, this can be an uphill battle for those with learning disabilities and can lead to profound social isolation.
An agency that was conceived as a means of combating this issue head-on, Dates-n-Mates Scotland is looking to foster fulfilling and long-lasting relationships, whether friendly or romantic, between its ever-growing ranks and according to Mairi McNiven, events coordinator for Renfrewshire and Glasgow, is concerned, those in the organisation’s prevailing goal is to make what those who use the agency want into a reality.
“Wherever possible, we want to try and put on the events that our members want to do and ensure that we’re doing that,” Mairi reveals. “We’ve got a steady stream of people who are engaging with everything we’re doing, whether that’s talent shows, workshops or karaoke nights.
“On top of our social events, we also do date chaperoning and friendship matching. We’ve had quite a few couples in Renfrewshire, as well as plenty of friendships. Once people express their interest in the service, we identify someone we think would be compatible and set up a meeting over a coffee with a member of staff or volunteer present to keep conversation flowing and ensure they’re both feeling comfortable.
“Going forward from that, the idea is that they’ll organise their own meet-ups and a friendship, or romantic relationship in the case of date chaperoning, will blossom from there.
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“At the moment, we’ve got around 45 members in Renfrewshire and that’s growing steadily,” she declares. “Even still, there’s lots of people who’d benefit from it that maybe haven’t heard about us yet. We’re literally here for anyone who’s over 18 and has a learning disability. Everyone’s welcome and the diversity is amazing, the age range goes from people in their 20s to their 70s.
“Above all, it’s member-led,” Mairi affirms, “and we even have some of them who’ll volunteer to be a ‘friendly face’ and help to make new people coming into the group feel welcome!
“It’s all about facilitating good fun and making friends,” she says of the rewarding experience that is shared by both Dates-n-Mates’ staff, volunteers and members. “After all, our social connections are one of the most important things we have as humans. For people with learning disabilities, their social and intimate needs often get overlooked, so we believe that it’s really important to focus on that!”
For more information on Dates-n-Mates Renfrewshire, visit the website.