A great thing about working with so many charities is that we have so much to learn from them.
Over the last year, led by our staff Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Committee, we have run a series of learning events, where colleagues come together to learn from the work and lived experience of our partner charities.
This has included: Autism Awareness and Acceptance by Dr Jonathan Vincent and Helen Attwood from Living Autism; Deaf Awareness training by Ashalam Qureshi from Deaf World; Visual Awareness training by Odette Battarel from Croydon Vision; and British Sign Language training by Simon Miller from Nottinghamshire Deaf Society.
Charities bring people together
These have been online. With colleagues in Scotland and the Midlands, and partner charities across the UK, it works well to do so, but there was an added joy when we all came together recently in person for a half day development session. For the first time, and with a learning emphasis on cross-team working, we completed a volunteering activity (production of tactile books) with a Partner Charity, ClearVision Project .
Tactile books are used by young children with little or no sight, many of whom have additional physical or learning difficulties. Tactile books are an excellent introduction to the fun of reading, as well as being an invaluable means of conveying ideas, concepts and vocabulary.
ClearVision Project’s tactile book collection is unique. It contains the UK’s only lending collection of fully-textured tactile books. These are ideal for helping develop the touch skills children and young people need to learn braille and teaching important concepts, as well as being very enjoyable. For children who have never seen print pictures, the realistic textures can help them make the leap in understanding between exploring real objects and illustrations.
Many thanks to ClearVision Project’s Director, Alex Britton who guided us in creating four to five tactile books that can be used by young people in reading groups at Linden Lodge, the school in which the charity is based.
It was a different and wonderfully enjoyable afternoon. Sewing is not one of my stronger skills, but I knew enough to play my part and to help out colleagues with even fewer craft skills. We worked in teams and each team produced a book. Moments of silence were interspersed with moments of conversation and reflection, as if we were on a ramble or perhaps a pilgrimage together. Each team in turn could be heard in laughter.
We ended up with all the tactile books that we had hoped to pull together.
At a subsequent project meeting at the charity, our colleague Kate Allen, member of our DEI Committee and who can take credit for the session design, reported back:
“Yesterday I had my Pilotlight 360 site visit with ClearVision Project, and I had the pleasure of getting to go into one of the play groups in the school where the charity is based, with many of the children having both a visual impairment and additional complex needs. I got to see the tactile books we all made at our staff development day being used for the first time by this group! It was such a special moment, the children loved the books and we have actually had a few follow-up requests for more books (if we're up for the task!) on the themes of recycling and buses.”
Making DEI fun might sound at odds with the stark facts of structural and overlapping disadvantage and discrimination in the world, but if it helps us to learn and use that learning for good, that is a perfect fit for Pilotlight.
Our commitment to DEI
Our 2023-2024 DEI Action Plan is now in train, following a review by our Board (thank you to our trustee DEI champions, Gerry and Katherine). Encouraged by our award of Silver status under the Inclusive Employers Award, we look forward to bringing our whole selves to the task of anti-racism and inclusion going forward.