8 BUILD Charity members who have completed our BUILD Booster Programme in 2022-23 have attended their Graduation Ceremony held at The Assembly House, Norwich on Tuesday 25th April in the presence of the Deputy Lord Lieutenant of Norfolk, Mr Michael Harrowven DL, there to represent HM King Charles III.

In the Autumn of 2020 we launched our first programme, called “Re-BUILD and Connect” and our inaugural programme for 5 people with disabilities. Those people attended a similar event to this last year when they graduated. Following that process we engaged the services of Emma Shaw, an Apprentice Occupational Therapist from the UEA and Norfolk Hospice, to independently review our programmes and make recommendations of how we could improve it, once the main threats of the pandemic had passed.  Using Emma’s review we made improvements, changed the name to the BUILD Booster Programme and launched two further cohorts in the Autumn of 2022 and the Spring of 2023. 

That programme completed recently and we have now honoured 8 new graduates with this event. 

Speaking at the event, BUILD Charity's Chief Executive, James Kearns said "Whilst I had written and delivered the inaugural programme of Re-BUILD and Connect, the credit for the BUILD Booster programme has to go to my colleague Tilly Kilkelly, our Skills for Life Programme Co-ordinator, who took the same session objectives and developed an improved, shorter and more accessible programme that we are celebrating this evening." 

We began with a Digital Skills course, delivered by Norfolk County Council’s Adult Learning Team on our behalf over 4 weeks. This made sure that those people who did not have access to an iPad or tablet, or smart phone could be equipped with one, and given advice on how to use it for gathering information and using it as a tool to connect with their communities. 

Following the digital course we moved to the full Booster programme and at it’s core was an initial self-assessment. We looked at what skills and confidence levels people had and when we reviewed this at the end of the programme we saw some very encouraging results. 

We began going forward by looking back. Looking back at the things we had missed during the pandemic, we explored why we missed them, what value did they have and we looked at what we needed to do to get back to doing them.

We moved on to staying safe. Safe at home, safe outdoors and safe on-line, and then we looked at the BUILD Charity’s core services, social, leisure and learning opportunities. What did our people want to do, and how were we going to get back to doing them? We used our iPads to get travel plans, admission prices and see what was on offer. Re-building a social life and connecting with our communities. 

We moved outdoors and explored the benefits of being outside, explored nature and facilities in local parks and gardens, we planned food and social activities learning about menu planning, budgeting and catering for different dietary needs. 

We addressed our own health and wellbeing, went outside for exercises and set ourselves exercise goals. We did teamwork and leadership activities learning about the value of working together, and the skills of leadership.

We did planning skills and worked through templates that gave us planning tools to use to help us re-build our lives and connect back with the communities we wanted to re-join. 

Each of the sessions we hosted were supported by a team of volunteers, some leading activities, some supporting people to get the best outcomes – all making a real difference, and we could not have done it without you, so thank you to, Tim, Lucie, Maria and Sarah. 

Throughout this process we followed a benchmark. We measured where we had started, and we measured at the end. We measured what we had learned and we measured how many areas each person had grown or developed, and will share the scores with you later this evening, but everyone progressed. 

We raised the money to fund this programme so that it was delivered free to our members through the Forbes Charitable Trust (who sent their best wishes and congratulations as they were unable to be present at the ceremony). This enabled us to put together a funding pot to run this programme for not just one year, but three.

We estimate that we have directly invested around £8k-£10k in this group of people this year and thanks to this funding none of them has had to spend anything to get benefit from the programme. 

James Kearns said "It was right for its time as we lived with a pandemic, and Emma’s excellent objective critique and Tilly’s brilliant adaptations means that we will have a legacy not just for the people who have graduated this year, but benefits that will live longer than any old or new Covid variant that is still out there and is probably still trying to kill me."

Graduates:  Danny Barrett, Tina Sidnell, Cat Meijer, Simon Mash, Chris Pownall, Claire Mann, Chris Atkins and Darius Wojtas were supported by volunteers,  Maria Bircham, Sarah Harper, Tim Taylor, Brad Peart and Lucie Aldrich and the programme was led by BUILD Charity's Skills for Life Co-ordinator, Tilly Kilkelly.