As part of our Big Give 2021 fundraising campaign, volunteer buddy Lesley Wallis tells us about her role as a buddy to Jason and the joy it brings to her life as well the support it provides to Jason.

The 2021 Big Give campaign is aiming to raise £40,000, partly to recruit volunteer and staff buddies to accompany people out and about in their communities. All donations made on the Big Give website between 30 November and 7 December will be instantly doubled, at no extra cost to you. Helping more people like Lesley to support people with learning disabilities to live their lives to the full.

I am a one to one buddy to Jason. We became buddies six years ago when Jason joined Minstead Trust, as a resident based in the beautiful grounds of Minstead Lodge. He was keen to attend SNAP Club – an adult social group for people affiliated with Mencap – on a Wednesday evening initially and needed a Buddy to go with him for support. I was asked if I’d like to go and jumped at the chance! We attended fortnightly and both enjoyed partaking in the disco, quizzes and games or just sitting quietly and watching the footy together with a beer. Luckily we’re both Saints fans!

After a while, my work pattern changed and Jason proved that he no longer needed an escort to SNAP club as he was able to go with some of his friends from Minstead Trust so we explored the possibility of doing something on a different night – and so the Friday night beer and burger (cola for me!) started!

Pre-Covid, we would meet once a month and go to the local pub for a chin wag.  Jason is great company and tells me all about his friends, activities and jobs at the Trust. He also enjoys the interaction with my little whippet dog who always accompanies us in the hope of a bit of burger!

During Lockdown, and while we weren’t able to meet in person, I continued to chat with Jason on the phone although I was lucky enough to enjoy a socially distanced walk with him and my dogs around the Lodge at Christmas. When I asked him what he has missed most this year, he said the pub!

I am extremely grateful to have Minstead Trust and Jason in my life. Some of my friends say, ‘Well, they are lucky to have you.’ I beg to differ. The opportunities being a Buddy has offered me over the last few years have helped me immensely; expanding my skill set and confidence in situations I would not normally encounter, interacting with the people Minstead Trust supports (my favourite way to spend time!), the beautiful and happy surroundings I am in when volunteering, the friendly staff and fellow volunteers all add to an overall feel good factor that fills me whenever I am at Minstead.

Over the years I have become more than just a Buddy and have tried to get involved and help out wherever possible. As a result I have met some wonderful people and have been given some amazing experiences and lots of giggles! I have been a Morris Dancer, a disco dancer, helped with animal care and in the workshops; I have lent a hand at Furzey Gardens with fundraising events and activity weeks, helping children and families decorate fairy doors and create willow bird feeders; I have supported trips and day outs, enjoyed the volunteer social events and attended the carol services at Christmas.

I am sure there are things I have missed but the theme I would like to get across is that being a buddy to Jason and being part of the wider Minstead Trust community has enriched my life in so many way I never thought possible!  I hope to spend many more days at Minstead Lodge or at Furzey in the future.


Q&A with Jason

  1. What do you enjoy doing most with Lesley?

Going out for a drink to the pub and going out to eat.


  1. What do you enjoy chatting about?

I like to hear how Lesley is and tell her about what I do in day service, like getting the pond working in the Japanese garden


  1. What are you looking forward to doing with Lesley next?

Going to the beach and getting Lesley to meet my girlfriend.


  1. What has having a Buddy enabled you to do which you might not have been able to do otherwise?

Lesley said about getting a fish tank for my room which I liked the idea of. Lesley let my key-worker know this. A fish tank was given to me and I have just put my first fish in.


  1. What is the best thing about having a Buddy?

Lesley is a kind person who asks me what I want to do.

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