“When we moved to Sheffield”, Ivana reflects “those initial months were the most difficult for us and they saw a change in her behaviour for the worse. At one point I was wondering if it wouldn’t even work. It was very important that she was able to make that transition and to learn to be part of a group again. I think at Mencap you had a lot of understanding for her in the beginning- it lasted quite a long time that period of adaptation. I think that’s really very, very important for her behaviour and for her wellbeing as well.
“I think she was really happy. It was very nice to have some structure to her day again. Because we had done that same sort of move and waiting (for the support plan to be approved) a year ago in London, it was really nice that she was able to start. Both of us needed it”.
Sara remembers her first day at Norfolk Lodge in Chris Richards’ art group,
“I painted hearts. I like to paint hearts with Chris. I felt happy yes, I was excited”.
Ivana remembers that day clearly too and is hugely proud of Sara’s art work. “I think probably what I remember best is meeting Chris. I was so impressed by Chris’s projects and even more, I was impressed with the fact that Sara was involved with them. She’d had absolutely no interest in art prior to that, absolutely none. I would never have dreamt that it would be possible.
“I think in some way, Sara has often in life needed a catalyst to do something. And she has just been very fortunate to meet Chris and Chris has been that catalyst. For instance, Sara learnt to read in Serbian but she would only ever read to one person and that wasn’t me. I think that without that catalyst, that would not necessarily have happened. We wouldn’t have known Sara that you were potentially an artist”.
Sara’s proud of her art too, “The best thing about Mencap is painting roses. I have a picture in my bedroom. It’s roses. I like roses me, they’re really good. I like red roses. And I like to paint pink roses and pink hearts. And I like to eat pink cake and pink strawberries. It means a lot to me, I like Mencap”.
“It’s a stable part of our lives” says Ivana, “because moving to a new place where you actually have no connections at all, it isn’t easy to build meaningful relationships. It’s actually been when you look at it, the most stable part of her life- the one stable thing in her life apart from me is Mencap and that is very important. That is part of her routine and part of her life. It means a lot. Really a lot”.
I ask Sara what coming to Mencap has changed for her.
“Everything. I’ve changed because I’m happier. I’m happy”.
Ivana smiles. “I think any organisation is really a reflection of the people who work in it. And I think that is probably what makes Mencap special and the place for Sara.
“It’s the people who work here. Because really- it’s not the building, it’s not the grounds, it’s not the other things; it’s the people who actually work and who care and who are willing to invest in the people who come here. I’d say that’s really the best part”.