The value of friendship

You need your friends. They are really important. If you don’t get
on with your family or you haven’t got a family you really need
your friends. But it has to be both ways – a friend is someone who
you can ask a favour and they can ask you too.

I am not really in touch with the people I was friends with in St
Lawrence’s Hospital. Eva – my friend who was a nurse – she died.
There was little Sonia, little Frieda and Stella. They were my
friends on the children’s ward when I was there. I am not in touch
with any of them. They’ve got severe learning difficulties. I don’t
know where they moved to when the hospital closed. Gloria is still
my friend. She was in the hospital too but I didn’t really get to
know her until we both left.

My friends now are Jane, Kelly, Dorothy, Gloria, Mary, Kerry and my
carer Mary. And the people in the Mencap Consultative Group – I
mustn’t forget about them – they are my friends too. We meet every
two weeks. There are 14 of us (including Jane) and people live all
over London. The next meeting we’re going to Tony’s flat. Some
people in the group live on their own like John and Tony. Others
live in group homes and hostels and family homes. It is nice to
meet different people with different lives.

I have a friend, Maria, who goes to Foxley Lodge – the day centre
that I go to. She’s lovely is Maria – she has a good nature.
Sometimes I sit and play games with her or we sit and she does her
sewing and I keep an eye on her.

I do different things with different friends. With Jane, we go to
conferences and long walks. Jane helps me with forms and articles I
want to write.

With Kelly – she’s just a friend – we meet up and have a drink.
I’ve been to stay with her mum and dad in Canada.

With Dorothy, we write life stories and go to conferences. I met
Dorothy on the train when she was coming to a People First meeting.
She was starting to help people write their life stories. I asked
her to help me and we’ve been friends since.

I meet up with Gloria every Saturday and we go out and have a cup
of tea and a look around.

I see Kerry at the Mencap district committee. She helps me write
the minutes. Because I don’t read, they send letters about things
to her.

I have a good relationship with Mary, my carer. She’s understanding
and she’s helpful. I help her too – like helping her to do the
garden when I am there. I’m going to Ireland with her soon for six
to eight weeks.

Sometimes I worry about my old friends from the hospital. When the
hospital closed they were sent back to their own areas. People lost
touch and it is hard to find new friends. I don’t know whether
Sonia, Frieda and Stella have made new friends like I have or
whether they have been supported to stay in touch with old friends
but I do know I’m not in touch with them any moreÉ

Mabel Cooper is a service user who has a learning

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