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60 Stories - Andrew Jahoda

photo of Andrew JahodaAndrew Jahoda
 
October is Make a Difference Month. And to celebrate, we caught up with Andrew Jahoda – a man who really has made a difference to the work of ENALE Scotland and to the lives of the people we support…
 
Andrew has some very happy memories of the holidays he spent with the Helensburgh branch of ENABLE Scotland.  
 
“There was a real sense of being there together. They were terrific fun and the kids all became friends.  There was a network of friendships between children with and without disabilities,” said Andrew.
 
The branch, he says, was an important source of community support for people who have learning disabilities.
 
“The branch created a sense of crucial community support not only for young families who had children with learning disabilities, but also for older people with disabilities who were maybe living in community settings with little support or with elderly parents,” he continued.
 
Andrew’s mother, Jean, was a founding member of the branch, along with Rachel Buchanan MBE.
 
Involved in a range of innovative and inspiring projects, it launched shared and inclusive holidays for children in the 1970s. These pioneering breaks, based on the ethos of inclusion, were then applied when the adult holidays began some six years later.  
 
Andrew recalls an upbeat atmosphere during the getaways, which he says were transformative for many people.
 
He made some lifelong friends while helping out on these trips and saw the benefit reaped by children with and without learning disabilities. 
 
“What the parents really liked was that their children would go home with a very mucky set of clothes and often with things missing.  It was a very ordinary experience,” said Andrew. 
 
Andrew continued to holiday with the branch right up until the birth of his daughter, Ruth.
 
Volunteering with the Helensburgh branch of ENABLE Scotland and growing up with friends who have a learning disability has helped shape Andrew’s outlook on life.  
 
Having studied Psychology at Stirling University, Andrew went on to do a PhD, focusing the stigma faced by people who have learning disabilities.
 
While completing his PhD, he also worked as a research assistant on a project looking at people’s experience of leaving long-stay hospitals and the family home to live more independently. His glimpse into the lives of people living in large institutions had a profound impact on him. 
 
“Being in places where people didn’t know their birthdays; didn’t have a toothbrush of their own; didn’t have toilet paper, was all very grim really.  But what was remarkable was how intact and incredibly resilient people were, he said.
 
Andrew is now a Professor of Learning Disability at Glasgow University. He also works within the NHS as a clinical psychologist.  Whilst Andrew can see how things have improved for people with learning disabilities he still feels more needs to be done.
 
“There have been enormous benefits from the closure of big institutions - but we can’t be complacent.  Taking people out of these almost quite abusive and certainly dehumanising environments hasn’t necessarily meant that people are accepted and are active members of the community.”
 
Andrew is adamant that ENABLE Scotland should continue to ensure that its members are at the heart of the organisation and are empowered to shape its future.
 
“As a grassroots organisation, ENABLE should be prepared to campaign and question Government policy, and be prepared to be innovative, particularly at this time of austerity,” he said..
 
In conclusion Andrew added: “ENABLE Scotland has had an enormous influence on public life.  It has given people a countrywide common purpose.”

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