Interview: Sam Mason, Community Fundraiser, Certitude

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Certitude is a charity providing personalised support for people with learning disabilities, autism and mental health needs.

In May this year, Certitude launched their first ever fundraising campaign to fight social isolation. It is called Keeping London Connected. We interviewed Certitude’s Community Fundraiser Sam Mason (above, right) about the campaign.

 

Tell us about your role at Certitude, Sam:
I fundraise to support our work, connecting what we do with people, businesses and volunteers, usually raising money for specific things, projects that make a big difference to the lives of people we support. This includes things such as sensory equipment, gardening projects and iPads and computers.

Keep London Connected is about supporting people to build their own safety nets and make the friends we all need from time to time.

Tell us about the Keeping London Connected campaign:

People with learning disabilities and mental health support needs often find themselves socially isolated. This is true of a lot of Londoners, but with people we support this can be compounded by underlying health conditions or effects of medication. People lack the confidence to branch out and meet new people, which is hard anyway!

There’s also a lot of stigma around people with disabilities, particularly mental health, so many people we support are fighting against quite a lot, more than they should, just to meet some new people and make friends.

When you talk about the things that are important to your life, people say quite similar things, but central to a lot of it is being connected to and valued by people around us. It’s essential for our day to day well-being and doubly important in times of stress, or when you’re upset or worried. Our friends and family are a safety net and without them things can spiral quickly out of our control. Keep London Connected is about supporting people to build their own safety nets and make the friends we all need from time to time.

All funds raised will be put towards our community connecting work, supporting people with learning disabilities and mental health needs in London.

 

The best thing about what we’ve done with the project so far is…

Those first conversations during which you explain to people what we do, what we’re trying to achieve and why it’s important. What we’re talking about is so universal, so many people in London and across the UK struggle with things like confidence and social anxiety.

People get what you mean and their eyes light up. Some of what Certitude does is very specific to what we do and people we support, but with an issue like social isolation, people understand it, they get why it’s damaging and they want to help.

What we’re talking about is so universal, so many people in London and across the UK struggle with things like confidence and social anxiety.

What has been the biggest or best mistake you have made during the project?

I was working really closely with someone in our Communications team, who left soon after we launched. He wrote the communications plan, basically our road map for success, I couldn’t produce the content he had scheduled and we had no plan B! You live and learn.

 

Did anything surprise you during the project?

I’m always surprised by just how many people have been touched by issues around their mental health. You expect it more within the sector, but I talk to a lot of people from outside social care and the number of people who say their mum, brother, best mate has had support with their mental health is always startling. I know there are a million people in London with mental health needs, because I’ve seen it on a spreadsheet, but it’s when you hear people talking about personal experiences that it really hits home.

It’s amazing to see the difference in the way people talk about [mental health] versus even five years ago. Those layers of taboo are being stripped away, the generation under mine is really open to discussing their mental health, which is tremendous.

 

What piece of advice would you give to someone thinking of doing something similar?

Consider your audience, make sure what you’re doing makes sense to them. And it needs to be concise; if you find yourself embarking on a long explanation of what you’re doing and why it’s good, you probably need a rethink.

And think about your contacts, identify the most useful ones and get them on board early. Tell them what you’re doing and how they can help, people like to feel valued and that they have something to offer that no one else can.

And have a plan B.

 

What’s next for the campaign?

We partnered up with Gipsy Hill Brewing Co to have a yard party at their HQ on 20th August, where we sold our own beer!

People we support were involved in tasting and selecting ingredients, as well as designing the cask badge. It was a wonderful, inclusive event for the whole community, with live bands and amazing local food. Everyone coming together through a shared love of beer, music and food, making new friends and enjoying our time together. In essence, that’s what our campaign’s all about and we’ll be using the event and sales of the beer to raise funds to support our campaign.

We’re also releasing another film about someone we support called Michael. He lives in Brixton and once played a World Cup qualifying game for Montserrat. He comes to our weekly 5-a-side sessions and talks to us about his life, his mental health and how football has supported his recovery. It’s a touching, fascinating story from a wonderful man.

We’ll also be running some events in the lead up to Christmas. If you don’t have people to spend Christmas and New Years with, it’s a really tough time of year so we’ll be working hard to raise the profile of our campaign and highlight the work we do. 

 

Who or what has been your greatest inspiration or influence in your work?

Successes we’ve seen in our community connecting work to date. Seeing people whose lives have been utterly transformed by going to life drawing classes or football or our music nights has been genuinely moving. People who previously didn’t leave their flats, had very little confidence and felt as though they didn’t have much to offer, are now coming along week in week out, confident, connected and rebuilding their lives.

Seeing these events and watching the impact they have on people and how they see themselves is incredibly moving. It reminds you that community plays a huge role in mental health and that at the heart of it, we all want the same things.

 

Where can we find out more?

On our campaign page!

 

 And finally, tell us your favourite quote…

One of our senior managers once said to me: “We want to go from events being accessible to people we support, to them being better because we are there”.

That’s exactly what we’re talking about.

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