A book, which highlights the extraordinary achievements of learning disabled students and service users at the Linkage Community Trust, has been published for the first time in the charity's 36-year history.
The publication, called Our Voices, Our Choices, which features Suzanne Cawley (28) on the front cover, documents the journeys of 31 people in a celebration of diversity. It takes forward one of Linkage's main aims, which is to strengthen the voices of individuals who use the charity's services, and that of their families. It is 10 years since Suzanne first came to Linkage's Toynton All Saints college campus near Spilsby, Lincolnshire. She continues to study and is gaining work experience at the Trust's Manby Gatehouse café but, more to the point, she says: "Independence has been a journey for me and Linkage has helped me all the way."
"It has been a privilege to write these stories because, as one parent says in the book, they are proof-positive that with the right education and support, everyone can reach their full potential," says Policy and Campaigns Officer Linda Alexander.
"The book is a tribute to the young people and adults who shine through their own experiences and to the kindness and support of their families. Their words are powerful and take us to the heart of what matters most to them. Through their involvement with Linkage, all of them have embarked on new journeys and destinations to reach their potential."
The value of Linkage's specialist education becomes transparent through their experiences. In the words of Lincolnshire teenager Kyle Taylor, 19, who had previously become one of the disengaged, disappointed and disappeared: "I am now achieving because of what I am doing, rather than despite."
The value of Linkage's Education, Care and Employment Services also becomes transparent, as support that underpins individual life and learning journeys. This is illustrated in the story of former student James Bell who now lives at Louth and whose proud mum Yvonne says: 'He has a full and interesting life, lives in a fabulous Linkage house with a lovely, caring team of staff to help him and he has paid employment, which was a long-held goal of his."
In his foreword to the book, the Chairman of Linkage's Board of Trustees Michael Oliver says: "It has never been more important to listen to the voices of the learning disabled young people and adults whom Linkage exists to help. They are the voices of people who are learning and developing their lives…We need to guarantee that these voices are heard as widely as possible and to campaign to ensure that choice and opportunity are not undermined or denied to those who so desperately need them."
Copies of the book can be obtained, with a suggested £5 donation, from the Linkage website, www.linkage.org.uk, with £1.92 post and packing, or from Pennells Garden Centre in South Hykeham,
A signing session will take place on Friday 3rd August, 2pm, at Pennells Garden Centre, South Hykeham, featuring Kyle Taylor and other service users who appear in "Our Voices, Our Choices".