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Amazing what you find at London Zoo!

Amie, Guideposts’ Friendship scheme coordinator, tells us about last month’s special trip to London Zoo.

Guideposts Friendship 4 All had a trip to London Zoo in May. We took a full coach of members of Friendship 4 All, together with volunteers and support workers from across Hertfordshire, to the iconic London Zoo.

The trip meant so much to the group, most of whom don’t experience day trips otherwise. Going to a zoo wouldn’t usually be possible for many reasons including the cost, travelling out of their local area, and, most importantly, having the support they need. We are grateful to be able to offer that support and open up the possibility to visit a new, inspiring environment.  

Volunteers made the day possible

We had an amazing team of volunteers for the trip, who were all fantastic. We can’t thank them enough for giving so generously of their time and energy. In all honesty the day would not have been possible without them.

Some of the volunteers are relatives of the service members. For them, it was also a mini break from their every-day pattern of caring. We could see them becoming more happy and relaxed by seeing their loved ones enjoying themselves, as well as being around similar people and sharing a special experience.

Mixed feelings before the day itself

In the lead up to the trip all the group members were getting excited. They were talking about what animals they would like to see, and getting equally excited about the prospect of having lunch there, followed by an ice cream!

As well as excitement, for some people there was anxiety about the prospective trip. I was asked questions about what they might experience or how the day was going to go. I took care to talk them through the arrangements, and was able to reassure them.

The London Zoo Day Arrived!

When the day finally arrived, there was a lot of excitement. We were lucky enough to have a beautifully warm, sunny day for the trip. We met at a central location in St Albans first, to board the coach for our journey to London Zoo in London’s Regents Park.

On arrival we split into smaller groups, each with a member of Guideposts staff. Although most people had one particular member of staff who they knew well and were most comfortable with, many of them were happy to go with different members of staff who they had met on previous trips, to even out the numbers.

We made our way around the animals, occasionally meeting up with other groups as we went round and then separating before finding another group.

I gave my group members a map each and asked them to guide us around. They loved being in control of the day – they were really confident and knew what they wanted to see and where they wanted to go. The group worked together to agree what to see next, and over the day we managed to see most of the zoo which was great.

It was wonderful to see them light up with the excitement of seeing each different animal.

There was a wide range of ages and mobility amongst the groups. Despite the heat of the day, even those with limited mobility found great energy and excitement walking around the zoo. Some of the younger and more able people had more energy to go quicker, but they all kept in touch with each other. Everyone was happy and a pleasure to be with, taking care of each other.

A new helper with the group, Alison, remarked on how caring everyone was towards each other. They were keeping their eyes out and checking who needed support. There was a tangible spirit of kindness.

The Gift Shop, and then back home!

At the end of the visit the group had the opportunity to visit the London Zoo gift shop. Shopping independently is an activity that many of the people in the group don’t find easy, and may not have experience of it every day. A member of staff was on hand to assist at the till if needed, and all who wanted to buy something were able to. They were delighted to come home with a treasured souvenir of the day!

Most importantly, everyone came back to Herts extremely happy, and with increased confidence.

A few weeks after the trip, the Guideposts members I see each week are still talking about the baby gorillas they saw and the lion cubs. I have been asked numerous times when we can go again!

This trip was arranged thanks to funds raised through Guideposts Never Seen, Never Been campaign. A huge thank you to everyone who has made it possible. You can help us create more meaningful opportunities for people with learning disabilities, by supporting our Never Seen, Never Been campaign.

Never Seen, Never Been makes special experiences possible for people living with learning disabilities. A small donation can change lives and helps with our mission to make sure no-one is left behind.


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