People know them and say 'hello'. It's their community. They are the community.
Hi. My name is Martha. Both of my sons live in Ravenswood, and have done since 2011. Giuseppe is 43, Lawrence is 41 and they live in different homes in the village.
Okay, where to start?
As youngsters, the boys had been attending Unity clubs, so we were 'known' to Norwood. In 2009 we received a phone call, asking if the boys still lived at home, and if so, would we be interested in a placement, particularly for Lawrence, in the Tager Center. After the initial shock, we said yes. Taking into account our ages, and an unpredictable future, and the fact that this was something I had been trying to ignore, I managed to reason that I would be foolish not to bite the bullet.
The 2 years that followed were the most difficult of my life. It was not easy convincing Redbridge to agree. That's a very long story, but I knew I was right, and no one was going to persuade me otherwise. Our first priority was that the boys must stay together. Problem solved. They have different needs, but within the village, they are together, and those needs are met in different and appropriate homes.
The activities where they got together were mainly carriage driving and meeting in the coffee shop. They would also go the summer ball at Wellington College.
So, let's talk about Lawrence first.
Before Lawrence moved in he hated showering, with a vengeance. He refused hair care, or shaving, so arrived with long hair and a beard. Now, when he comes home, he has no problem with showering, or shaving. He still doesn't like having his hair cut, but you can't have everything.
Before he moved in, we couldn't take him anywhere. If he didn't refuse to get in the car, he'd likely refuse to get out of it. He was a runner! He was an escapee, an opportunist, and extraordinarily stubborn!
He's funny and cheeky, but it was sad to see him getting 'stuck', sometimes for hours because he couldn't get past a situation. When he moved to the village, it was hard for him. We had to not see them for quite a few weeks. The manager, Sue, assured us that they had to win his trust, with patience, and as much time as he needed.
Lawrence likes swimming, walking and seeing the horses. He likes bowling, and going for drives. He finds it a lot easier now to go out and about visiting outdoor places. He enjoyed going to Portsmouth because he likes boats. He did horse riding when he was young, but so far has not managed to get on a horse in the Village, although he does the carriage driving. He loves Rod Stewart, and Emmerdale.
And my Giuseppe.
What a man. A treasure with a permanent smile on his face.
When he moved into Kadimah the first thing I told the manager at the time, Darren, was don't ask Giuseppe if he wants to do something, or even go somewhere. He will say no to everything. It's his default answer, and my greatest fear was that he would be taken literally, and end up doing absolutely nothing.
In hindsight I needn't have worried. Again, they were always on the end of the phone for me, and soon sussed him out.
Giuseppe likes cycling, carriage driving, swimming, recycling, jigsaw puzzles, and shopping!
He loves buses and trains, and magazines, especially anything to do with Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge (Kate). He's her biggest fan! He likes watching the old tv game shows; Bullseye, Blankety Blank, Bruce's Price is Right and Play your cards right. He likes music, cooking and helping. He's a gentleman.
Giuseppe has epilepsy, and has had some difficult times. But the staff have been fantastic, seeing him through hospital stays, hospital visits and changes in his medication, which have not been easy. He is quite happy to have his hair cut, but he now has the beard and is a very reluctant shaver.
What does the village give them other than superb care and love? It gives them a sense of belonging.
When they walk around the village, they're safe. THEY feel safe, with no anxiety, nothing unpredictable. People know them and say 'hello'. It's their community. They are the community.
Living out 'in the community', is very different to being part of one.
Living out 'in the community' they would NOT be part of the community.
And for us?
A highlight for us, is that we, and they, attended two fundraisers at the Hilton hotel. They wore suits for the first time and they looked soooo handsome. This was something that I could never, ever have imagined could happen. So proud!!
It's a supreme comfort knowing, that at such time when we are no longer around, they will be surrounded by and cared for by their Ravenswood family. WE HOPE!!!!
Giuseppe and Lawrence's mother
Ravenswood Village is currently under consultation with the possibility of closure. Please show your support for our families and friends to keep their home by signing the petition below. These are vulnerable people who deserve to continue to live where they feel happy, loved and safe.