NC: The ‘why’ behind Voices for Autism is simple….my son! I want to be able to provide opportunities for him to build solid, meaningful relationships with others where he can learn, progress at his own speed and be happy. Voices for Autism are a support network for families/carers who care for a young person living with Autism in London. We aim to create a safe haven where we come together on a monthly basis to share information, good/bad news stories, strategies etc. It is a time where nobody should feel alone as Autism can feel like a very lonely journey. Our coffee mornings are a time where we meet in a relaxed environment and can talk about Autism or not!
NC: The major challenges that I have faced so far is a number of things. Money as I am funding it all myself, all our marketing materials, spaces that we use, advertising etc. is all coming out of my own pocket. Although I am very happy to do so as it is my organisation, going forward I will need to reach out to other avenues to fund it further as we do not want to just stop at coffee mornings, there are plans which need to be executed. Also being the only individual covering it all from preparation through to execution, there are not many people that ‘get it’ so when you have various ideas, moans or achievements, there are very few people to share it with where as if I had a partner within the organisation, it would help things move forward more streamline perhaps.
RB: Who has been the greatest influence on you since starting your venture and why?
NC: My greatest influence has got to be my son, he is now 16 and although he has been through so much, he stays grounded and takes everything in his stride. We, as a family do not focus on his Autism as it is just his diagnosis. Seeing him getting older and becoming more independent, I want to ensure that he gets the best out of life and that inspires me to keep going in everything surrounding the organisation. It is important to not only empower him, but to empower others on the spectrum.
RB: What is the vision for your business and where do you see yourself 5 years from now.
NC: The vision for Voices for Autism is that:
- We are successful in gaining a Charity status or a Social Enterprise
- We begin leading workshops in different topics
- We are able to take our workshops into schools/workplaces etc. to educate professionals about Autism. Although they receive training, we feel hearing from us on a personal level will benefit them more. More and more children/young people are not receiving the right level of support or even missing out on their education because professionals do not know how to manage the condition.
- We bring in regular guest speakers to our coffee mornings
- We take our coffee mornings around the UK, there is such a need for it. Creating a ‘Helping Hands’ service where we employ young people with Autism to assist with odd jobs in people’s homes (clearing rubbish, painting, basic DIY – just a few ideas, not fixed at this point).
- Continuous fundraising to create awareness and also securing a space for our young people to have social gatherings, clubs etc.
- We roll out our Headstart workshops for boys and girls aged 13+ covering various topics which focus heavily on life skill.