A small glimpse into our year so far


NHS England2018 came to a spectacular end for Halas Sing and Sign and the Dance group. They were requested to perform in Birmingham on 5th December at an NHS event which has led to further bookings later this year – watch this space!

5 december 18

THSH logoAnd on 23rd December we were once again part of a wonderfully festive concert at Birmingham Town Hall.


January 2019

thinkingWe launched our annual quiz in January. Don’t forget to call into the office for your quiz sheet next time you visit us.


get a move onMembers of the Meeting Place, supported by local artist Sarah Bagshaw, designed a business card to be used by the Sing and Sign and Dance groups to promote their performances. We’re starting to get really quite booked up now so, if you want us to perform at your event, please get in touch soon!

Coffee Cups LogoIt was lovely when staff and volunteers at Coffee Cups received an email all the way from Canada. This was from a customer who, although he had emigrated 2 years previously, was still apparently missing his Coffee Cups’ breakfasts with black pudding!


Cats_Protection_Logo27Staff at our residential home received a “thank you” from “Cats Protection”. They raised £45 by donating rather than sending each other Christmas cards.


February 2019

downloadThe winter weather wasn’t going to stop our Sing and Sign members from getting out and about and they did a great performance for the shoppers in the Cornbow Centre on Dignity Day.

Charlotte and Clare, two members of our senior care team, also had a display board explaining what dignity was and handed out information about this to local shoppers.


On a not so cold February day, a number of people from the Meeting Place enjoyed the Spring like weather on a trip to Waseley Country Park.


Do you see what I see logoYou may recall from previous blogs that we ran an Arts Project in 2018 . The artwork started it’s tour of the West Midlands and is now on display in Tipton library. The artists were really proud to see their work on show and this tour will continue around the West Midlands until November

These are some of the venues that we have and are currently exhibiting at, please keep an eye on our website for forthcoming dates and venues.


Start date End date Location Nature Address
18 March 25th March Walsall College Display Littleton Street West, Walsall. WS2 8ES
1st April 15th April West Bromwich Library Display / Digital 316 High Street, West Bromwich. B70 8DZ
15th April 2nd May Tipton Library Display / Digital Unity Walk, Owen Street, Tipton. DY4 8QL
2nd May 30th May Wolverhampton Central Library Display Snow Hill, Wolverhampton. WV1 3AX
30th May 13th June Blakenhall Bob Jones Community Hub Display Bromley Street, Blakenhall, Wolverhampton. WV2 3AS



Halesowen CollegeHalas Supported Employment were thrilled when 2 of our successful job seekers agreed to attend Halesowen College Open Day with us on 26th February. Sean and Luke had previously been students at Halesowen college and first met us at the college Open Day in 2017. Sean now works at Sainsbury’s and Luke has a job with DPD.

Halesowen college options afternoon

March 2019

Halas’ Music Show on 3rd March was a huge success. This was held at Benjamin’s in Halesowen where they always make us really welcome.


Si+224e17042812170_0001aOn 5th March, Sarah and Sophie attended another college Open Day to talk to students about how Halas Supported Employment could help them find work.

5 march dudley college

Coffee Cups LogoLater in March, Coffee Cups’ staff and volunteers were very excited to get their new accessible till. Coffee Cups is now able to accept payment by card and well as cash.

New till March

Some of the coffee shop volunteers had training to help them learn how to use the new till.

New till training

Si+22415091811570_0001As Spring has sprung the Gardening Group members have pulled on their gardening gloves and got out their kneeling pads. All are looking forward to working towards even more bright and beautiful displays this year.


wiOn 19th March a few staff from Halas were asked to present at the Hawne WI meeting. The presenters included Olivia who is an apprentice at Coffee Cups.

After her presentation Olivia said:

When I went to the WI meeting,  I spoke to the group and told them what I did at the Coffee shop.

I felt very nervous about meeting the group and doing the presentation. I told them how much I enjoyed my work and what I have learnt.

After this some of the ladies came over to compliment me on my achievements. I felt very proud.


Si+224e19042415270_0001Halas Dance group were invited to perform with Hypa Dance at their show at Dormston school on 23rd March.


Sing & SignApril 6th was a busy day. Halas Sing and Sign group took part in Halesfest in Halesowen town centre. Following a quick stop for refreshments they were again performing in the evening at a Concert organised by “Access In Dudley” at Queens Cross Network.


So what next ….

BUC logoBirmingham City University is hosting this year’s “Positive Choices” conference (which is an annual event for learning disability student nurses and professionals).  This year is particularly important as it celebrates 100 years of learning disability nurses being included on the nurse register.

As part of our ongoing and exciting relationship with the learning disability nursing department of Birmingham City University our Dance group and Sing and Sign have been invited to host a workshop with the theme “Let’s get Physical” at their “Positive Choices” conference on 25th April … step aside Olivia Newton John!

keep fit


Big 50On Sunday 23rd June, Ruth has organised a 20 mile bike ride to raise money for Halas. Riders will leave from (and return to) the Bonded Warehouse in Stourbridge stopping for lunch at The Lock Inn Wolverley. A great fun activity for all the family.

For further details go to: https://www.ticketsource.co.uk/fruits-of-the-forest

On 23rd May we are holding a coffee morning at Coffee Cups to promote this event. Please come along, enjoy a delicious cake and coffee with us and book yourself a place on the bike ride to work it off!



THSH logoOn 9th June, our Sing and Sign choir will again be part of the Community Spirit concert held in Symphony Hall.

For more information about this project and to get tickets for this years performance, please use the following link


community spirit


Si+224e16020609280_000128th June is “Care Home Open Day” and Halas Homes will be opening its doors to the local community.

As in previous years, we are looking forward to a busy day with lots going on for everyone’s entertainment.  This is will include the exhibition from our Arts Project, performances from the drama group and local choir and other activities including  golf and tombola

Care home open day flyer

Finally,  and as always, an enormous thank you to all our fantastic staff and volunteers who make all of this possible and are a credit to our organisation.




A small glimpse into our year so far

And there’s still time to rock around the Christmas Tree ………

christmas boarder

Another busy and exciting few months at Halas culminating in us being announced the Winner in the Community Engagement category at the 3rd Sector Care Awards


Olivia (initially a volunteer at Coffee Cups and now a full time apprentice) and Sophie (Halas Supported Employment, job coach) receiving the award from Dame Esther Rantzen on Friday 7th December    Si+224e18122114391_0001



  Team Halas” pictured with a representative from Triodos Bank UK who sponsored the “Community Engagement” Category award


Employment Project

 Olivia is one of our brightest stars. She works so hard at Coffee Cups and is always coming up with new ideas for our café. Her family are very proud of her too. Her mom, Cathy said:


‘Olivia has had such a positive experience since meeting Sophie from Halas Employment.  She loves working at Coffee Cups. As a family we are all thrilled that she is able to catch the bus to work everyday. She has learned many new skills at the coffee shop and her confidence, ability and self esteem have improved greatly. We feel that she could not be better placed than she is at the moment, working in a supportive, happy environment.  We were unsure that she would ever be able to access paid employment but Halas have enabled her to do this and have given her the belief that she is worthy of making a valuable contribution to a work place setting.

We would recommend Halas Employment to anyone who has a young person with a learning disability who is looking for an opportunity to be able to work and gain real life experience’ 

We were thrilled when another two of our young job seekers, Connor and Tarique, began their permanent, paid jobs at DPD in October.

 And, we are so proud of Sean (mentioned in our last blog, he interviewed James Morris MP about his London Marathon success) who has now gained employment with Sainsburys. Well done Sean 😊


 Sean’s mom Ann said:

“Being a parent of an adult who needs support and guidance in life, you can only hope and trust that the people we come across are trustworthy, supportive and committed to doing their best for your child, just the same as you are as a parent.

When we came across Halas Homes and their very polite staff, it didn’t take long to feel comfortable to trust them to support our son even though we had struggled with trusting people most of our son’s life. We could tell almost instantaneously that our son was happy in their care. The help/support we have received …. not just for our son, but the reassurance to us as parents has been phenomenal. We are so grateful for the continued commitment Halas have shown and in particular Sophie (our son’s support worker).”

  Coffee Cups LogoCoffee Cups

Big thank you to everyone who supported Breast Cancer    Awareness at Coffee Cups on Friday 19th October.  They raised an outstanding £500.16.




[Olivia (3rd from the right) with her Coffee Cups colleagues.  Olivia was responsible for much of the organisation of this event.]

Thank you too to Margaret, a local resident who crocheted forget me knots and sold them to Coffee Cup customers to raise money for the Alzheimer Society


halesowen golf club logoThank You Concert for Halesowen Golf Club

Halesowen Golf Club have once again chosen Halas Homes as their charity for 2018, which we are grateful for.


We organised a concert at the golf club to thank them for their continued support. It was a really well attended fun afternoon with great music, lovely weather and plenty of ice cold drinks!

We have been so busy that we even had two bookings on the same day.

 “Arts all over the place” Mental Health Awareness week Birmingham

10th October

The sign and sign choir were invited to perform at a multi-arts festival and exhibition celebrating the positive impact of creativity on mental wellbeing.

Contact Dance Company, The Arena Theatre,

University of Wolverhampton

10th October

At the same time members of Dance Unity were performing a new piece alongside “Contact Dance” (part of “Shropshire Inclusive Dance)


Sing and Sign for Remembrance

Royal British LegionWe performed in the Cornbow centre on 7th November and at the Remembrance Service at St Margaret’s at Hasbury Primary School on 9th November.

Margaret again got her crochet needles out and produced dozens of beautiful poppies which were sold in the Cornbow Centre during the performance raising £96.75 for the Royal British Legion.DrZSYRDWoAAkrR8






Halesowen CollegeSing & Sign and Employment Project at WI Halesowen College,

Wednesday 7th November

Thank you to our local WI (inspiring!!) for helping us raise the roof by joining in singing and signing.

We really enjoyed our time with you and what amazing cakes



halesowen golf club logoHalesowen Golf Club Concert, Thursday 8th November

A heartfelt thank you from all of us at Halas to all the members of Halesowen golf club for raising such an incredible amount of money for us. And we love performing at your venue to such an appreciative audience.        Thank you


Members of our music club really enjoyed performing alongside professional musicians

Stars in Their Eyes

Friday 16th November

This year we decided on a change to our usual Christmas play and instead held an evening with the stars. Performances included, Tom Jones, Queen and Tina Turner.

Audience and performers alike had a brilliant evening. Emma (Leona Lewis) said …

“My Mom and Dad and Aunty and Uncle came and they all thought I was really good, they loved my singing and watching the show”. I wore a lovely red dress like Leona.”

Paul (aka Michael Jackson) showed his backing dancers how it should be done. He said ….

“Michael Jackson is my favourite and I love dancing”.



Halesowen in Bloom

We achieved a silver gilt at the National Britain in Bloom awards!!

Halesowen also only went and “bloomin” won the category and are “National Champions for the Urban Community”!

Well done and thank you to everyone who contributed in any way, fantastic community



 Halas Homes Garden Club looks after a plot outside St John’s church along with pupils from St Margaret’s at Hasbury Primary school.

Eve O’Connor (Chairwoman, Halesowen in Bloom) said

“Halas Homes are a shining example of how volunteering in the community can be mutually beneficial for all. Halesowen in Bloom along with the community of Halesowen are grateful for the efforts of the volunteers. We have seen greater community cohesion at the heart of the project and love having Halas Homes as part of this

Halas Homes Family Tea Party in the Forget Me Not Dementia Garden

9th September 2018

Back in November 2016 Alison, our CEO definitely went “above and beyond” when she climbed Machu Picchu in Peru! This was to raise money for a dementia garden to be built at Halas.

A group of service users, family and friends also took part in a Memory Walk in Birmingham which also raised funds for the garden.

A local gentleman, Andrew Snead, ran the Moscow marathon last year and donated his sponsor money towards the garden.

We were really pleased to be able to have a garden party in the Forget Me Not garden this summer.

Special thanks to Becs, a local young artist, for her beautiful artwork which will be added to next Spring

GP surgery


The gardening group created a beautiful community garden at our local surgery at Meadow Brook Road complete with watering cans to encourage members of the community to help keep the garden looking lovely

Trim Trail

Visitors from Halas took part in Halesowen college’s community “Fit and Fed” programme. During this week’s sessions they enjoyed exploring the trim trail and animal care courtyard


“Do you see what I see?”

Do you see what I see logo In our previous blog we introduced our Arts Project which will be going “on tour” all around the west midlands from March until November 2019.

Keep your eye on our Twitter page to see when it will be coming to a venue near you!

As part of the project, participants designed Christmas cards which have been on sale at Halas during December

Christmas cards






We were thrilled and very proud to be awarded an overall “good” with an “outstanding” in the category of “Responsive” following our CQC inspection in August.

CQC Cert

The culture of the home, the values demonstrated by every staff member and our person-centred approach to caring have truly been recognised.

Before our CQC inspection we received feedback about the services we provide from service users’ families, service users and professionals. The results from these questionnaires were very positive.

100% rated Halas as excellent/good in response to “Do you feel your relative receives the care and support they should?”

Below is a response received from one relative:

“We are more than happy with the care provided by Halas Homes and the staff. The activities provide stimulation and entertainment.  Halas Homes care is excellent, and the staff are exemplary”.

Learning Disability Week. Birmingham City University

20th and 21st July

 We were very pleased to be able to work with students undertaking their degrees in learning disability nursing during Learning Disability Awareness week this year. Our Sing and Sign choir performed and also our Supported Employment project had a stand to raise awareness about helping people with learning disabilities to gain and sustain employment.




200px-National_Citizen_Service_LogoNCS visits (National Citizen Service), 1st August 2018

For a second year we provided a group of young people from Wolverhampton college with the opportunity to come and to work with us at The Meeting Place for a couple of days during the school holidays.




Halesowen College                Health & Wellbeing, Halesowen College

                                  29th October 2018


Following on from the success of the Trim Trail in the summer a group from our day service spent at day in the gym at Halesowen College trying out all sorts of different sports and activities. These included foam javelin throwing, frisbee golf and basketball.

We are looking forward to this becoming a more frequent activity in the new year which will hopefully be supported by some of the college students.

Sponsored tandem ride 16th September

Richard Bilson (the husband of Helen, one of our staff members) set himself the impressive challenge of cycling 300 miles for Cancer Research earlier this year. John, a tenant in Halas Supported living, joined Richard for part of his ride. Well done Richard and John



Things to look forward to. What’s coming up ….

Sing and Sign have again been asked to perform at this wonderfully festive concert at Birmingham Town Hall on Sunday 23rd December


dignity day

They will also be performing in the Cornbow Centre on “Dignity Day” –  1st February 2019



The 29th June 2019 is “Care Home Open Day”.

Halas will be opening its doors to the local community. As is previous years we are looking forward to a busy day with lots going on to everyone entertained.




And finally a HUGE thank you to all our wonderful staff who frequently go above and beyond to ensure that we are able to offer an enormous variety of activities and opportunities to everyone we work with.

We would like to thank all our supporters for all their help and support throughout 2018 and wish you all




And there’s still time to rock around the Christmas Tree ………

We’ve had a busy few months so far at Halas.



Si+224e17042812170_0001aHalas Homes Supported Employment project has been successful in helping people with a learning disability to gain employment and volunteering opportunities. We have helped support one young man to successfully gain full time employment.  We have a volunteer working in Coffee Cups who will be starting an apprenticeship very soon. Sophie, our job coach, has been busy helping people learn how to travel independently as well as supporting many other clients who wish to seek employment possibilities.

Recently one of Halas Supported Employment jobseekers had the opportunity to interview Local MP James Morris about a marathon that he recently ran in London to raise money for Halas Homes. Sean prepared his questions and interviewed James Morris at his surgery in Halesowen.  Sean did a great job and there is a link here followed by the interview which Sean devised himself:  https://youtu.be/_XLnqPLasp8

Sean & James

Interview Questions James Morris. 20th July 2018

  • What training did you have to do for the London marathon?

My average run was around 10k, so doing the London marathon was a challenge. I started training a little bit at a time and building myself up.  I did a half marathon in March.  This was 13.1 miles and took me 2 hours 12 minutes.  When I started increasing the miles I got up to 18 miles, I started to struggle with tendonitis and was told to rest so this set me back a little.  I was determined to do the race and complete it.

  • How many hours a week did you train?

I would train up to 6 hours a week, with about 3 half hours on running. I like to go to the gym as well.

  • Are you happy with the time that you completed the marathon in?

No not really. I completed it in 6 hours my aim was 5 ½.  The day was very hot but the organisers were prepared and there was lots of water available and showers along the route.  I feel I started off too quick and burnt myself out.  At one point I was over taken by a rhino….haha.

  • Are you keeping up your training?

Yes. I enjoy playing cricket, so I am keeping up my fitness through the running.  I am a batsman so have to run between the wickets fast.  I have recently done the Black Country Road race which was 10k and took me 55 minutes.

  • Have you got any other events planned?

Yes. I have signed up for the Birmingham ½ marathon in November this year and next year I am going to do the London marathon.

  • How did you hear about Halas Homes?

I have been the MP for Halesowen for the last 9 years but have known Alison the CEO of Halas Homes for around 10 years. From around 2008 I have visited Halas Homes when they have had open days, which has been a pleasure.

  • Why did you choose to do a marathon to raise money for Halas Homes?

I wanted to do something different and support my local community. I wanted to challenge myself.  I knew Halas Homes and the work that they do so decided to raise money for them.  I did some publicity work with Halas homes which included having their name on my running shirt.  I raised just over £3200 which I am pleased about.

If you would like any information regarding this project, please contact:

Sarah Roper

Community Engagement Officer, Halas Supported Employment

Tel: 0121 550 8778/07376 497324

Email: sarah.roper@halashomes.co.uk

Coffee Cups LogoWe would like to take the opportunity to thank Seth Somers and DPD for their generous donations which has enabled the refurbishment of Coffee Cups. which is a Social Enterprise Community Coffee Shop that provides work opportunities in collaboration with our Employment Project. Thank you also to staff from the Natwest Bank who gave up a couple of hours of their time to help promote the re-opening and delivered leaflets to the local community.  We hope you will visit.

Our newly refurbed coffee shop

Birmingham Rep logo

Early in 2017 we were told about an amazing opportunity which was a brand new large-scale production featuring over 100 participants from the local community. This production was going to be staged at the Birmingham Rep.

After attending an audition at the Birmingham Hippodrome we were excited to be told we had been successful and were given a schedule of rehearsals over several months. So, by being a part of this people with leaning disabilities showed how talented they are and were a part of a richly diverse cast.  Everyone in the cast w rote their thought down about being a part of this wonderful event.




The show was a great success …………………………………

After many months of rehearsals, the day arrived and Woyzeck was a reality.

We had some wonderful feedback ………

“From the moment they step on stage the community cast is ALIVE and their enthusiasm is infectious”
#BrumHour saw Woyzeck at @BirminghamRep part of @BhamDanceFest until Sat 23rd June. Read more here:…
#Birmingham https://t.co/AgHwXwsEkS
brumhour.wordpress.com/2018/06/20/woyzeck-at-birmingham-rep/ … #Birmingham

One of the members of Dance Unity has written about her experience of being involved with Woyzeck

“On Sunday 6th May Dance Unity met at Halas.  We were going to The Birmingham Rep.  We were really scared and excited.

When we got there, we met Nicole. She told us about the play.  We were performing a show called Woyzeck.  Then we met all the other cast.

We went to the Rep every Sunday and some extra practises.

When we did the show we were really scared. The other people put us at ease.  They were really kind.

We loved performing with new people.”


As part of Dudley Disability Service, Dance Unity were asked to perform at Dudley College. As usual their interpretation of dance and Makaton sign language had the audience in tears.

A very clever mix of signing and dance by Dance unity from @HalasHomes to launch Dudley Disability Service”

No matter how many times I see @HalasHomes Dance Unity I am always completely drawn in by the energy, joy and talent! Perfect to be part of the Dudley Disability Service launch @dudleymbc

The fabulous Dance Unity from @HalasHomes bringing the event to an end, showing how by bringing services together and putting people in the centre of their own lives can only empower them. It’s all about what you CAN do.”

@HalasHomes every time the tears come, such powerful interpretations using dance and sign.”

On Wednesday 11th July Dance Unity went to perform at Dudley College and a member of Dance Unity who performed wrote about her experience.

“Along with Hayley and her girls we performed in 4 dances.

We enjoyed meeting all the people there and made lots of new friends.

I love my dancing – it’s my life!”


Since the Autumn of 2017 we have again been working with local school children from St Margaret’s of Hasbury primary in preparation of the judging days in July and August for Halesowen in Bloom. We are hoping the town gets another gold this year.  Members of the Meeting Place made a button covered mushroom which light up in the dark #bloomin’ marvellous.

Do you see what I see logo

We have a very innovative arts project on the go at the moment call “Do you see what I see”.  We are so pleased to have some great professional artists working with us.  So far we have produced art work from paints and we have just started working with clay.  We are linking with Halesowen College and will be spending time developing the project with students from the college.  There will be a performance element with this project.

Members of the art project held a session to discuss and design a logo design which you can see on the left.

This project will be ongoing and there will be a curated tour which will be on tour to allow people in the community to consider “Do you see what I see”. If anyone has somewhere they would like this exhibition to be placed please contact Libby at Halas Homes who will communicate with the project co-ordinator.

These are some of our art work from a session Animals at the Zoo.


THSH logo

Halas Homes Sing & Sign have been performing all over the place of late. Dance Unity Sing & Signjoined them at the Birmingham Symphony Hall for Celebrating Family Carers. Community Spirit is again a family inclusive project and Sing and Sign performed to a full house at Birmingham Symphony Hall.  Learning Disability week provided yet another opportunity,  Sign and Sign performed at Birmingham University and also on stage at Black Country Day in Dudley Town Centre (we were also on the BBC Midlands News on the same day).



We like to think that at Halas Homes we offer a wide range of opportunities for people with a learning disability to lead an active life and this newsletter provides a flavour of some of the things that have taken place recently.

Peter Taylor, from Inclusive Films and Nick Fogg, from Piece of String Films have produced a film called Ageing Well with Learning Disabilities. This is a fabulous demonstration of how to live life to the full.


But as always it has to be said that without the support of all staff the opportunity for service users to have positive outcomes are only possible with a committed and caring team of staff.

We’ve had a busy few months so far at Halas.

It’s all go, go go

It’s all go, go, go

Over 150 people joined us in rockin’ Benjamin’s on Sunday 29th October at our Music Show.  Thank you to everyone who supported us to make this an amazing night.

Our attention is now being turned towards Christmas and we are preparing for our Christmas play, which has already sold out.

Other Upcoming Christmas events include:

If you would like to book tickets for the Town Hall event please click on the link below.


 Our Christmas elves will be on sale at our Christmas fayres on 2nd and 8th December for £8.00 each or 2 for £15.00

What a fantastic year our gardening club has had working alongside Halesowen in Bloom on various projects, including helping to win a Gold Award in the regional Britain in Bloom awards.

They have also been working hard on our allotment and we would like to thank Mick Poultney for all his help and expertise this year.

This week we are looking forward to attending the Colley Gate Gardening Club AGM where we will see all our friends.

Coffee Cups……….Coffee Cups Logo

continues to be a great community coffee shop and a lot of hard work has gone into the community garden. Thank you to everyone who continues to weed, water and generally takes time to stop and ‘smell the flowers’.



Our Supported Employment goes from strength to strength. We are very pleased to congratulate Zoe, our first job seeker to gain paid employment. Watch this space!



Thank you to St Margaret’s at Hasbury Primary School for inviting us to join in their Remembrance Service on Monday 13th November at St Margaret’s Church where we laid the wreath we had made.

julie with poppy

We were busy recently selling the poppies we made to raise money for the Royal British Legion.  We raised an incredible £205.00!



It’s all go, go go

Sing & Sign at Selfridges, Birmingham

On Saturday 12th August the Halas Homes sing and sign choir were invited to perform in the Birmingham Bull Ring Selfridges department store.


The event was a great success and shoppers and staff were treated to some unexpected entertainment and lessons in signing from our fabulous choir leader Glynis.

Thank you so much to Charlotte, Rose, Chris and the stores General Manager Sam for your hospitality and making us so welcome, our choir members said they felt like star’s. Looking forward to performing for you all again soon.

My favourite ever day at #SelfridgesBirmingham – thank you @THSHBirmingham for bringing the Sing and Sign choir to us.”

The best feeling seeing an entire store join @HalasHomes Sing & Sign Choir @Selfridges @THSHBirmingham #musicmatters #selfridgesbirmingham


Sing & Sign at Selfridges, Birmingham

“It was about the journey not Machu Picchu itself”!

img_2794aWhat started out as a personal challenge to push my physical limits quickly turned into much more when I decided it would be good to put my efforts to good use by helping with Halas Homes’ plans to create a bespoke dementia garden adding to the funds raised by our incredible staff and residents during a Memory Walk they took part in during September.

Working in social care is not ever easy particularly now with austerity, black holes, living wage and more expected for less; there has never been a time where we have to be more creative, energized, pro-active, accepting to change and positive, whilst always keeping the vision in mind of where we are going.

It is many years since I backpacked and climbing Machu Picchu proved to be a physical and psychological challenge where the re-inforcement of qualities of patience and acceptance had to be at the forefront of my thinking

On a grey damp morning (accompanied by Paddington Bear who was returning to deepest, darkest Peru with me) I departed from Heathrow with a stack of inspirational notes written by staff and friends and a promise to everyone that I would complete this trek as long as altitude sickness didn’t prevent me.

I had in my mind the end point which was me standing on the famous photographed point of Machu Picchu and, although I had purchased all necessary attire (in particular a camelbak to ensure I drank copious amount of water), I hadn’t really had chance to study the trip. As anyone who works in social care knows however much your to-do list is up to date competing agendas always arise. It doesn’t matter how determined I am to finish my last day before annual leave there is always just one more opportunity which must be taken in order to continually drive the organisation forward.

After my third flight I checked into a hostel in Cuzco to acclimatise with my new found buddies with whom I was to spend 4 days trekking. The top bunk was difficult to get into but we were all in the same boat – feeling sick, tired and lacking co-ordination and concentration and this soon broke down social barriers between me (a baby boomer) and 5 millennials.

The Inca trail was to be 4 days trekking and I was shocked with my body on the first day. My legs wouldn’t work as quickly as I was used to and the altitude had a profound effect on my respiratory system. I knew I was the eldest in the group but found it hard to accept that I was not at the front of the group and, although the mind was willing, my body held me back; my breathing was laboured and I knew I had to listen. Yoga came to mind and the importance of listening to your body and acceptance. The guide asked me why people came to his country to rush the journey without looking at its beauty and I realized he was telling me it is ok to be at my own pace on my own journey and after all isn’t it me who is always telling myself ‘DON’T FORGET TO STOP AND SMELL THE FLOWERS’

That night I bedded down next to a running stream and watched the stars in a night sky unspoilt by light pollution and this overrode the unspeakable toileting of our first night’s camp.

Day Two took us to Dead Woman’s Pass which was the highest point being 4,200 metres and never more did I listen to my body and accept that I needed to walk slowly and deliberately without stopping. If I stopped it was like starting the motor of a car up again on a cold morning when the car moves a 5mph and chugs along. The trick for me was to continue with determination and grit and walk at a pace which although annoyingly slow would get me there! Once again I reflected on yoga practice and especially acceptance. During training sessions at Halas Homes staff are put in situations where they experience what it is like to be disabled or partially sighted; to sit in a hoist or wheelchair needing personal assistance. Walking up Machu Picchu put my mind to thinking how I would be when aged and using a stick and being unable to push my body due to frailty.img-20161205-wa0003

This brought home to me how our training in values and culture here at Halas is so important in helping us to experience and better understand situations from the viewpoint of the those that are dependent on our care and support.

It was enlightening walking with such an interesting group of people who had different reasons and journeys in life directing them to the trek and this made the experience more interesting.

Eventually on Day 4 after 3 long and arduous days we arose at 4.30am ready to admire the wonderful sunrise over the mountains to Machu Picchu. Sadly however the clouds are low and the view is mystical if not bright and clear. We continued our journey to our ultimate goal and the rain and damp ensured that we tread carefully and methodically. I had been told of the last push of high steps and, as I clambered up (on all fours) with the weight of my back pack bearing down on me, I was so excited to reach the last step. The view was not as I had envisioned for my yearned photograph and yet it didn’t matter. There we all stood – a group of people who I had not known previously but with whom I had been through so much and discussed, laughed and analysed much about life with. The realisation came that the journey with this group of tremendous young people had been what this had been all about. Not only had I learnt yet again the importance of patience and acceptance I had made new connections without email, iphone, ipads, Facebook or twitter but by ‘being’ by ‘listening’ by accepting our differences and our similarities.


So what started off as a personal journey to a final destination ended up with 5 new friends, 4 days trekking, altitude sickness, several nose bleeds, unspeakable toilets, an ascent of 4,200metres in 30 degree heat with coca leaves for altitude sickness and a feeling that essentially we all are pulled to nature which nurtures us, feeds our souls and teaches us so much about ourselves.



I asked the group to send me thoughts on what they had learnt from this trip; they were all so positive and energizing but the two which sum it up all so well and can be applied to each of us were “We need to get out of our comfort zones every now and then”’ and “We can learn and grow from every situation presented to us”.

I had a fantastic experience and so far have raised over £1,700 for our dementia garden and, although I doubt it’s going to get any easier in social care, it has been a positive experience to roll back the years and remember to always keep in mind that youthful feeling when anything seems possible ………….




“It was about the journey not Machu Picchu itself”!