Growing plants, friendships and confidence

Blog by Dorothy Watson, CEO

To forget how to dig the earth and tend the soil is to forget ourselves.” Mahatma Gandhi. 

It all started a year ago when our Choices Manager, Lesley Scott, said the words “what we need is an allotment”.  My reply was a short one, “great idea, perhaps in a year or two”. Little did I know that within the week, Lesley’s words would yield the wonderful offer of an allotment right on our doorstep.

A year later and we have planted tomatoes, runner beans, peas, herbs, some flowers and a blackberry bush. With the help of our wonderful allotment team, we have a plot of land that is growing young plants with two near-complete raised beds and a covered space to offer protection from the sun and rain and to chat with friends.  

Our allotment is a wonderful place and is a place that is growing plants, friendships and confidence. It gives each of us a sense of space from the chaos known as our world.  To get to this point, there has been much loss and grief along the way. The tragic death of Lara, the partner to our Sunny Sessions Coordinator, Jon, whose memorial fund made the allotment work possible and the many Sunnybank friends who left us far too soon in this pandemic.

We will keep them in our hearts as we dig the soil and plant. We will keep their laughter with us as we begin to pick the fruits and vegetables. We will cherish their memories as we share our stories as we sit back and enjoy our lovely plot. 

If you would like to get involved, please do get in touch and come visit the plot….it certainly grows on you! 

June allotment update

As many of our supporters will already know, we have been very fortunate to have been given an allotment space this year. Having access to an allotment will offer our members the opportunity to develop new skills and improve their wellbeing while growing their own fruit and vegetables. 

With the help and advice of many kind gardeners, we have spent the last few months planning how best to organise and develop our accessible space. 

This week is when hard physical work really began. We cleared all of the top weeds, built two raised beds and started work on our accessible path. Our special thanks to Roman and Faith for the back-breaking work on such a hot few days!

🍓The pre-existing strawberries have so far survived their temporary potted homes, with glimpses of the red ripening fruit beneath the leaves. Sadly some of our wildflowers have struggled but we hope to seed the new soil with some wild plants – we hope we haven’t seen the last of them. Thanks to Alison for watering the strawberries!

🌱We have an amazing list of donated young vegetables thanks to those who kindly donated to our Pledge-a-Veg campaign. We have lots of variety including Swiss chard, tomatoes, herbs, beetroot, runner beans as well as the newly sprouting pumpkins and cornflowers donated by Epsom in Bloom.

Three photos showing allotment plot under construction.

🌻We hope to begin to plant out towards the end of June. 

Watch this space!

A tribute to Dorothy

A wonderful tribute written by Sunnybank Volunteer Audrey, after the sad passing of her friend, Dorothy.

“I was lucky enough to be Dorothy’s friend for about 14 years. When I first met her we used to meet at her home while we got to know each other. We used to look at magazines which I  bought on the way. I quickly learned that she wasn’t interested in gardening or pictures of plants or scenery but loved looking at clothes and shoes, the more colourful the better. She loved cat pictures but didn’t like dogs and if we came across a picture of the queen she would salute.  
I would sometimes take some bottles of nail polish and Dorothy would choose her colour and I’d paint her nails. She always looked beautifully dressed and liked to wear her bracelets and necklaces and have her hair up.

After a while we started to go out, sometimes to garden centres for coffee. On our way in the car we sang songs of which Dorothy’s favourite was Daisy Daisy and she loved her birthday, looking forward to it for ages and practicing singing Happy Birthday with great gusto!

Once we were there we would have coffee and Dorothy would love to choose which cake she was going to have. She was always so happy to meet anyone we came across, holding out her hand to them and could light up a room with her lovely smile and cheeky laugh. She was such a friendly soul.

She loved the craft activities and music at Kites Club and would sometimes enjoy getting up for a dance, and also going to an easy access church service where she liked meeting the other people and having coffee and cake with them afterwards.

I will miss her terribly as I’m sure everybody who knew and loved her will.

The world will seem a sadder place without Dorothy.”

Sunnybank Superhero Week

“A true hero isn’t measured by the size of his strength, but by the size of his heart.” – Zeus

We are delighted to launch Sunnybank Superhero Week on 1st – 6th June.

Throughout the pandemic, we have been inspired by the bravery and stoicism of our Sunnybank members as well as the ongoing support and commitment of our volunteers and community friends. 

We have come a long way since the beginning of the pandemic and none of this would have been possible without our very own superheroes.

We start our Sunnybank Superhero week with a sponsored 10k walk as part of the London Vitality Marathon. Sunnybank CEO, Dorothy and Choices Manager, Lesley, will begin their walk at the old site of St. Ebbas hospital in Epsom which is still home to some of our Sunnybank members. On their route, they will be passing some special places along the way that are important to our charity, including St. Barnabas Church, the Sunnybank office as well as some of our member’s homes.  If you would like to support Dorothy and Lesley along the way, you can find their route here.

The next day, Futures Manager, Claire and the Futures group, will be running 10k as a team, celebrating the energy and aspiration of our young members. 

To support Dorothy, Lesley and Claire, please visit our JustGiving page.

During Superhero Week we have a lots of themed events planned for our members and will also be broadcasting a special Sunny Sessions radio show where our members and volunteers will share their superpowers with us all.

We are also delighted to be toasting some of our Superhero Volunteers and community friends in the Sunnybank Unsung Hero Awards across our social media channels throughout the bank holiday weekend. 

Schedule of events

This is for all of the Sunnybank Superheroes!

An important announcement

Blog by Dorothy Watson, CEO

Dorothy smiling at the camera

Asbutr hough frasslesnbrorosi ……….is that clear? 

As I look back over the past year, the word that stays with me is ‘clear’.

It became clear that the pandemic was going to change all of us in many ways – how we live, what we value and who we most miss. It was also clear to me that we were facing the same daily challenges as those with learning disabilities – not being given sufficient time to understand or process change, not seeing friends, being stuck at home, trying to understand new social cues and behaviour, feeling forgotten or viewed as a potential risk or threat. 

It also became clear that our world and the information needed to live in it was not clear, especially for people with learning disabilities. Our world was a very different place.  

So, we launched a twice weekly radio show called ‘Sunny Sessions’, we shared information and shout outs, we opened an online hub with Easy Read information, we photographed people on their doorsteps so they were not forgotten, we advocated for people’s basic rights to access the same services as others, we launched zoom groups and activities to stay connected and we called those who were struggling and frightened. Day by day it became clear that although socially distanced, we were becoming closer and that we were in it together. 

If the world of Covid has taught me anything, it is clear that we are all the same – with or without a learning disability. The only difference is what society expects from us and how we are treated. It isn’t the common ground that we share but the barriers that divide us.   

As we move forward in this pandemic, clearly it is time to change and challenge barriers…. Is the information you provide easy to read and understand? What do you do when you see someone struggling to understand where to queue? Do you hear or witness points of views that exclude or discriminate against people with learning disabilities? 

We are moving towards a new world. We are not the same as we were a year ago. Help us make these next steps accessible ones and live with inclusion at the heart of everything that we do.   

#BreakingBarriers…….. is that clear?

International Women’s Day

What it’s like to be a woman with a Learning Disability

Photo of Jovi smiling

One of the women on the Sunnybank team who we all feel inspired by is Choices Officer, Jovi. She has achieved lots of great things, and always makes others feel uplifted and happy.

Here Jovi shares her experience of being a woman with a learning disability.

“I think it can be quite challenging being a woman with a learning disability. The disability I have (Autism/Autistic Spectrum Disorder/ASD) is often difficult to diagnose in females as the assessments are more male-based.

I get quite a lot of panic attacks when something doesn’t go right (even if it’s the smallest thing) and I have a lot of special interests that people younger than me would have (like Disney & Unicorns).

There are some positive things I do which help me to go about my day to day life. One of the things that I do is wear my Sunflower Lanyard. I make sure I wear it when I go to concerts for my favourite bands Little Mix, Rak-Su & JLS and when I go to major events such as the Summertime Ball and when I go to the airport.

It means that staff are made aware that I have a hidden disability without me having to tell them and then they try to help me in the best way possible. One time that The Sunflower Lanyard really helped was on the way back from France in 2019, I got to go in the minivan from the EasyJet plane to the terminal and then got to go through the terminal from the gate to Baggage Reclaim in one of the golf buggies!”

World Book Day

To mark World Book Day 2021, Sunny Sessions DJ Jon shares some of his favourite books and memories of reading with us.

Jon Andrews

I often find I can’t get into books and start a book then never return to it.

As a child I used to love Enid Blyton books such as The Secret Seven and The Famous Five. I loved how they were written and felt I was part of the adventure. 

One book that really sticks in my mind from secondary school is Roll of Thunder, Hear my Cry by Mildred D Taylor. This book was written in the late 70’s and is about the Apartheid (when people were segregated based on their race) in South Africa. The book tells the story of how white people were treated in a superior way to black people. It really opened my eyes to how a society judged its people and their value simply by the colour of their skin.

Thankfully we live in different times now, and value everyone equally regardless of race. The theme of the book has really stuck with me all these years later as I think its important to look to the past to learn lessons for the future.

We run two online book clubs each week for our members. Using the Books Beyond Words range, we use the pictures to make up our own stories.

If you would like to join our club, please get in touch by emailing

Say hello to Angela

Hi everyone, my name is Angela and I’m so pleased to have joined the Sunnybank Trust.

I am an Advocacy Administrator.

I work with Annie as part of the Advocacy team, which means I get to work with a fantastic group of volunteers and also members of the community who need some extra help and support.

Advocacy means giving a voice and I have quite a loud one myself! I am often shouting for my two dogs, Ruby and Blue to stop chewing or being naughty.

I used to work for the NSPCC, a children’s charity, where I gave assemblies to children about keeping safe from abuse. That also involved using my voice to empower children.

Now I’m learning a lot about Learning Disabilities and how sometimes people can miss out on making choices and getting what they are entitled to just because they have difficulty communicating or get overlooked.

I enjoy being around people, so like everyone I have found being in lockdown hard. I am really looking forward to being able to safely meet up with all the lovely people who are part of Sunnybank.

Thank you to everyone who has made me feel very welcome and I feel very excited about all the great work we can all do together.

Find out more about our Advocacy service here.

Random acts of kindness – top tips and ideas

Blog by Jovi Edwards, Choices Officer

Kindness is very important to us at Sunnybank. We try to be kind to others every day. Here are some simple ways to show kindness to others.

  • Hold the door open for someone, especially if they’re in a rush or have heavy bags
  • Help your friend carry their bags whilst out shopping
  • Give someone a compliment
  • Let someone go in front of you in a queue if they’re in a rush or have a disability and are wearing the Sunflower Lanyard
  • Donate your time to a charity (like Sunnybank or as Red Nose Day is coming up very soon, Comic Relief)
  • Give old clothes to a charity shop
  • Donate food to your local Foodbank
  • Do extra chores without being asked to by your parents/carers
  • SMILE!!!!
  • Give someone your seat on a crowded bus/train/tube (especially if they’re elderly, have a disability where they can’t stand in moving vehicles for long periods of time or are pregnant)
  • Give directions to someone who looks lost
  • Write a great review of a restaurant (that you went to either pre-COVID or during the Eat Out to Help Out Scheme) on either TripAdvisor, Google, Yelp or Facebook Reviews