Each month we feature an inspirational individual or team who overcome barriers to make a real difference in their communities. This month we feature Kumudu Perera who’s mission to reduce social isolation during Covid landed him a place on the Dimensions Coronavirus Learning Disability and Autism Leaders’ List.
It’s time for you to meet a wonderful man named Kumudu. He’s a volunteer at heart and is proud of his learning disability.
“People with learning disabilities are people who are slow at doing basic things that other people can do easily. Some people think that’s a bad thing, but I don’t think it is.
“Everyone is different and learn things differently and at different speeds.
“It can be hard to break what other people think, but I’m going to do my best to break them in half!”
Locking down new volunteering opportunities
When lockdown started, he had to stop his many volunteering projects. But that certainly didn’t mean he stopped volunteering!
He looked for other ways to help people and joined My Life My Choice’s ‘Phone Buddies’ project.
We thought it was only right to have a phone conversation with our new Buddy.
Hi Kumudu, how are you finding the second lockdown so far?
“I’m not finding it too difficult because I know how to access help if I need it. If I’m struggling I can ask for help. But not everybody knows they can.
“I like being busy, I’m not a person who likes having too much time. I like a rest but when I have too much time I get frustrated.
“I’m also part of an Oxford Influencers group too, set up by the Citizens Advice Bureau, to make things better for people who have disabilities in wider society. We want to make sure they have an equal say because some parts of society they don’t.”
Can you tell me a bit more about the ‘Phone Buddies’ project?
“I think it’s important, especially for people who are isolated and living alone.
“It’s for people with learning disabilities to know that if you’re alone you’re not the only one. There’s thousands of people living on their own. I talk to people and build up a friendship. I ask how they are and how they are feeling.
“I’ve been talking to three people. It started off as one.
“I understand because I have a disability so I know what it’s like to not have support. When I was growing up I didn’t have support and society didn’t want to help. When I went to school you didn’t have these organisations so I only had the doctor or my dad.”
Some people are struggling with lockdown, do you have any advice you would like to give them?
“I would say you need to be positive and stay positive. With the right support you can get through the hard times. You don’t want to be with people who will kick you down.
“Sometimes they say they’re stressed and I try to give them advice. Some people like to listen to news but sometimes if you have too much it makes you depressed. One thing I’ve said is to make sure you have some downtime and don’t listen to depressing stuff all the time. Listen to things that make you happy.”
The Coronavirus Learning Disability and Autism Leaders’ List is produced by Dimensions in partnership with Learning Disability England and VODG. It is an adapted version of the annual Learning Disability and Autism Leaders’ List.
Follow @DimensionsUK and #CovidLeadersList to stay up to date.