At GB I’m seen as me – not through the lens of my disability


Leader Steph Davies, 25, from our 8th Portsmouth community group in Hampshire, is registered severely sight impaired, has ME, depression, emotionally unstable personality disorder (EUPD), and a history of anorexia.

Here she shares some of her story…

I started GB when I was around 8 or 9 – it was fun and more like a family because all the age groups were together and so the older girls helped the younger ones. When I went to senior school some of the older GB girls were there too and they helped me when I got lost and would look out for me. I made lots of friends and learnt about God and really enjoyed it… camps were the highlight of my year.

When I was 14, I got ill with ME and was bed-bound; most things in my life dropped away, such as my school friends. But the GB leaders sent me letters and I knew that I was still part of it even though I couldn’t attend. When I could attend it really meant a lot to me that the leaders made GB accessible for me by getting a sofa so I could lie down if I needed to. At one church service they even took the sofa into church so I could still attend. I attended GB for a reduced period of time because that was enough for me and, as I had light sensitivity, because my vision was starting to degrade, the leaders also made one of the rooms more dim.

Then when I had some mental health problems I had to go to hospital for a few months and I got letters from the leaders and a few visits. My whole life at that time revolved around anorexia and eating so it was really nice to have someone come and talk about something different and treat me like a normal teenager even though I was struggling.

When I became a GB leader, I was really nervous that I had less energy than the others and needed to use a powerchair, plus I was worried it might be boring leading the activities. But I realised at my first camp that it was just as fun helping the girls and young women enjoy themselves as it was to participate yourself. It gives you a purpose empowering the girls to live their best lives and have fun.

I’m seen as a fellow leader not Steph with a disability and, if there is something I can’t do, we approach it with a sense of humour. We’ve made simple adjustments to let me participate such as having the programme on my phone so I can listen to it via voiceover because of my sight impairment or having rest periods when we’re at camp because of my ME. I think it’s good to show the girls that disabled people are the same as everyone else and can still do things, but we might need some adjustments.

My advice to leaders with children in their group with disabilities is not to let fear take over. A lot of adjustments needed for people to attend are just common-sense and really small but they make a big impact to the person they’re for and knowing someone has educated themselves around your needs means the world.

I’ve made such good friends with the other leaders in my group and they have stood by me through everything. They’ve seen me at my worst but still shown me love and compassion.

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