You know it’s hard to believe that a throw away idea I had nearly 8 years ago has grown into the organisation we have today.
The original idea I had was to open a drop-in centre for Visually Impaired People. A place where they could come to get support with all aspects of daily living from our peers, not well meaning sighted people who would tell us what we want or need and then make us feel guilty if we were not grateful for what we got.
It would be a physical building with a time cafe at the front, then a resource centre demonstrating gadgets and gizmos, and also have both private and communal meeting rooms.
But on 1st August, 2013 all of the best laid plans took a sudden and unexpected turn. I was introduced to the first person that would be helped by THE VIP LOUNGE.
Lounger number 1 was a middle-aged homeless gentleman with learning difficulties who was also totally blind. He was sleeping on a park bench and he owned a pair of worn out shoes, a pair of trousers and a fleece, all of which he was wearing. He had been beaten up and his flat set on fire leaving him with nothing. His care support had abandoned him after stealing all of the money from his bank account.
Organisations that were supposed to help him saw him as a trouble-maker. The truth was that he was frustrated due to him not being able to communicate with them as to what he required due to his learning difficulties.
That all changed when THE VIP LOUNGE took time to actually listen to him instead of trying to make him listen to us. We understood him. To cut a long story short, he is now married, has a job, a fantastic home and very special children.
In the 7 years since THE VIP LOUNGE has helped many thousands of people, we have hundreds of volunteers working in nearly every country around the world. Those volunteers are the local experts being able to give bespoke support where needed.
I decided from our launch that THE VIP LOUNGE should be member led, that all voices should be equal, religion and politics should be kept out of our work and all participants should be respectful of others at all times. Because of this there is still no drop-in centre.
We came close to establishing one at the start of the year, but people who couldn’t understand that we were not doing what we do for our own gain caused too much trouble. I feel sorry for them as they judged us against their own standards. There is not a day that goes by where I personally do not get abuse or hate messages, mostly from people I have never heard of, know or have even spoken to, just because they don’t understand why I or our volunteers give of ourselves freely. I on the most part ignore them, because I don’t feel a need to answer to them. As long as I can answer to myself, my family, my friends and most importantly the people I’m working with, the detractors can’t hold any power over me.
More recently, our radio stations have grown to become the most listened to internet radio group within the U.K and whilst we have our critics, I would answer them by asking just one question. Has your station been able to evolve into a commercial station? THE VIP LOUNGE RADIO GROUP now have two. While the technicals may not always be the best or presentation a little ropy on occasions, our team give everything of themselves more regularly than any presenter on any other station. Those that can’t, don’t, or won’t usually leave and I hear many of them on your stations.
At THE VIP LOUNGE we believe that an individual should strive to be the best that they can be no matter what their learning difficulties or other disabilities are. Just trying your best at all times with everything you do is what matters and as long as you can tell yourself that this is what you have been doing, that’s great, as you need not answer or pay account to anybody else.
Happy 7th Birthday VIP LOUNGE and thank you all for making us what we have become