Laurie, a person we support in Hertfordshire, can’t resist a holiday or two, and who can blame him. However, this one is different – it comprises Walsingham Support’s history.

Laurie, who celebrated his 80th birthday this year and has lived at his service home since it first opened 32 years ago, and Nadine, his key worker, took a trip to the sunny shores of Norfolk a few weeks ago. Since Nadine has been working at our service, they have been on several holidays together; Cornwall and Mallorca to name a few. Sometimes though, the best ones can be practically on your doorstep.

Laurie grew up in St Albans near London, he has a learning disability and suffers from depression. He has many favourite pastimes but particularly enjoys going out for food, seeing shows in London (Nadine and Laurie have seen “just about all of them”) and holidays, especially holidays – “they make him incredibly happy and he will talk about nothing else for months!” says Nadine.

This particular trip they stayed in a barn in a village between Great Yarmouth and Norwich where they relaxed, drove around for hours and had lots of meals out. Fortunately, the weather came out for them and ice creams were, naturally, the go-to treat: “I enjoyed my food and our trip to the seaside in Great Yarmouth was the best because I like to drink coffee and eat ice cream while people watching,” says Laurie.

On one of the days they decided to go on a steam train in North Norfolk which was, coincidentally, only a 20-minute drive from the beautiful village of Walsingham. Walsingham is famous for its religious shrines and still to this day remains a centre of pilgrimage – it is where, in 1986, Walsingham Support was ‘born’. So, a stop off was arranged. On arrival, they went into the National Shrine of Our Lady at Walsingham, a Holy House built in 1061, where they drank some holy water and looked at the different figurines and drawings. Afterwards they took a short walk around the grounds and then visited the local antique and farmers shop to find some postcards to send as Laurie loves postcards. Nadine says: “I quite like history and having worked for Walsingham Support for 8 years now and having met the Snell family several times as well I found it really exciting to have the opportunity to visit Walsingham and also explain to Laurie how and where Walsingham Support was founded.”

Mark Snell, Founder and Honorary President of Walsingham Support, along with a group of parents who wanted their sons and daughters to live locally in a place they could call home, founded Walsingham Support to create a better life for people with disabilities. It was then known as Walsingham Community Homes. It brought innovation to the social care sector by providing small, local residential care services in a time when people with learning disabilities lived in long-stay hospitals. However, it wasn't until 1999 that Walsingham Support opened its first supported living service in Swansea. The results were instant and real, people could now pursue activities in their local community focused on their own interests. Mark says: “The charity started out with the principle that everyone is equal, no matter what their ability. That principle still exists today – we still work to increase the quality of life and happiness of every person we support.” The bond between Laurie and Nadine perfectly reflects this and it makes us very proud to see how the organisation has evolved since its birth over 30 years ago.

As the duo took in the history of Walsingham Support it’s a reminder of how far the organisation has come while our core values still ring through today: we celebrate ‘different’, and we are built around delivering truly person-centred support that increases the quality of life and happiness of every person we support. Mark’s vision was to create a better life for people with learning disabilities, and we feel privileged to be continuing that vision today.