Smerdon’s social enterprise co-ordinator and Dream Media lead Mark Gordon (pictured far right) explains how he first got into the Learning Disabilities sector two decades ago and why it remains a passion
I first got into working with adults with Learning Disabilities (LD) when I was working with a steeplejacks company, maintaining chimneys and church roofs. I damaged my knee and was unable to work for a long time, so a friend invited me down to volunteer working with a group in Lewisham around 1988.
I loved the work so much that I decided it was something I wanted to do so I started working in residential homes and day centres around Lewisham and Greenwich.
I applied to work at Smerdon in 1998 and the improved salary and Monday to Friday hours fitted in well with my young family.
I started by working in special care, supporting with adults with complex needs and after three years I moved to the mainstream unit. I utilised my passion for computers by setting up a computer suite connected to the internet we were the first day centre to do this! We soon started to look at digital photography, and film and we made fun film clips while I developed my photo and film editing skills.
I left Smerdon in 2013 and went to work for Bexley Council, finding adults with learning disabilities paid employment opportunities and also supporting those already in work. I returned to Smerdon in 2015 to manage their social enterprises, which consists of a gardening group, film group and a card group. I worked closely with my manager Gina Sloan to find ways to increase the amount of clients into paid employment. We did this by purchasing a vehicle to allow the gardening group to be more independent and increase their paid contracts.
With the film group Dream Media we sourced the funding to buy a top-of-the -range green screen photobooth, which is used to promote our Dream Media brand. We hire out our booth to schools and private events and employ adults with learning disabilities to be paid photo booth assistants.
Dream Media now offers a film transfer service where we transfer VHS tapes, VHS –C, Video8, Hi8, MiniDV, and other formats onto a DVD or mp4 format. We also offer a scanning service where we scan all of your photos into a digital format put onto a DVD or a memory stick. Dream Media can also film and edit films and at the moment we are making a series of short films about scams to be aware of, aimed at our service user group.