Reflecting on my time at intoBodmin

A black and white headshot of Sophie, a white non binary person in her early 30s. She's wearing bright lipstick, a soft patterned scarf around her shoulders and a dark jumper. She has a shoulder length bob with a side shave. She's smiling a tthe camera.

I’m Sophie, Marketing & Communications Manager at intoBodmin. I’ve been part of the intoBodmin team since 2018, but my contract is coming to a close at the end of January, and I’ve been reflecting on my time at intoBodmin and how much I value and appreciate the support of the team and the organisation as a whole.

Working with intoBodmin has been wonderful in so many ways. I’ve been able to do things I never dreamed of doing – from meeting and working with some of Cornwall’s most talented theatre makers, to the highlight of my career so far: running 2019’s Community Christmas at the Old Library, in which anyone and everyone was invited to come along on Christmas day to share a meal, a drink - and a sing song, as it turned out! - free of charge. This event really moved me, and underlined the importance of community spirit, of looking out for one another and of making your small corner of the world as welcoming and as inclusive as possible.

A shot of part of the large room at The Old Library. There's a table with a festive holly table decoration and plate of nibbles in the foreground, and a group of people behind, including Sophie in a green dress, talking to a shorter lady in a patterened jacket. One of the people in the background has tinsel in their hair, and another has tinsel on their wheelchair.
Community Christmas at The Old Library

intoBodmin is a small organisation with a massive amount of heart. When it comes to inclusivity it is very much a working progress, but one that intoBodmin is actively striving to achieve, and the foundations are there for some really great things. I, personally, have never felt so supported in a workplace. I have spent my working life trying to downplay and overcompensate for my difficulties, to the point that within the last few years I had found myself facing burnout, and struggling mentally and emotionally, when all that I needed was a little assistance to level the playing field to begin with. Fin and the team at intoBodmin not only listened to what I needed and helped in every way possible, but crucially they offered an understanding and non-judgemental atmosphere in which I felt safe to make the suggestions in the first place.

I, like many other people, never really considered myself as a disabled person. I was surprised to learn that the definition of a disability is a long-standing illness, condition or impairment which can cause difficulty with daily activities. That’s it. I have an audio processing disorder, which affects my life on a daily basis. I have depression and anxiety, and a condition which causes chronic migraine. While these are all manageable conditions, it would not be true to say that these things didn’t affect my work at times, but with support and flexibility, I can be productive and capable without feeling the need to work unpaid hours and put additional strain on my mental health to feel that I’m keeping up. At no point during my time at intoBodmin did I feel that my disabilities were an inconvenience, or that I was less valued than any other member of the team. It really is an atmosphere of working together for the good of the organisation and by extension, the community, who are at the heart of all we do.

I am soon going to be looking for work during an extremely competitive time, and my instincts tell me that making my disabilities known could harm my chances of finding future employment. However, having experienced a truly supportive workplace in intoBodmin, I now feel very strongly that organisations which don’t support and value their disabled employees, or who do not offer a positive, supportive working environment to them, do not deserve to have the skills, ideas and experience I could bring to the table. After all, in Britain over 10 million people have a disability - that’s over 18% of the population. More businesses should strive to be like intoBodmin, who are actively and positively listening to and including people of all experiences, abilities and backgrounds, and are proactively making space at the table for their voices to be heard.

I’ve learned at intoBodmin that supporting disabled and marginalised people doesn’t need to consist of big gestures and cost a lot of money. The truth is, it’s not always about having a wheelchair lift or sending the staff on the latest training (although those things are fantastic if you can do them!), sometimes it’s as simple as asking your team members and visitors if there’s anything they need to make things better for them and providing a safe and understanding space for them to answer honestly. In fact, the best thing you can do to support any person in your community is to ask them what they need, and then to do what you can to facilitate that requirement. It’s about having conversations, listening, making small changes in everyday things, or even adjusting attitudes. intoBodmin is doing some great work around this right now with the intoBodmin’s Future is Loading campaign, where they’re investigating what Bodmin’s community wants and needs, and how they can not only make these changes, but build the voices of the community into the fabric of the organisation. This means that future plans made by intoBodmin will be made by the community, by the people who know best what is needed. But they need more marginalised people to get in touch. They want to hear from people who don’t often get to have their voices heard. If you have some thoughts around this, or if there’s anything they can do to make things better for you – tell them. What intoBodmin needs is the ordinary people from the community, who use their services and live in or around the town, to speak up and tell them what they want.