“Good evening ladies and gentlemen. My name is Louise Kennedy, and along with my husband Andrew, I have been involved with Shared Lives since 2005, and at that time, we did respite care, which we found very rewarding.
However, in 2009 our lives changed forever when we were given the opportunity of having a young lady come to live with us on a permanent basis. The young lady in question was our wonderful Abby. There were no slow and gradual introductions, as is usually the case. Abby arrived like tornado in our lives. The only way I can describe it is ‘falling into each other’. My husband and I have never been parents, and all of a sudden, we had a lively 19-year-old exploding into our lives. Something clicked straight away, and the three of us have never looked back.
I’m not going to pretend we’re The Waltons, we’re three strong personalities sharing a home, and of course there’s going to be bumps along the way, but these are part of family life, and we’re very much a family. Abby is unique and meeting her is a once in a lifetime experience! She makes an impact on all those that she meets. To know her is to love her.
I recall a time when we were out walking our dogs. I’d nipped into our local toilets to use the loo, and I could hear Abby talking to someone. The next thing I heard was Abby saying, ‘so tell me, do you enjoy being a nun?’ I didn’t know whether to hide in the toilets or not! However, I joined Abby, just in time to hear her telling the two nuns how much she’d enjoyed the film ‘Sister Act’. I managed to introduce myself, but the two nuns were too enthralled by Abby that they barely noticed me. By the end of her conversation, Abby had the two nuns singing a ‘rap’ version of a hymn and giggling their heads off. It’s part of the joy and beauty of Abby that she can talk to anyone whatever their status in life.
It’s not just us who teach Abby life skills, she teaches us every day, and we are enriched to have her in our lives. She is very much part of our family and is a vital part of family gatherings. We live in a small, close knit community and all the locals know Abby and look out for her. This enables Abby to have freedom without us constantly breathing down her neck. Abby enjoys socialising with her friends at the local pubs, and we can relax, knowing she’s with her peers.
Shared Lives is very enriching and rewarding, it’s not a job, it’s a way of life. I would say to anyone considering being a Shared Lives Carer, do it, take the leap, your whole life will change beyond recognition, and you’ll wonder why you didn’t do it sooner.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank Gillian, Anne and in particular Louise from our scheme, for their never-ending support. I have nothing but praise for Louise, and she certainly makes our role a lot easier, she’s a cracking lady.
Thank you for listening to me tonight.”