How did you feel when it was announced the Luna Project had won?
It was incredible. Initially I was so overwhelmed, and I couldn't quite believe what I had heard. Thankfully, the lovely people I was sitting with pushed me up towards the stage and cheered me on. As I began to realise that we had actually won I felt so proud to be part of LUNA! I truly believe every single LUNA volunteer - past and present - wholeheartedly deserved that award and it was an absolute honour to be able to collect it on their behalf.
Who are the Luna Project? What inspired you to come together?
The Learning to Understand Needs and Abilities (LUNA) Project was formed back in the summer of 2018 by myself, Beth Dillon, and Ross Tanner. We had just finished our first year at university, and as a result of chronic illness and disability, our year had been filled with some pretty extreme ups and downs. We couldn't hear anyone else talking about disability and friendships so we decided to start the conversation through a blog. Quickly, people began to get in touch to say how much these experiences reflected their own, and what a relief it was to hear people talking about them. Soon we had grown to a team of 10, then 20, and now we are a team of just over 40 young people, all with lived experience of disability.
What does the Luna Project do?
Our aim is to raise awareness of, and support, young disabled people. How we do this is constantly changing and growing! We really enjoy running workshops about disability. These look different depending on who they are for - in the past fortnight we ran one for healthcare professionals focusing on the importance of seeing disabled young people as whole people. Another was an introduction to disability for primary school students, and one workshop centred on friendship for neurodivergent and disabled young people. We also make a lot of resources on disability. These tend to start with one person saying “I wish I had been able to access a resource on X”, with this suggestion snowballing until we have created just that resource. Other things we do include running a blog to platform and amplify young disabled voices, having ‘day in the life’ takeovers on our instagram, in addition to providing active social media channels where we share bitesize resources.
The consistent theme across all these elements is that they are all inspired and motivated by our lived experience as young disabled, neurodivergent, and chronically ill People.
What have been the challenges?
We have faced a lot of challenges as young people with no prior experience of the charity sector. Having to do things like a Trustee Annual Report, getting our accounts verified, and applying for funding has been a really steep learning curve - one which we are still on!
What makes you all glad about how your work affects those you help?
The work we do is often about creating spaces, resources and ensuring the representation that we wish we’d had. It is really empowering to know that we are making things better for the folk who will come after us. We get to see this happening within our group as we have an age range of our oldest volunteers in their thirties, through to our youngest in their teens. Being at different stages of life means that we can find that representation and support from within the LUNA community.
How do you think the award will impact on all of you and what you do?
Since the ceremony I have had lots of very excited conversations with other volunteers and the most common response is that we do what we do because we know how important this is. To hear that other people also recognise the value of this work has been really incredible. I think we had fallen into a repetitive cycle of just working and growing, and working and growing. This award has reminded us to pause, take stock and recognise all we have achieved over the last few years. This has been brilliant, and we all feel so proud. As a small charity run by young people it has been an incredible confidence boost, and given us momentum to keep going!
How will you celebrate?
The ceremony itself was a fantastic celebration. Those who couldn't make it watched it live or the following day. One friend watched it whilst on the phone to his mum and they celebrated together. Two other LUNA volunteers watched it together and celebrated together. We brought all this energy together for our team meeting last Thursday. It has been fantastic to see all the joy generated by the National Diversity Awards.