Julie Kinch

Julie Kinch

An events coordinator from Leeds who has helped hundreds of people with learning disabilities connect through a friendship and dating agency has been named a Point of Light by Prime Minister David Cameron.

Julia Kinch, 24 from Headingley in Leeds wanted to become more involved with her local community while she was a student and so decided to start volunteering with Hft’s Luv2MeetU team in 2012. Initially set up by Hft, a national charity for people with learning disabilities, Luv2MeetU is a friendship and dating agency for people with a learning disability aged 18 and over. People with learning disabilities often struggle with feelings of isolation and loneliness. Luv2meetU enables members to make friends and use mainstream facilities, together with local volunteers, to overcome these issues. They support over 300 members to make friends, share interests and develop relationships. L2MU aims to enable people with learning disabilities to develop life skills including independence, confidence and the ability to make choices.

Julia loved the programme, seeing all of the positive work they do with members across West Yorkshire. Over the past four years she has volunteered many hours, talked at their first conference and made many friends. She has been able to bring her own ideas to Hft’s Luv2MeetU project  to help it flourish and help people with learning disabilities come together for both friendship and dates.

Initially, Julia started as a voluntary admin assistant, whilst a student, at the Wakefield office, liaising with members on a day to day basis and helping out with administrative tasks. She then progressed to running her own social events for Luv2meetU members in the Leeds/Wakefield area. Julia has now been volunteering with the programme for four years, arranging a wide range of social, leisure and sporting opportunities – all helping to create relationships between hundreds of people across the region.

Julia is the latest recipient of a Point of Light award, which recognises outstanding individual volunteers, people who are making a change in their community and inspiring others. Each day, someone, somewhere in the country is selected to receive the award to celebrate their remarkable achievements.

Prime Minister David Cameron said:

“By adding a range of fun activity events to the work of Luv2meetU, Julia has brought together people with learning disabilities from across Leeds. Whether they are looking for friendship or a relationship, she helps them to connect with each other and the wider community. The time and dedication Julia has put into the cause is truly impressive and I am delighted to be recognising her as a Points of Light.”

Alongside her work with Luv2MeetU, Julia volunteers with a number of other organisations including The Samaritans as a listening volunteer, Advonet as an advocate for adults with learning disabilities and the Holocaust Survivors Friendship Association as a legacy speaker.

Julia is the 472nd winner of the Points of Light award which has been developed in partnership with the hugely successful Points of Light programme in the USA and was first established by President George H. W. Bush. Over 5,000 US Points of Light have been awarded and both President George H. W. Bush and President Barack Obama have publicly supported the partnership with Points of Light UK which honours shining examples of volunteering across the country.

Regardless of whether it’s a doctor restoring local monuments in her free time, a father teaching young people life skills, or a local musician giving a voice to lonely people, the Point of Light award honours shining examples of volunteering across the UK.

Julia said:

“I have seen Hft’s Luv2MeetU project develop and grow over the past four years, and it has been an absolute pleasure to volunteer with all of the members, volunteers and staff across the project. Luv2MeetU is a fantastic project, that really does change people’s lives. It has changed my life, and I am honoured to have been awarded the Points of Light Award.”

Karen England, Project Development Manager at Hft’s Luv2meetU said:

“Love and friendship matters to everyone. People are much happier when they have loving, supportive friends and relationships. People like Julia are fundamental to Luv2meetU’s work to help people with learning disabilities achieve lasting love and friendships. We are so proud of Julia for being awarded a Points of Light Award. It’s a wonderful achievement and very well deserved.”

To find out more about Hft or Luv2meetU, or to find out how you can get involved, please go online to www.hft.org.uk.