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Harry Jones issued the writers of Bedford's Changing Lives Magazine a huge challenge. He provided us with seven pages of beautifully hand-written words, divided into neat, well thought-out sections and asked us to tell his story.

The pages open with the words “My life in Bedford is incredible,” and close with “[Bedford will help you to find] something new that’s unique about you in your heart. [It’s your] story that no one can write for you… we’re lucky we get our own path.”

We certainly can’t write Harry’s story for him, but hope that this article gives you some idea of the kind of man Harry is.

Let’s cut straight to a spoiler alert – Harry is thriving. He is happy with his work and highly-valued by his employer APG South, where he has recently been awarded Achiever of the Year.

He feels secure at home at Balyana, is an accomplished cook, has good friends and a full social schedule – it was hard to find time with Harry to take a photo for this article, so we’ve used one of him performing with Bedford Beats at the SALA event last year. Singing is one of Harry’s life-long passions, and his dream is to land a recording contract. (If anyone in the music biz out there is reading this, please get in touch!)

But the path to success has not been a straight line, and it’s taken a lot of work to get here – work that Harry has tirelessly invested in himself. In his pages, he writes about what must have been a traumatic childhood, “I was born with rough life, losing 7 members of my family who passed away, I was bullied for 6 years, and I was born with Trisomy 21 intellectual disability.”

Harry says, “Having disability is not easy for your parents and yourself to deal with and is hard to understand,” but this does not stop his determination to tread “…my own path and follow my own dreams,” - a phrase that occurs repeatedly in different ways throughout Harry’s writing, and a guiding principle that is clearly important to him.

“My success in Bedford is… [about the] opportunity provided for me to be inspire[d].” Harry is a strong advocate for Bedford’s Open Employment, Supported Independent Living, and Day Options & Experiences programs, and believes they have each, in their way, allowed him to explore who he is, and what he wants his life to be. And he says that anyone can do it if “…they believe, respect, hope and, most importantly, are honest with themselves.”

Harry shifted in to Balyana in 2020. At first he had some difficulties making the transition, but he found out that it was ok to ask for help. He describes those first weeks at Balyana; “It didn’t went (sic) well but I was supported by staff and James, Vincent [and] Michael. I never knew… that support makes your story strong.”

But Harry has certainly settled in to his new home, and credits it with giving him the confidence and security to be himself; “Once you have life in Balyana [the] more times you believe in your story and yourself.”

Let’s let Harry have the final words. “Having disability in the right place, [where you are] provide[d] independent living, open employment will change your life as men, women. You can get more with your life. I’m writing this to say… no matter what disability you have just follow your path and don’t let disability ruin your story.”

For information about current Supported Independent Living vacancies at Balyana in Clapham, please call 8374 3074 or visit our page for more information.