Cultivating a culture of inclusion: our first intern Edesiri Eyeregba

March 12, 2024

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Jill Owens, National Programme Manager for Mindset XR, and Rayvathi John People Lead at the Health Innovation Network, celebrate our very first Intern Edesiri Eyeregba.

Back in September 2023 the HIN South London welcomed our very first Intern, Edesiri Eyeregba, an inspiring young man who was born with a visual impairment. Ed joined us with lots of enthusiasm, drive and a willingness to learn.

In this blog, Jill Owens talks about the positive experiences of working with Ed, welcoming him to the team, Ed’s work at the HIN and becoming his Mentor.
Rayvathi John discusses how Ed’s story is helping us to become a workplace that not only celebrates diversity but actively cultivates a culture of inclusion.

Jill Owens – National Programme Manager for Mindset XR

My most significant learning journey in 2023 was acting as mentor to Edesiri Eyeregba an intern from NHS Choices College. My learning began when preparing for Edesiri to join the Mental Health team for his first term at the HIN.

NHS Choices College provide tailored educational support, and a supported internship course for young adults aged 16-24 with learning difficulties/disabilities or autism. Last year the possibility of hosting an intern from the college was presented to our leadership team and our Head of Mental Health Aileen Jackson, recognised this opportunity as one fully aligned to our commitment to championing best outcomes and inclusion for all the South London population.

Over 2 per cent of the population are thought to have a learning disability. 1 per cent are estimated to have a diagnosis of autism, and some consider this figure a significant underestimation. Enabling people with a learning disability to find employment when they want it can enhance their quality of life, maintain a family and social life, contribute to their community, and help them avoid loneliness or isolation. Despite this we also know from data that the rate of employment for people with learning disabilities can be low, with some estimates at 5 per cent or less. Thus, the Mental Health team were delighted to support a young person to develop the skills they need for future employment.

We were delighted to welcome Edesiri into our team in September. Edesiri is open about having a disability. However, his experience through taking part in the Prince’s Trust, his work at school, college, and a smorgasbord of technology to support his natural capabilities meant he was quick to adapt to the office environment. The equipment included a Jaws talking Laptop which is connected to a QBraille and a BRL braille tablet which turns computer text into 3d braille.

It quickly became apparent that Edesiri is keen to develop a career in administration. He also loves being around new people, discussing new ideas, so in the first weeks he was scheduled to meet many of the HIN team, all of whom were impressed by his enthusiasm and eagerness to contribute to our work. Edesiri was given a variety of tasks, this included shadowing and taking notes of an external stakeholder meeting, researching and documenting developments in the field of extended reality for mental health, creating a checklist for what the HIN need to consider when hosting events to ensure inclusivity, a news item for the HIN newsletter, and a presentation on how sighted colleagues can best support a team member with visual impairment.

I was surprised at how much I took for granted navigating the world both physically and virtually being sighted, but also how with a positive attitude, enthusiasm, continual curiosity, and willingness to step outside of one’s ordinary comfort zone it is possible to achieve as much as Ed did in his first term of internship. Unfazed, and confident that he was up to any task, Edesiri progressed in independence rapidly, relying on his job coach for less and less, snapping up suggested tasks, confidently requesting adaptations to meet his needs, and continually mindful of achieving his ultimate goal of fulfilling paid employment. He was unfailingly punctual, well presented, kind and a positive influence on the team on an interpersonal level. I was also delighted to hear about all of the hobbies Edesiri enjoys, such as cycling and computer games with adaptations for visual impairment.

By the end of December, it was time to support transition to another HIN team so Edesiri could gain a variety of experience. As Edesiri’s mentor for that first term, I have learned so much about how to support colleagues with visual impairment and other disabilities. I have learned about the important aspects of fire safety, keeping the office free from trip-hazards, ensuring instructions are clear, and about ways of approaching people with mindfulness which can be applied to interactions with all colleagues. Above all I have learned that there is little that cannot be overcome to provide an inclusive and welcoming workspace for differently abled team members, who bring a vital perspective to our work here at the HIN.

Rayvathi John – People Lead HIN South London.

Ed is a valued member of our organisation who has been instrumental in reshaping our perspectives on workplace opportunities for individuals with disabilities.

The process has been a collective effort, and I am immensely grateful for the unwavering support and dedication from the members of our organisation who have supported Ed throughout his internship at the HIN. Their openness and commitment to providing a platform for him presents our shared values of diversity, equality, and inclusivity.

“Edesiri Eyeregba’s story serves as a beacon, guiding us towards a workplace that not only celebrates diversity but actively cultivates a culture of inclusion.” Rayvathi John, People Lead, Health Innovation Network South Lonon

Witnessing Ed’s journey unfold has been nothing short of inspiring. Ed’s presence has not only enriched our team dynamics but has also contributed to the importance of challenging stereotypes and fostering a workplace culture that celebrates differences. This experience reinforces the belief that societal change is most effective when we actively participate in providing equal opportunities. This story is a testament to the power of inclusivity and the positive transformations that occur when we actively support individuals with diverse abilities.

As we continue this journey, let us reflect on the importance of creating an environment where everyone, regardless of their abilities, has the chance to thrive.
Edesiri Eyeregba’s story serves as a beacon, guiding us towards a workplace that not only celebrates diversity but actively cultivates a culture of inclusion. The Barometer of a great workplace is how ready we are to support staff who are differently abled.

Watch the video below to learn more about Ed and his Internship at the HIN.

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