Welcome to ‘5 minutes with…’, our new series of interviews to introduce you to the many different people involved with Rainbow Living.
Our latest 5 minutes with interview is with Val Symons, who joined as a Director in 2021. Read on to find out more about Val.
Please tell us a bit about yourself. I am married with two adult children, and have always lived in Devon. I have worked in administration jobs - mainly banking, book keeping, and accounts - but now just work on a voluntary basis.
How did you hear about Rainbow Living? As a family, we joined Belmont Chapel about 20 years ago, and I am in a house group with one of the other Directors, so have been aware of Rainbow Living for a long time.
What attracted you to the role of Director at Rainbow Living? I was approached and now that I am no longer in paid work, was looking for something that was fulfilling but flexible around other voluntary work.
What do you like most about Rainbow Living and the work the charity does? The provision of stable homes for the tenants.
What would you most like to achieve in your capacity as a Director at Rainbow Living? To facilitate the ongoing work of the existing Directors.
Tracey Rockey joined as a Director in 2018.
Please tell us a bit about yourself. I arrived in Devon to train as a teacher and worked as a Primary teacher after graduating. I became aware of how challenging the education system can be for those with additional needs, so my work drew me more and more towards this aspect of education. I eventually moved from main stream education to ‘link education’ - working with those who weren’t in a mainstream placement for a variety of reasons.
How did you hear about Rainbow Living? Two of the families within our Belmont homegroup had children with additional needs. As I got to know them, I heard them talking of their desire for an independent future for their young people. I heard about Rainbow homegroup and often areas for prayer were shared within the group. As the journey continued for the parents we were able to share in the challenges and answered prayers as Rainbow Living emerged as a charity. It was such a privilege I asked if I could work with them to tell their story by writing a book. Over the course of a couple of years the details were collected together written, re- written and eventually published as a book.
What attracted you to the role of Director at Rainbow Living? Having been on the fringes of Rainbow Living for so long I wanted to support in a different way. With my professional background I wanted to use my skills to support the charity to develop the ‘living’ side of things, which was part of their original vision – not just accommodation ‘landlords’ but opportunities to develop individually. This is not for now but possibly in the future as the charity grows.
What do you like most about Rainbow Living and the work the charity does? The way they recognise the worth of individuals in a society where those with disability are often marginalised.
What would you most like to achieve in your capacity as a Director at Rainbow Living? To help others realise that disabled people can live an independent life in a safe supported environment and parents don’t have to fear about the future of their young people even if they are no longer able to care for them.
What do you think the future holds for Rainbow Living? More houses, but also an additional ‘offer’ of occupation/ opportunities, facilitating disabled adults to live fulling lives.
What do you feel are the key challenges and/or best opportunities facing the charity sector generally? Funding, and particularly the funding formulas for housing/care which could impact hugely in the services on offer, is a challenge. However, the need to house and care for those with disability will remain so it is also a massive opportunity.
Introducing Clive Hughes, who joined Rainbow Living as a Director earlier this year.
Please tell us a bit about yourself. I grew up in the Manchester area, my first job was with Boots the Chemist in Nottingham. I was involved in my local church there and I moved to Exeter in 2004 to work as part of the Leadership Team at Belmont Chapel.
How did you hear about or know about Rainbow Living? Through the families at Belmont Chapel
What attracted you to the role of Director at Rainbow Living? I have friends who are involved with Rainbow Living, and friends who are benefiting from the charity so I can see first hand how the charity makes a tangible difference.
What do you like most about Rainbow Living and the work the charity does? I love the fact that Rainbow Living is people centered; the ethos of the charity considers the whole family as well as the tenant.
What would you most like to achieve in your capacity as a Director at Rainbow Living? I would like to see sustainable growth and tenancies.
If there was one thing you would change about Rainbow Living it would be…I'm not sure, I wouldn’t want to presume at this stage! Maybe the confidence to see what is possible.
What do you think the future holds for Rainbow Living? Good things! There is a clear and definite opportunity to serve many.
What do you feel are the key challenges and/or best opportunities facing the charity sector generally? Challenge – changes in social care funding. Opportunities – participation of local community.
Our first interview is with Dave Hopton who recently joined the charity as a Director; read on to find out more about Dave, his thoughts for the future, and how he hopes to support Rainbow Living as we grow!
Please tell us a bit about yourself
I hail from Birmingham and moved to Exeter in 2009 to study Politics, which included spending some time in the US. After graduating in 2013 I moved to London briefly to work in finance but moved back to Exeter to work in financial technology as a Product Manager at Crowdcube, an equity crowdfunding platform.
How did you hear about or know about Rainbow Living?
I’m a member of Belmont Chapel so have known of Rainbow Living for a while, but within the last 6 months I really started to get to know the team and learn more about Rainbow’s plans for the future.
What attracted you to the role of Director at Rainbow Living?
There are multiple things! What Rainbow Living enables is life changing for the tenants and families involved, so being able to support that work is a real privilege. Because of the impact Rainbow has, and the consequent plans to grow so we can help more people, the charity is at a really interesting stage of development and there is lots of work to be done to prepare for that growth and execute it well. The chance to get involved and offer my services was a very exciting prospect and I’m glad to be on board.
What do you like most about Rainbow Living and the work the charity does?
I love that Rainbow Living enables adults to live independent lives with the security of stable, high quality housing. It’s easy to assume that would be possible for everyone but sadly that’s not the case, and it’s therefore unsurprising that demand for more Rainbow houses increases each month. What that independence enables for tenants and their families is fantastic; calling it life changing is not an overstatement!
What would you most like to achieve in your capacity as a Director at Rainbow Living?
The next chapter of Rainbow Living brings some interesting challenges and opportunities. Growing our network of supporters, carefully acquiring and developing new properties, and continuing to thoughtfully build and refine how Rainbow itself operates are all things I would love to help develop.
If there was one thing you would change about Rainbow Living it would be…
Lots of change that comes with this stage of growth is already underway so I don’t think there’s any one thing I would point to. Ask me in a year!
What do you think the future holds for Rainbow Living?
I think the future looks incredibly bright (though not orange)! Over the last 10 years the team has done an amazing job laying fantastic foundations, and that now enables us to look forward at an exciting range of opportunities from a position of strength. With a prudent approach, I hope and believe that we’ll be able to offer increased residential accommodation for adults with learning disabilities that meets a real local need. I also hope that we are able to share our expertise to help constructively influence policy and guide other organisations to have a positive impact in this space.
What do you feel are the key challenges and/or best opportunities facing the charity sector generally?
The growth and importance of technology offers both challenges and opportunities for all charities, including Rainbow Living. Done well, I think it can really help organisations operate effectively – especially where that are particular constraints on resources and every penny counts. However, technology moves so quickly that keeping up and determining what tech to use is not easy to do. I’m interested to see how we at Rainbow Living can use technology to help us further our mission.