World Autism Awareness Week: Edinburgh man thanks supportive community for never 'judging' him
Murray MacDonald has been lending a hand to other vulnerable people throughout lockdown and has taken World Autism Awareness Week to thank all those who have supported him in return.
Mr MacDonald, 28, said that as an autistic person the most challenging part of the coronavirus pandemic was adapting to life without his loved ones.
He has lived in Edinburgh for almost ten years and was gearing up for his first Christmas away from his family in 2020, when he decided to start making soup for other people in similar situations.
He told the Evening News: “It was heartbreaking for a lot of people, including myself, not to get home for Christmas, but I realised that there were a lot of people around who were much worse off than me.
"I just wanted to do something to try to cheer people up, so I popped a post up on The Meadows Share Facebook page offering to make soup for anyone who wanted it and since then it’s just grown.”
In addition to making and delivering soup, Mr MacDonald also offers support in the form of running errands like collecting shopping and picking up prescriptions.
He doesn’t ask for payment and has said that the continued support and love he has been shown by the people of Edinburgh “melts his heart”.
Given the restrictions, most of his communication has been through social media, but Mr MacDonald said that he’s recognised almost every time he’s out in Edinburgh.
People will call out to him on the street, thanking him for his work or just to say hello.
He plans to continue his work post-lockdown saying it makes him “happy to see other people smiling”.
Before taking it upon himself to help others through the pandemic, Mr MacDonald had spent years advocating for other people with autism.
He even started a charity, Autism on the Water, in 2016 to raise awareness of the condition.
He grew up in a sailing family in Oban and said the activity helped him gain confidence and social skills, and that he hoped his charity would do the same for others.
He said: “I was at a loss for what to do in my life and I realised that combining my passion of autism advocacy with my love of sailing could be something.
"I had no plan and no money, I just set up a Facebook page and it took off from there.”
Autism on the Water is now a registered charity and enjoys global recognition from places including America, Hong Kong and New Zealand.
This week is World Autism Awareness Week and Mr MacDonald has taken the opportunity to thank his followers for their support.
He said: “Autism awareness is ongoing every single day, but this is a chance to see and feel what autistic people have achieved and what support is still needed.
“The pandemic has been really challenging, I have faced a significant amount of bullying, for being exempt from wearing a mask as an example, and it’s been difficult, but this year more than ever, seeing the amount of love, and the number of caring people that are still out there after I’ve had those negative experiences has been brilliant.
"They don’t judge me, they just absolutely melt my heart with their support.”