How proud am I?
I find it hard to express how proud I am of Paul’s Place and all the people involved within it. Since 1995 we have grown so much with so many good people giving us their time, money and goodwill. We would never be where we are now without this generosity. Every day I have to pinch myself because otherwise I would just not believe it. How did just a thought turn into such a wonderful charity? I would like to tell you how it all began.
So here goes . . .
Until Paul’s Place came into existence there was no group supporting adults with physically disabilities in Bristol and the surrounding counties. I had previously worked with physically disabled adults over a number of years and had always felt that this group were treated so differently from the rest of society and were often patronised. I knew that things should and could be so different, as all people need to be treated with respect.
Paul’s Place began life in 1995. I asked some of my friends who were disabled if they wanted to go out during the evenings to socialise, and I would get other friends to support them with their needs. It was an immediate success. This was due to the fact that the charity belonged to its members. Everyone that belongs to Paul’s Place has the same rights as everyone else. All of the activities and programme are decided by its members. This created an environment that our members owned and all of us loved it, and willed it to be successful. Our rather unusual name was due to a very special friend, Paul Willmott. Paul had wanted to be involved with this new group. Sadly Paul passed away just as the group was formed. It is in his memory that we carry on our activities and he will always be remembered by our rather unusual name.
At first we met just once a month. This quickly evolved to 150 evenings per year. These evenings were great and gave our members the chance to go out all over Bristol and catch up with their friends. Over the next seven years we just grew and grew. One of the very special activities has been providing holidays. These are fantastic. Most of our members had never been away with friends of their own age and to be part of these has been wonderful. Seeing young people have the opportunity to express themselves in whatever way they want is heart warming. Our holidays have a double benefit when our members are away with us the relatives/carers have time off to relax and recharge their batteries.
Part of the Paul’s Place ethos is to support the whole family and this is something we have always taken very seriously. Right from the early days we have always been there with a shoulder to cry on, a giggle and a laugh and also to share information regarding all disabled issues.
After five years we began to look at what are members did during the day. There was only one day centre and most of the people that attended were older people and most of our group are young. We knew then that we needed to get the funding to open during the day. That was the hardest challenge ever. It took two years to get the funds and then we were ready to go. Our day facility has just grown and grown and is the most fantastic place. Warm and friendly – what more could you ask for? Since 1995 Paul’s Place has grown out of all recognition from the small group that used to meet in the evening. However, its basic philosophy of promoting independence and inclusive activities for disabled people remains unchanged. The effect of becoming a member offers many positive opportunities for the person and their family. Members are enabled to make connections with their local communities and participate in ways that others take for granted. Loneliness, isolation and depression are identified as feelings experienced by many members before they attend Paul’s Place. There is a therapeutic element to participation in our activities. Members are enabled to discuss their feelings with others by participating in group activities. This seemingly low-tech activity has enabled participants over the years to come to terms with their situations, develop new ways of coping and maximising their potential to live independently in the community. Paul’s Place has always belonged to its members and we will never forget why Paul’s Place started and that the charity belongs to its members.
I hope that Paul’s Place will always be there for everyone who needs it and I will always hold my head high knowing that I have been a part of it.
Kath Aldom MBE