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The Mencap Pool Lady

November 12, 2013

It is a great pleasure today, to host a guest post from a great frined of mine and Steven’s – Jean Lambert. Jean runs our local Mencap Pool and she has been such a tower of strength over the years, particularly during the horrible time of 2010. Jean has recently written a short piece about her volunteering experience and it is an honour to host Jean’s writing. Over to the lady herself……..

My volunteering experiences – Jean Lambert

In the early 1970’s there was a television programme called ‘Magpie’, the ITV version of ‘Blue Peter’, and like Blue Peter, Magpie had an appeal each Christmas. One year their aim was to provide holidays for children who would not normally have been able to have one. These included children from deprived backgrounds and also disabled children (sometimes both). I was working for British Airways at the time, and along with some of my colleagues decided that we were in the right place to be able to offer holidays in the same way. We formed a committee and eventually an in-house charity to raise funds. We approached the programme producers and made plans. That first year we were able to take 50 children to Jersey. We provided everything for them (some turned up at the airport with only a carrier bag of belongings), including nursing care where needed.

Following that holiday we continued to do several more, in fact it is now a very big organisation within British Airways providing holidays and days out for many more children. It was during one of these holidays that another helper suggested that I would be suitable to help with a holiday she was about to go on with adults with learning difficulties. I had had very little contact with this particular type of group but soon found that helping them was very rewarding, challenging and taught me so much about life from a different angle.

I gradually became more involved with this group and helped at their social club. I spent time talking with them, playing records, doing jigsaws, painting, dressmaking and loads of other activities. When the club leader moved away I was asked to take over the responsibility of running the club, organising holidays and fund-raising events.

The holidays were mainly at an exceptional place called Churchtown Farm in Cornwall. The centre is designed specifically for people with disabilities (run by SCOPE) and encourages personal development for all, including the most severely disabled. Activities included rock climbing, canoeing, sailing, camping (in gale force winds) , hiking, rockpooling and even sunbathing. The evenings were not empty, there were things to do there too, painting, swimming, photography, pottery, the list is endless.

I learnt so much with the group at Churchtown Farm, each person showed different abilities, not just different from each other but also from what they would normally do at home. At home their parents would have just made them sit in front of the TV for fear of hurting themselves, not allowing them to try ‘normal’ activities for themselves. With very careful management they were encouraged to achieve incredible feats. I remember standing watching a Downs Syndrome lady try for 2 hours to climb a rockface about 6 metres high. She did it and was so proud of herself (I started smoking again in the time!). Watching achievements like this spurred me on to jelp the same club raise enough money to build a hydrotherapy swimming pool. We raised £65,000 and in 1977 Roy Castle opened the ‘Jubilee Pool’.

Running the club became all consuming. I spent a considerable amount of my time attending meetings with the professional social care team to improve the day care provision for my friends who were not able to speak up for themselves.

Unfortunately an incident involving a male helper and some of the ladies attending the club resulted in a police investigation into sexual abuse. This was an extremely sensitive issue and meant hours of liasing with the appropriate offices to ensure the safety of all concerned. I helped to draw up a Sexual Abuse Awareness procedure foe voluntary groups in Hillingdon Borough alongside professional care workers.

I was elected to the Community Health Council with special interest in people with learning difficulties and served four years on this council. This involved inspecting hospitals and care homes and advising on health care issues with respect to the people with learning difficulties within Hillingdon’s health care system.

The amount of work that this entailed made me re-evaluate how best I could still do voluntary work and I eventually decided to concentrate on helping at the hydrotherapy pool. I now spend several evenings each week helping a dedicated team of volunteers to maintain the pool and help small groups of people with learning difficulties in the pool. Only 2 of our ‘Friday’ group can swim, but they all have great fun playing games in the water: Trevor had to be shown every week how to swim, he forgot by the next week; Ling liked to sit on the bottom of the pool; it was a joy to see Katie walk unaided for the first time in her 11 years when her father put weights around her ankles to hold them straight; Andrew would never go to the far end of the pool until his 25th birthday, when he was told he was now old enough to do it; Caroline is a quadriplegic and can do nothing for herself, but with flotations aids she was able to flick one foot to propel her through the water, she really shouts loud when she gets near the pool. I could go on, stories about each swimmer but the important thing for me is to see the enjoyment they all get from the pool.

Some of the things I have needed to help these people with are feeding, washing, dressing, toiletting (including changing incontinence materials), and also supporting them verbally and physically to achieve their potential.


From → Social Care

  1. Weary Mother permalink

    Not for pay, not for status, and totally inclusive………and not a trace of gobbleday gook. What a wonderful story and what a wonderful woman. ……………………..And uplifting, and where would we parents be without her and the many similarly wonderful people. I forget to look, for the other side of life is so hard at present. This is the best. Thank you.

  2. Sally permalink

    Please tell Jean thank you thank you.Practical, kindly, giving the disabled the chance to have experiences which will make them happy and proud. I bet everybody-young people and carers look forward to the activities so happily and eagerly. Here is the real assistance we all need-modified so everybody can enjoy it, rich and fun , extra help on tap, workers who like the participants and encourage them..(when does a LD person get to climb and sunbathe?)
    In a sane society people like Jean would be well paid and honored.Jean we can’t give you a banker’s salary although God how we wish we could, but we all honor you.

  3. Thankyou Jean 🙂

  4. Great to hear about such a lovely, caring (in the true meaning of the word) lady!

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