Saturday, 26 April 2008

An inspirational day

I had one of those days yesterday where you put your feet up at the end of it and feel totally inspired by the people you have spent the day with.

I started my day with a meeting with Citizens Advice in Chatham. I am a huge fan of the work Citizens Advice does and regularly receive their newsletters but until yesterday I hadn't been in an advice centre. I met with the manager, one of the Trustees, and one of the specialists and I came away extremely impressed by their hard work and dedication. I felt like I learnt a great deal more about Citizens Advice than I knew already - i.e. how they interact with other agencies and public services, the relationships they have with Councils, the process they go through with a client, and their exciting new plans for the Bureau going forward.

Then after an excellent lunch with the Thames Gateway Chamber of Commerce, I headed over to see a voluntary project run by a local man Mark Spurgeon (pictured) that provides activity programmes for people with learning and/or physical disabilities. I spent a long time talking to Mark about why he did it, what drove him to effectively give up a career and put on the twice-weekly sessions for people and their carers completely voluntarily. His answers were amazing. He was simply fed up with watching people going to sessions where everyone had to do the same activity regardless of whether they wanted to, or even could, do it. When we walked into the church hall where the programme meets, it was chaos. Some people were drawing, others were playing air hockey, some were doing puzzles, and one young man was making a complete racket on the drums. But they were all so happy. And so were their carers. One carer told me that this is the only place she'll bring two clients to, because they are so relaxed. Another carer told me that it was nice to come somewhere we she could talk to other carers with a cup of coffee - it took some of the stress out of the job for an hour or so a week. Mark's enthusiasm was exhausting! His dedication however is amazing.

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