Nicola’s Blog


Time and time again when I read about the groups that DCF support there are reoccurring themes. Whether it is the elderly, people with dementia, veterans, LGBT, youth clubs, all are subject to social isolation because of their situation.

Groups helping people with a common disability, in this case people who have experienced a stroke, are invaluable in restoring SELF-CONFIDENCE (this is a huge word and the lack of self-confidence is at the heart of many social isolation issues) providing a launch pad back into community life.

My research for this blog started with Andrew Marr, political commentator, television presenter and writer, who suffered a life-threatening stroke in January 2013, leaving him partially paralysed down his left side. He quickly regained his ability to speak and was able to resume work. But he is still frustrated by lack of movement in his left arm, hand and leg. Earlier this year he did a documentary for the BBC, which provided a very intimate story about his recovery and explored his mission to understand the mysteries of the human brain and to achieve further recovery. He meet some of Britain’s million plus stroke survivors and travelled the world in search of a miracle cure. Fascinating stuff! There are still two clips available on BBC i-player, which provide an insight into the condition and his recovery:

Painting played a big part of Marr’s recovery. Similarly Torbay Stroke Survivors Group have introduced computer skills to help members of their group. This aids dexterity, coordination, fine motor skills and muscle strengthening. But importantly group members have cited additional, more emotive benefits, including hope, confidence (that important word again), self-esteem, sense of achievement and inspiration to help others.

The Torbay group has been built by its members through peer support to be self-sufficient, with many of the members becoming volunteers themselves. One member now talks to large audiences about his journey, and the impact his stroke has had on his life, to help the understanding of others: “It has been a most humbling and wonderful experience, seeing people grow and develop, people who feel they still have a place in our community.”

Another common theme in my blogs is that we should not underestimate the benefits to of such groups to support wider friends and family, and other carers. Their lives have been turned upside down too!

Torbay Stroke Survivors group requested the funds from DCF to pay for running costs to enable their group to continue and to allow them to pay their own way. This has also helped reduce costs for the local health services, in these times of austerity, by being a self-help group. They hope that the continuation of the group will raise their profile and encourage similar groups to replicate what they do across the country.

I am reminded of a “Pause for Thought” (I bought a collection of scripts from BBC Radio Two’s feature with contributors from a variety of faiths, and none, ‘as new’ from a charity shop recently. I am sure I will be quoting from them a lot in future blogs!), by YY Rubinstein – Orthodox Rabbi, author and speaker, where he talked about an elderly man visiting the synagogue for prayer. He said: “I see the same old fellow hobbling along holding onto a walker . . . Don’t try and help him climb the four stairs into the building. He wants to climb those steps himself!” He goes on to say that the old man is the first to welcome strangers to the synagogue.

People with disabilities don’t want sympathy or to be patronised, they want facilitation, financial or otherwise, to grow in CONFIDENCE to build their own support groups and, is the case with Torbay Stroke Survivors Group, to help others not only locally but across the country! Huge ambitions but why not?