We are delighted to be supporting Paddy's Purpose, a children's workshop designed to break down the barriers on disability run by Gemma Cardona.
Gemma started Paddy’s Purpose as she wanted disabled children, like Paddy, to be accepted and not feared, to make people think and challenge how the world sees disability. In an increasingly accessible world it is more important than ever that disability is talked about and where better to start than with todays children who will be the driving force towards a more inclusive society.
Gemma brings her 11 year old son Paddy to these sessions. He has cerebral palsy, epilepsy, is non verbal & in a wheelchair. But this does not define who he is.
Gemma was a youth worker with Dorset County Council & had been a children’s entertainer. She has managed to combine both experiences to produce a fun filled educational workshop.
The workshops which last approx one and a half hours (with groups of 20-30 children) are relaxed, interactive and fun. Visual aids & Paddy himself are used to prompt the children to ask questions. They talk about daily routines, tube feeding, health & wellbeing & how Paddy uses various equipment to help him throughout the day. The children also learn how Paddy can access the things they like to do, like ice skating, bowling, cycling, but in a slightly different way. Finally the children get to explore some of Paddy’s sensory toys & have a go in a wheelchair.
The children leave these sessions with acceptance & a new understanding of children like Paddy. They go from being initially nervous of him to enthusiastically pushing him around in his wheelchair. The positive feedback from these workshops is amazing and Paddy’s Purpose has recently been featured by the BBC.
Having a disabled child can happen to anyone. I had no experience and no idea about the world of disability. I assumed that if you had disabilities the NHS/government would just provide. I gave annually to charity and got on with my quite mundane life, blissfully unaware of the massive shortfall in resources, equipment and facilities that people living with disabilities have to face.
Everything is a battle, and I am now a warrior fighting alongside the very best to bring equality and inclusion for everybody.
Paddy and Gemma came to visit our local scout group to teach the Beavers what it’s like living with a disability. Gemma was able to explain special needs to the children in such a creative way, keeping them engaged and learning throughout. The children looked beyond the disabilities and tough challenges that Paddy may have ahead, and looked at him as a child to play with and learn from. Having visits from children like Paddy and dedicated parents like Gemma enables the children to enrich their awareness of social diversity and inclusion.
Thank you so much to you both, for inspiring us all.
Alice at Somerford
Gemma and Paddy have paid a few visits to our Beaver Scout group over the last few years and the kids loved them! Kids always have questions about people like Paddy but they are often silenced by their parents out of embarrassment. Gemma encourages all questions and gives honest answers. It’s a wonderful opportunity for others to learn about Paddy’s way of life and also to appreciate that whilst he is different and has his own challenges, he is a lot like them in many ways.
Iain Hunter – Mudeford Beavers