For families of the severely disabled, caring for their loved one starts from the first breath and becomes a full-time job for the rest of their lives. Talbot House is a truly unique organisation that offers otherwise non-existent support to parents whose time is consumed by caring for their disabled children.
Forty-two years ago, four mothers of children with complex needs formed the humble beginnings of the charity. They found having a support network and time away from caring gave them back their quality of life. Ever since, Talbot House has worked tirelessly to provide a respite sanctuary for these parents where they can find help with everything they need, from filling in forms to getting pampered.
When manager Bernie Wood’s fifth child – Geoffrey – was born, no-one congratulated her because they found out Geoffrey had Downs Syndrome. However, Bernie was determined to live her, and her beautiful baby boy’s, life to the fullest. She says there have been hard times, but amazing times too, and for forty years she has dedicated her life and soul to help others regain their quality of life.
Bernie takes every day as it comes. The team at Talbot House solve everything thrown their way with a team of just five in the office, as well as dedicated volunteers, all of which are also parent carers. She tells me she doesn’t know how they manage it, but they continue to do what they do.
This care by the day method means no-one takes their work home with them. One of the social workers could find a job earning two or three times more, but she tore up her CV. This is a place full of people who understand that happiness comes from your head, not your material belongings.
Her non-PC approach is on show as she tells me about “Wheelchair Wallace” and the other colourful range of people that they help daily. Despite the circumstances, everyone is laughing and cracking jokes.
I visited on the day of their carer’s lunch and the sense of goodwill and love was overwhelming. I was welcomed with open arms by everyone I encountered. Every person I spoke to said the same thing: Talbot House feels like a family and without it the world would be a much colder, more lonely place. This incredible organisation is one which makes more people’s lives worth living.
Bev Dargan’s son has severe epilepsy and always requires care from two people. She has recently been nominated for the Spirit of Manchester Award for inspirational, committed voluntary work which enhances the lives of the people in her community. She, and many others, provide the support and facilities social services are not allocated the funds to supply. She says, “it’s not about money, it’s about love”.
Talbot House is a user-led charity and do nearly all their fundraising themselves. A young girl from one of the families is doing a four-hour walk across Sydney Harbour Bridge to raise money for the charity.
Spending the afternoon at Talbot House was one of the most enjoyable and rewarding experiences I have had in a while. They will welcome student volunteers with open arms, and you only need to commit an hour of your time if you wanted to give as little as an hour of your time to just help in any way you can. Or even just nip in for a cup of tea and a natter.
If you are interested in volunteering, donating or fundraising for Talbot House, you can find all the details on how to get in touch via their website.