A charity that custom-makes gadgets and equipment to improve the lives of disabled people is expanding into the Gillingham area.
Each year Remap provides 3,000 pieces of equipment nationally to help disabled people achieve greater independence and quality of life – and every single item is free of charge. The charity steps in to fill the gap when there are no other suitable products available on the market to meet an individual’s specific need.
Around 900 volunteers around the UK- many of them engineers by trade or experienced hobbyists and DIY enthusiasts – are involved in creating these unique tools and gadgets or adapting commonly-used items that those without a disability take for granted. They often help address the challenges of everyday tasks such as washing a cup, riding a bicycle or taking a bath.
One such volunteer comes from Gillingham.
It was during lockdown that Paul Mackenzie began to think about volunteering. Like many people, Paul found that the Covid crisis prompted a period of introspection and a reassessment of what was important to him.
‘Not having to commute, I had more time on my hands and started thinking about what was missing from me and my experiences compared to some of my peers,’ he says.
‘To my shame, I found I had no evidence of volunteering or doing anything besides my job. It struck me that I wanted to give something back.’#
Paul, 56, has had a successful career in the mobile telecommunications industry and is a self-confessed ‘techie’ who loves nothing more than tinkering in his workshop at home in Gillingham.
So when he discovered a charity whose volunteers use their passion for engineering and electronics to create customised equipment for disabled people, he was intrigued.
‘I’d never heard of Remap before,’ he admits. ‘But when I started looking into what they do and the people they help, it seemed a great fit for my interests, experience and expertise.’
Remap was founded nearly 60 years ago and has more than 70 branches across the UK. Following a recent National Lottery grant of £96,000, the charity is now aiming to expand to other areas of the country where there is a need for its services.
One of these areas is North Dorset. Paul says: ‘There’s lots of demand from users but not enough people to provide the service. I became quite quickly convinced that this was something I wanted to do. I spoke to various people, and even found some work colleagues, who are already involved with Remap around the country and they told me there’s a real sense of accomplishment.’
Paul has now volunteered to chair the new North Dorset branch and is appealing to people in the local community who would like to join him.
He says: ‘We would welcome support from anyone aged over 18 with an interest or expertise in working with materials, such as wood, metal or has a technical or electronics background. But we also need people with administrative, finance or book-keeping experience.’
Sue Boyes, General Manager at Remap, said: ‘We’re so grateful to Paul for offering to chair the new group and help us take the first step towards bringing our vital service to the North Dorset area. Now we’d love to hear from other people in the community who would like to be part of the new branch.’
Remap’s new North Dorset branch is based in Gillingham and covers Wincanton, Tisbury, Salisbury, Blandford Forum and Frome.
If you’re interested in joining Paul, have got some spare time and would like to help make more things possible for those in your local community, you can sign up online to become a volunteer today: https://www.remap.org.uk/volunteering/