We invited some special guests for afternoon tea at the M&S Cafe at Glasgow Fort, to say thank you for their amazing hard work and dedication to their community, in honour of International Women's Day 2019. Guests included Maureen Burke (Labour Councillor), Maureen Ferrie (Director of GESH charity), representatives from the Women’s Centre, Karen Ciantar from Barnardos, Allison (Manager of M&) and Lorna (Manager of Boots). You can read more about Maureen Ferrie and her acheivements below...
What does your job involve?
GESH for the last 15 years has been a self-funded Charity and is open 7 days a week, 8:30am-10pm weekdays, 8:30am-12am Saturdays and 8:30am-4pm Sundays. As manager and founder of the charity I coordinate the programme and activities within the centre ensuring that we initiate funds to cover the heavy running costs as well as providing a wide and varied programme for both our disabled members and group as well as the wider community. I also recruit staff and volunteers, organise training and manage the day to day aspect of running the centre. I attend meetings and liaise with agencies and grant making organisations with regards to funding.
How long has the GESH been active?
The GESH charity was founded in 1979 by my husband and myself. Michael and I worked as youth leaders in Lochend Youth Wing and every Christmas we did a project with the youth to give a party at Christmas for disabled children. It was through this project that we discovered that there was little or no clubs for disabled children. We approached our, then supervisor who agreed to allow us to form a club for disabled children 2 nights per week. We started the club in 1974 with 16 members and by 1978 we had over 70 members and it just kept growing. In 1979 we registered as a charity and began looking for new premises to enable us to extend our nights and programmes. In 1981, we managed to purchase a run-down scout hall which required substantial repairs. However, with my husband’s skills and the hard work of skilled volunteers and applying for funds through grant organisations, we completely renovated the hall. Again the membership grew and when community education decided to close the Community Centre, I managed to convince Glasgow City Council to give me the lease of the building, which was within months of being pulled down on the conditions that we did all urgent repairs required, including a new roof, toilets and a complete kitchen as the centre had been badly vandalised due to being empty for almost a year. Again, we managed to do all the repairs required which is still ongoing to this present day. We now have over 250 disabled members and over 36 different caring agencies that use our services. We also have over 100 senior citizen members and have a wide and varied programme for the community and a first-class function hall.
What motivates you?
I am motivated mainly by knowing I can make a difference in the local community by creating opportunities for vulnerable people and the wider community. I enjoy giving people the opportunity to volunteer and watching the difference it makes to their confidence when they go on to apply for jobs. I also enjoy building partnerships and creating services within the centre to support the local community. I was 25 years of age when we first started the disabled club and I will be 72 years old this year so GESH has been a very big part of mines and my husband’s lives and I am proud of what we have achieved as it is known as one of the best social and recreational facilities for disabled adults with over 200 attending our Friday night disco every week. I am also proud of the facility we have managed to give the local community. Sadly, my husband suffers from dementia and is in a care home permanently, however the staff tell me he continues to have the GESH close to his heart and he consistently tries to organise the residents telling them he is planning social events and asks the staff if they would like to volunteer for GESH.
How do you motivate others?
I motivate others by involving as many people as possible in GESH and creating a welcoming environment. I have a caring personality and have built trusting relationships with staff, volunteers, members and the community. I think that the volunteers are motivated as they know they are valued and the centre wouldn’t be here without them. When volunteers see the pleasure and fun our disabled members have, especially at the Friday night disco, I think it really gives them pleasure and makes it all worthwhile. I always make a point of thanking them and tell them what a great job they are doing and just how much they are appreciated. I encourage fun and laughter with both staff and volunteers an insist that if they are unhappy in any matter, they can come and discuss any problems with me. I also highlight like to encourage them to share any ideas on how we can improve our service.
Who are the inspirational women in your life?
As well as my own mother who was both kind and caring and worked all her days, helped neighbours or friends who was down in their luck, I admire all mothers of disabled children and adults. The love, care and devotion I have witnessed have been truly inspirational. It also inspires me to hardworking women making a difference in their local communities.
Tell us about your community involvement...
I started working in Lochend School as a dancing teacher at the age of 19 teaching ballroom dancing. At the age of 21, I became a youth leader and have worked in the community ever since. As well a being involved in GESH since the early 70s, I worked full time as an after school care coordinator for 30 years and was based in St Leonards School and later, St Benedict’s in Easterhouse. I have been on numerous committees which include, Area Partnership, Local Grants Area Committee, East End Health Committee and the Licensing Committee. I was also in charge of a contract for Community Service Payback which GESH held for over 7 years and I am part of the local community council in which I used to be the Chairperson. I’ve been in this committee for 6 years now. My community involvement through GESH includes kids activities, clubs for the elderly and disabled, creating services for local people such as employment, access to local councillors, training opportunities, volunteering, seasonal events such as Easter, Gala, Xmas lunches, Santas Grotto and access to services which support people with barriers.
I would like to add that GESH would not be where it is today without the generosity of groups such as, Glasgow Fort, Morrisons and numerous grant funders who supported s over the years. Along with the help of wonderful and dedicated volunteers, many of whom have been with us for 20+ years, it is their dedication and support that make GESH what it is today.