Help & Advice7th November 2013

An Introduction to Gloucester Deaf Association

Under good leadership and clear direction Gloucester Deaf Association offers a range of services

by Sarah Lawrence

Group out in sun

Gloucestershire Deaf Association (GDA) is a local Deaf charity. Under Chief Executive Jenny Hopkins, the GDA has developed over the past five years into an award-winning organisation. Even a pensions crisis this past year hasn’t slowed the innovation and creativity that has become a defining feature of the way the organisation deals with the challenges Deaf people face.

At the start of 2013, GDA found itself at crunch time in what had been a year-long crisis. It was faced with having to sell off its much loved community building in Barnwood, Gloucester, to have any hope of saving itself from a £481,000 pensions black hole. However, after consultation with its local Deaf community, the organisation changed its plan and instead managed to negotiate a settlement that involved selling just half the site, thereby retaining its building – the heart of Gloucestershire’s Deaf community.

GDA and its local Deaf community, which share the Community Centre building, are now working together to use the sale as a springboard for exciting future developments. Commenting on the way forward, Jenny said, “We have always had a very clear vision of where we are going, and addressing the pensions deficit now is not going to prevent or slow down our progress”.

GDA’s well established services include a communications support department, provision of listening aid equipment, hearing aid maintenance and deaf awareness training. It also provides regular social activities through its Deaf Club, Lunch Club, Children’s and Youth Clubs, Lip reading classes and Hard of Hearing Clubs.

Computers Training

Earlier this year, following a successful fundraising programme, GDA was able to open an Education and Training Room within its Centre for Deaf People, complete with eight brand new laptop computers and projector. Courses are fully under way, with around 20 people attending weekly workshops on subjects including ‘Seeking Employment Through Information Technology’, ‘Money Matters’ and basic English and Maths.  Three people have already gone on to find employment, and another, her first ever work experience role.

GDA recognises that being ready for employment isn’t just about acquiring computer skills, but building self confidence as well. This Autumn, two young deaf women, who have benefitted from GDA’s Youth Club services, will take on a Three Peaks Challenge as part of a fund raising activity. Having started out so nervously, it has been wonderful to watch their self-esteem grow. After a presentation to a local business breakfast group, they were delighted to see their sponsorship money soar as the businesses got behind their challenge – this only happened because they stood up and told their story. In doing this challenge they are not only proving to themselves they can do anything, but to the entire Deaf community – young and old. Their determination to succeed has been inspiring, and we wish them every success.

Six months ago, GDA was delighted to receive two ‘GLOscar’ awards for outstanding achievement, including one for ‘Best Use of Social Media’. This recognised, in particular, the success of GDA’s Facebook community page, and the 4-5 minute BSL video newsletter created every week to keep members up to date with news. This initiative has proved so popular, it is perhaps one that other Deaf charities may want to look at as a way of increasing interactivity, improving communication, and also driving people to their website from Facebook.

Visit GDA today and there is a buzz about the place. Architects are working on drawings that will transform the Community Centre to make better use of the space within and around the building; Monday mornings see people arriving with enthusiasm for their next workshop; and everywhere staff, volunteers, Deaf club members and visitors, enjoy a community spirit and sense of purpose that has never been stronger. If the last year has proved testing at times, as the charity has worked through its pension problem, it has learned above all else that achievements are often only limited by a lack of determination and ambition.

It is safe to say that the GDA today, has plenty of that! 

Article by Sarah Lawrence

posted in Community / Help & Advice

7th November 2013