Heather Clarke, a long time reader of bespoken got in touch with us and told us more about the charity she works for. Coming up for its sixtieth anniversary, Heather gave us some of what the organisation known as ‘Phab’ means to her, and to its members.

Heather has worked for Phab for 32 years, beginning as a secretary for the Midlands regional development and support officer, the role she now holds. The length of her tenure has been enriched by the cohesive friendly work environment, where help is always available: “We're all just like a big family”. This ethos has carried Phab from strength to strength.

In Heather's words, Phab's mission is “Making more of life together. The aim is to promote and encourage people of all abilities to come together on equal terms to achieve complete inclusion within the wider community.” There are about 80 Phab-affiliated clubs across the country, catering for both youths and adults, able-bodied and disabled. People who have aged out of the Junior (under 18) clubs often remain or return to join the Senior clubs, proving how important the fun and cameraderie can be. Heather affirms that “Everyone is treated exactly the same, regardless of ability, and help is available if it’s needed.” Clubs usually meet once a week, and engage in a wide range of social activities, like quizzes, games and circus skills like hula hooping.

As well as clubs, Phab organise day and weekend activities that cover a bewildering range of activities, like canoeing, climbing, abseiling, caving, horse riding, sailing, archery and zip wire. Given the fast pace of these projects, it’s just as well each day begins with a cooked breakfast! Everyone is encouraged to participate in their own way: for example wheelchair users can take part in indoor climbing at Bendrigg Lodge, using their climbing access ramp to reach the top and abseiling off. These trips are mostly run by volunteers who receive training appropriate to their roles. As well as having fun, these trips are an opportunity for young people to learn life skills which help them thrive in the wider world.
As well as land bound venues in the Lake District and Derbyshire, Phab members regularly take to the waves on the Tenacious, a fully accessible wooden tall ship, run by the Jubilee Sailing Trust. (I was excited to find out about this connection, as a good friend of mine met her husband-to-be aboard the Tenacious, which formed the theme for their wedding last year.)

Phab are registered with the charity commission, and carrying out 

according to the rules is a high priority for Heather and her colleagues. Keeping things “squeaky clean” has surely contributed to their longevity, as they are coming up on their diamond jubilee. Heather assures me that Phab are looking forward to another sixty years of fun and friendship for all ages and

To find out if there’s a Phab club in your area, check out their website(or their sister organisation FABB if you live in Scotland.)

Like what you just read? Check out some more topics on bespoken:

Pony Access: how Simon Mulholland is opening up the countryside.

Blind Accessible Board Games

Late - Fully inclusive night club event

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