GDA's 100th anniversary - from 1997 to 2019

GDA's 100th anniversary - from 1997 to 2019

We conclude our look back at the last 100 years of GDA with the period from 1997 to 2019.

1998 saw the formation of the Gloucester Deaf Youth Club (GDYC) under the leadership of Rosemary Morgan and Malcolm Sinclair. Over the years GDYC, which later became Gloucester Deaf Youth Zone (GDYZ), supported many young people and their families by providing them with one-to-one support as well as fun and engaging activities including caving, horse riding and day trips to Longleat and Alton Towers. The club was run by a number of dedicated volunteers who gave considerable time and effort to ensure the club continued running effectively and efficiently for it's members.

By the end of the twentieth century, financial difficulties led to the closure of the Butlin Home for the Deaf, in 1999. Thankfully the residents were able to move, together, to a new home in Brockworth, along with a number of their care staff. The financial troubles also meant that staff levels at GDA had to be reduced and other cost cutting measures put in place to help sustain the viability of GDA and maintain all the services it provided.

It was in the same year that the charity celebrated it's 80th anniversary with a service at Christ Church, Brunswick Road, Gloucester on the 27th November.

The new millennium saw the appointment of Maggie Conu following the departure of Nigel Bone in 1999. Maggie joined the organisation with experience of having worked with other charities and running her own businesses. At the time Maggie was also a voluntary Chair of the Advisory Council for BBC Radio Gloucestershire. Maggie began her first Annual Report in 2000 with her intentions for the charity which included:

  • publicising the work of the Community Support Unit
  • assisting Deaf people to find work, especially young people
  • raising public awareness of the issues Deaf people faced
  • increase awareness of GDA as a whole

Following a trial event a month before, in January 2005 the GDA Lunch Club was formed. The club which was the idea of two staff members at the time, Gerald Amor and Angela Dee, would be held on a Thursday at GDA and would be an opportunity for British Sign Language (BSL) users aged 50 and above, to come together once a month to maintain friendships and social interaction. The club still runs today and regularly attracts 40-plus guests each month who each receive a home-cooked two-course lunch provided by a team of volunteers.

In 2008 Jenny Hopkins joined the charity as the new CEO, replacing Maggie Conu who had given eight years of service to GDA.

In 2011 an idea from GDA Trustee and supporter, Jackie Gloyn, led to the beginning of a new club for Deaf children and their families in Cirencester. In addition to GDYZ, GDA would now be running a monthly club for children and 0 to 8yrs, while GDYZ focused on supporting children and young people 8yrs and older. Cirencester Deaf Children's Club (CDCC) still support Deaf children today and is a vital service for them and their families.

By 2013 a historic pension scheme became payable to the local government, putting GDA financial situation in turmoil. In order to maintain not only the operations of the charity but also the building that had become loved by the Deaf community, the decision was taken to sell the adjoining car park. Thanks to the sale of the car park and through additional fundraising efforts, nearly £500,000 was paid off, clearing GDA of any debt but also leaving the charity's reserves depleted.

Over the coming years GDA introduced a number of additional services and social activities to the list, including the Friendship Circle in 2015 - a twice-a-year social gathering for those with an acquired hearing loss; a Transport Fund to enable people living with deafness to access GDA's services and social support. In 2017, in partnership with the Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, GDA produced a Deaf Patient Support Card. The card offers a communication prompt for BSL users in Gloucestershire so medical professionals can understand how best to communicate with BSL patients. The cards struck such a chord with Deaf people all over the county as well as across the country, that there were calls for other NHS Trusts to introduce similar cards.

As well as maintaining a range of services and support for BSL users, GDA has also seen a shift to providing a more extensive range of services for the local hard of hearing community. One such way that this was done was the introduction of regular hearing aid maintenance clinics in 2016. Nearly 30 clinics are held across Gloucestershire each month, providing a place for people with NHS hearing aids to get new batteries or get their aids re-tubed or cleaned. To date the services has supported over 10,000 people.

And so that leads us to today, 2019.

After 100 years of serving the Deaf, hard of hearing and deafened community, GDA remains at the heart of deafness in Gloucestershire. Today the charity's services extend in to Swindon and Wiltshire as well as South Gloucestershire. Looking ahead the emphasis remains on providing holistic support that enables deaf people to live confidently with their deafness and raises awareness within the wider community. We are striving to maintain the high quality of our existing services, in addition to developing exciting new projects such as an emotional wellbeing service.

Happy 100th birthday to GDA and thank you to every single person or organisation who has contributed in some way to making GDA the charity it is today. From the founding members in 1919, to the staff members, trustees, volunteers, interpreters, supporters, friends, commissioners and members of the public who give so generously to ensure the future of GDA, thank you.

Here's to the next 100 years!