Norwich workshop project is a life-changer
For Paul Bale, who was born without eyes, his daily routine at the award-winning St Michael's Workshop in Bowthorpe, Norwich, has been a life-changing experience. Mike Wiltshire reports.
Paul's mum, Sandra, says she is so grateful for the pioneering workshop project which has given Paul - who was once withdrawn - "fresh confidence… and his work has kept him happy."
For 18 years Paul has loved singing to the radio as he and other trainees produce wooden educational products that are sent far and wide - not only across the UK but worldwide. Paul also loves listening to cricket and football commentaries and enjoys "power walking" in his spare time.
Paul, aged 45, and the team and staff at St Michael's Workshop have been invited to a Mayoral reception in March, ahead of the workshop's 30th anniversary celebration on Saturday, May 16.
Friends past and present - and anyone interested - are welcome to attend the celebration day (11am to 4pm). The well-equipped workshop - adjacent to Bowthorpe Church, near Roys store - helps to build community by teaching skills to people with physical or learning disabilities, and provides opportunities for volunteering.
The workshop is the main UK supplier of the acclaimed 'Godly Play' materials. The founder of Godly Play, Dr Jerome Berryman, says: "Children have an innate sense of the presence of God. Our approach helps them to explore their faith through stories, to enhance their spiritual experience through wonder and play."
The workshop's hand-made wooden products and creative educational resources are exported all over the world - and right now the workshop is working flat-out to meet orders and build up stocks for the national 'Godly Play' conference in London this April.
The project began in a double garage in 1984, moving to council premises in 1988 and its present purpose-built workshop in 1993, next to Bowthorpe Church.
VIP guests, including the Lord Mayor of Norwich will attend the special Saturday celebration which will feature audio-visual displays of the work of the Bowthorpe Community Trust. The event will be opened by the Rev Simon Stokes, a blind patron of the workshop, and a former minister of Bowthorpe Church where the current minister is the Rev Mark Elvin.
For more information on the event, call Sally Simpson on 01603 746 106 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Pictured above is Paul Bale working with some of the wooden educational products.