- Just ten days ago this amazing charity set out to raise £3,000 to help keep it going, this morning it’s just a few hundred pounds away from its goal – can you help it get there? If you read our story you’ll appreciate just how important Pat Fisher’s work is to the young people of our town.
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There is something truly inspirational about Pat Fisher. On the face of it she runs a charity that’s struggling to make ends meet but take a few minutes to find out more about what makes this pensioner tick and you walk away feeling truly inspired and comfortable in the knowledge there are still people out there who put the welfare of others before themselves.
Almost single-handedly Pat, who has been a youth worker for three decades, has run a Hastings and St Leonards based charity called Gizmo since 2003. Money has always been an issue. It costs her £1,500 a month just to keep the show on the road. There have been good times, like in 2006 when the charity received a £30,000 grant from East Sussex County Council to fund its work, allowing it to employ part-time staff to drive things forward and more recently there have been the bad times and the desperate times, when Pat hasn’t been sure from one month to the next whether she’ll be able to pay the rent.
She has a the cafe on the corner of Western Road, Kings Road and St Johns Road in St Leonards that is supposed to raise cash to help fund the work of the charity but the cafe has only just reopened after having been shut for essential repairs which has put a strain on finances. As for Pat, well she hasn’t had a holiday in 25 years – even if she could afford a break she wouldn’t take it, because of ‘her’ kids.
It’s when you ask Pat why she does what she does, what the inspiration was to set up Gizmo in the first place and what motivates her to keep going the veneer starts to peel away and you realise why Pat is as driven as she is to do what it is that she does.
She hands across a photocopy of an item from the Mail on Sunday from 1995, in the days when Pat was living and working in Stratford-Upon-Avon. The piece was published to promote a play that Pat had written, a play based on her own life and her own experiences; experiences that shaped her future and gave her the impetus to work with and look after young people; because she can’t bare the thought of other young people having to suffer in the way that she suffered.
The 1995 interview goes in to detail about Pat’s childhood and about the abuse she and her brother suffered at the hands of alcoholic parents. It was those unspeakable childhood experiences that shape the woman she became and drove her to a life of service to others because she cannot bear to think of children feeling: “bereft and abandoned.”
These days Gizmo runs two sessions a week – Pat would like to do more. On a Friday night youngsters gather to play games but also to get a good meal. Dom’s Food Mission delivers to Gizmo and she is happy that means all ‘her kids’ get a wholesome meal that night. Anything left over is distributed at the Saturday session where youngsters learn a range of performance arts from dancing and singing to acting and writing.
The charity works with those aged from five to 18 and its primary aim is to help them develop communication and social skills and build confidence and ambition. Gizmo’s youngsters carry out at least 30 community performances per year and last weekend performed in Warrior Gardens and raised more than £100 to contribute towards the running costs of the charity.
While she is happy to do what she does Pat still wants to do more, she would love to return to the days when Gizmo was open for eight session every week.
Coming to Gizmo is not all about having fun though, Pat teaches the youngsters that come along that they don’t get anything in life for free. They have to clean the place up and tidy it after they have used it, she teaches them to be independent and to realise that they have the power to make their own decisions and to shape their own future.
She can point to many success stories, to youngsters who had perhaps been written off elsewhere but have flourished under Pat’s guidance. Performing, she says teaches them a great deal about themselves and demonstrates that if they put the effort in to hone their performance they get the rewards from having been part of something that has been successful.
Pat says fund raising these days is almost a “full-time job” she receives £2,000 a year from Hastings Borough Council through the Safer Hastings Partnership and this week her hard work paid off when Gizmo received a cheque for £2,000 from The Ashfield Trust. In addition to that there is a website www.gofundme.com/savegizmonow where people who want to pledge money to help Pat’s work can go to donate.
There is also a video on YouTube charting the story of Amanda, a young woman who benefitted hugely from her time with Gizmo and who is now at university, the video also features youngsters from the group acting out scenes.
Pat is rightly proud of her achievements, she says: “Gizmo is a multiple award winning project that can boast a 95 per cent success rate in deterring its young people from engaging in anti-social behaviour, crime and involvement in drug taking and alcohol abuse through positive activities and interventions in an area where this kind of behaviour is rife.
“Most of the young people involved have gone on to further education, training and now have employment.”
Can there be any better testament to its success than that?