Volunteer Centre

‘Techie’ Volunteers Creating Customised Gadgets for Disabled People


14th February 2022

It was during lockdown that Paul Mackenzie began to think about volunteering. Like many people, Paul found that the Covid crisis prompted a period of introspection and a reassessment of what was important to him.

“Not having to commute, I had more time on my hands and started thinking about what was missing from me and my experiences compared to some of my peers,” he said.

“To my shame, I found I had no evidence of volunteering or doing anything besides my job. It struck me that I wanted to give something back.”

Paul, 56, has had a successful career in the mobile telecommunications industry and is a self-confessed ‘techie’ who loves nothing more than tinkering in his workshop at home in Gillingham.

So when he discovered a charity whose volunteers use their passion for engineering and electronics to create customised equipment for disabled people, he was intrigued.

“I’d never heard of Remap before,” he said. “But when I started looking into what they do and the people they help, it seemed a great fit for my interests, experience and expertise.”

Each year, Remap custom-makes and provides free of charge about 3,000 pieces of equipment to help disabled people achieve greater independence and quality of life. It steps in to fill the gap when there are no other suitable products available on the market to meet an individual’s specific need.

Around 900 volunteers - from engineers by trade to experienced hobbyists and DIY enthusiasts - are involved in creating these unique tools and gadgets. Many are adaptations of commonly-used items that those without a disability take for granted, and often help address the challenges of everyday tasks such as washing a cup, riding a bicycle or taking a bath.

Remap was founded nearly 60 years ago and has more than 70 branches across the UK. Following a recent National Lottery grant of £96,000, the charity is now aiming to expand to other areas of the country where there is a need for its services.

One of these areas is North Dorset, where Paul lives. He said: “There’s lots of demand from users but not enough people to provide the service. I became quite quickly convinced that this was something I wanted to do. I spoke to various people, and even found some work colleagues, who are already involved with Remap around the country and they told me there’s a real sense of accomplishment.”

Paul has now volunteered to chair the new North Dorset branch and is appealing to people in the local community who would like to join him.

He said: “We would welcome support from anyone aged over 18 with an interest or expertise in working with materials such as wood and metal, or has a technical or electronics background. But we also need people with administrative, finance or book-keeping experience.”

Sue Boyes, General Manager at Remap, said: “We are so grateful to Paul for offering to chair the new group and help us take the first step towards bringing our vital service to the North Dorset area. Now we’d love to hear from other people in the community who would like to be part of the new branch.”

Remap’s new North Dorset branch will be based in Gillingham and cover Wincanton, Tidsbury, Salisbury, Blandford Forum and Frome. To volunteer for the group, please contact Paul Mackenzie on 07398 088 811.

For more information about Remap, visit www.remap.org.uk

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Volunteer Centre Dorset are thankful for the support from:

Dorset County Council
National Lottery Fund