National Lottery-funded Deaf Society helps Philip break the silence
Imagine growing up unable to understand the people around you, and having no way of communicating except through gestures. This was the world Philip Bridge faced as a child after being born with a genetic disorder called Waardenburg syndrome, which left him profoundly deaf.
But thanks to The Bolton Deaf Society – a project supported by The National Lottery – Philip, 42, has blossomed to the point where he now helps other deaf people thrive in a world where hearing is often taken for granted.
Recalling his difficult childhood, Philip said, “My family didn’t know sign language, so they’d be talking to each other and I couldn’t join in. Mum did her best to talk to me, but it was hard for us to understand each other. I wanted to get involved but felt left out. I ended up playing on my own a lot – I was frustrated, and really struggled.”
Philip was 16 when he started to learn British Sign Language, which is when he began to blossom. “I was learning sign language at Bolton College when a friend recommended that I join the Bolton Deaf Society (BDS),” he says. “It was quite a shock for me at first, as I hadn’t had much connection with the deaf community before, but it was fantastic to suddenly make friends. We’d go out as a group to pubs and other deaf clubs and feel safer together.”
As well as advocating for deaf people in situations such as tribunals and at medical appointments, BDS is a social hub, hosting coffee mornings and bingo and providing activities for local deaf children.
In 2014, Philip was diagnosed with epilepsy, forcing him to give up his job as a welder. He volunteered as an advocate for BDS instead, helping deaf people with tasks such as navigating online services and arranging for interpreters to attend official appointments.
He said, “When Covid-19 hit, we helped with other things, like picking up shopping and prescriptions, and FaceTiming with those who felt isolated. There wasn’t much information on TV with subtitles or interpreters, so I also made a series of videos explaining things like where to pick up lateral flow tests. Being an advocate for the charity has given my confidence a boost, as well as the chance to support other deaf people.”
Although he still struggles with his own medical conditions, Philip enjoys rolling his sleeves up to help others. He said, “I want to say a massive thank you from all of us for the support made possible by National Lottery players. I absolutely love my job, and the charity makes such a big difference. BDS is like my second home.”
Thanks to National Lottery players, £36Million a week went to good causes like BDS. The society is just one of more than 6,000 health and wellbeing projects supported by National Lottery funding last year.
12th September 2021
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