From Salvationist 13 January 2018
A cutting-edge idea reaches fifty
As the Salvation Army Fellowship of Endeavour (Safe) celebrates its 50th anniversary, Salvationist traces its beginnings
FIFTY years ago one in fifty children in Britain was born with some sort of disability and it was against this background that the Association for Parents and the Handicapped was formed to provide spiritual and social fellowship and advisory and practical help for Salvationist parents of children with disabilities. The Association, which was also for adult Salvationists living with disability, aimed to make its members aware that their needs were intelligently understood, rather than subjecting them to condescending kindness by able-bodied people.
With the vision and purpose for the association clearly established came the requirement for immediate action and the call to officers and soldiers to be alert to the needs (not always apparent) of people with disabilities. An essential requisite was to form an association in corps, and Salvationists were urged to be aware of other organisations working in the field of disability.
On 27 January 1968 The War Cry reported that ‘Major Gladys Marsh has been appointed as Secretary for the Handicapped’. Mrs Commissioner Mildred Cooper had already alerted corps officers to the needs of parents of children with disabilities, with the intention that corps would become centres for friendship and care. This was a cutting-edge idea at the time.
As secretary, Gladys understood what living with disability was like, having contracted polio when she was a younger officer. In sharing from her experience of disability she said: ‘I realised the fight was a personal one. Future independence, to a great extent, depended on courage and willingness to co-operate with those who were seeking to help me to help myself.’
In her first letter to people already known to Mrs Commissioner Cooper, Gladys invited them to contribute to a monthly newsletter and exchange experiences, whether joys or problems.
As the association developed, so did the idea of a music school, and in 1975 Brigadier Gladys Marsh, assisted by Doug Collin, Keith Griffin and Dr John Lowther, led the first school at Penarth. The Musician reported that the week was busy, not only with rehearsing but also with activities that included an outing to the Welsh mountains. At the end of the school two delegates offered for officership.
More than 40 years later the Safe Music School, now the School of Arts, continues to be an important event for delegates and carers.
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