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Diverse Abilities founder Phyllis Edwards

PUBLISHED: 15:00 07 August 2015 | UPDATED: 15:00 07 August 2015

Phyllis Edwards

Phyllis Edwards


No one better personifies that old maxim - necessity is the mother of invention - than Phyllis Edwards.

Indeed, she could be the poster girl of several. Not least: if a job’s worth doing, do it yourself. And this too: underestimate a mother’s love at your peril.

Sixty years ago, when doctors said that her six-year-old daughter Marilyn, born with cerebral palsy, should be “put away, she will only be a cabbage,” Phyllis refused to listen.

Back then, there was no charity, no help, in Dorset for children like Marilyn. They were just shipped off to far-away institutions and forgotten. Today, there is - thanks to Phyllis - Diverse Abilities.

Marilyn is 66 now. She still cannot speak but she has been enabled to live a happy, loved and all but independent life in sheltered accommodation, close by in Poole, managed by her mother’s organisation.

As Phyllis - who is 97, though you would never think it to look at her, with her clear eyes and proud, straight back - admits: “I was just a housewife but a mother fights for her children. I was determined to do whatever it took.”

She advertised in the local paper, looking to join forces with parents in similar situations. “Nobody replied,” she says. “So I tried again and got nine replies. I kept on going.” So, Diverse Abilities was born.

Today, the charity, which she still keeps an eye on, helps 600 people - children and adults with physical and learning disabilities. That’s 1,500 families across Dorset.

They owe a huge debt of thanks to Phyllis. And we could all learn much from a woman who had the strength and inspiration to simply say: “no”.

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