2/10/2015

World War Two veteran who dedicated his life to helping Polio sufferers to receive MBE


Joseph Fisher, 92, from Gosforth has worked tirelessly to help polio sufferers ever since contracting the disease while serving in The Army


Joseph Fisher, from Gosforth is on the New Years Honours List
Joseph Fisher, from Gosforth is on the New Years Honours List
Joseph Fisher with his wife ChristineA World War Two veteran who has dedicated his life to helping Polio sufferers in the North East is set to receive an MBE from the Queen.
Joseph Fisher was 23 when he contracted Polio while serving in The Army in Burma and had to be shipped back to Britain to recover.
Three months later, left with fragile health and an uncertain future, Mr Fisher said he struggled to find his way in post-war London, where he found it difficult to hold down a job.
But, he said, he was always sure of one thing – that people with Polio can and should work.
The 92-year-old, from Gosforth, has since devoted his life to helping people who have suffered from Polio to rebuild their self-esteem and earn a living.
Mr Fisher, who will receive an MBE for services to charity and the British Polio Fellowship, has worked tirelessly to change perceptions of disabled people in the North East, masterminding a Polio hostel and training centre in Jesmond in 1954.
Joseph Fisher with his wife Christine
 
He said: “By the time I returned from Burma in 1946 the war was over and I was in a pretty bad way, I had 95% disability at the time and paralysis down one side of my body. I didn’t know what the future would bring, I was told I would never work again.
“But that didn’t sit well with me and within two or three months I was working in a hotel in London. I decided I was not going to let it get the better of me.
“But my health packed in again so I came back to Newcastle and helped out with the family business, my family ran a wholesale jewellers in Newcastle city centre.”
Mr Fisher, who had started attending meetings with an organisation set up for people with Polio in London, was determined to do something to help sufferers in his home town.
He said: “When I started attending meetings with the Infantile Paralysis Fellowship in London I realised I was very fortunate because I had a supportive family and wasn’t short of money.
“But a lot of people were far less fortunate than me and couldn’t make much of a life for themselves or earn a living, but I felt that just because they couldn’t walk very well didn’t mean they couldn’t do something with their hands and their brains.
“I wanted them to feel they were taking part. Very often, just a bit of TLC and understanding does wonders. Simple adaptations can make a huge difference to disabled people.”
Joseph Fisher (left) donates money
Joseph Fisher (left) donates money
 
Mr Fisher, who has two sons and three grandchildren, said his own experiences made him determined to prove that disabled people weren’t getting the help they needed.
After moving back to Newcastle, the Infantile Paralysis Fellowship asked him if he would set up a branch in the North East.
He took up the challenge and began a 60 year partnership that saw him transform the lives of Polio sufferers across the region and, indeed, the whole of the UK.
With the help of a £13,000 donation from RAG at Newcastle University, Mr Fisher bought a house in Jesmond and converted it into a hostel and training centre for 15-20 Polio sufferers to live and work in.
He said: “We brought people from all over to live at our purpose-built hostel with the intention of teaching them a trade. It was carrying on what I had always believed which is that these people were employable.
Joseph Fisher, from Gosforth is on the New Years Honours List and will be getting an MBE for his efforts in setting up a Hostel to help people affected with Polio
Joseph Fisher, from Gosforth is on the New Years Honours List and will be getting an MBE for his efforts in setting up a Hostel to help people affected with Polio.





 
“They lived in a house all together, they worked and earned a living wage, part of which they gave back to us so they felt that they were contributing.
“I gave them back their self esteem. With us, people who had recovered from the disease could get their confidence back, learn a trade, earn some money, and many of them then left us to get married and start new jobs.”
Doctors came from all over Europe to see what Joseph and his small team of dedicated volunteers were doing for Polio sufferers in Newcastle, and his revolutionary approach was replicated abroad in the years that followed.
Mr Fisher, who now suffers from Post Polio Syndrome, a hangover from the disease which causes the health of polio sufferers to deteriorate in later life, said: “People were falling like flies from this disease every year. It was a very different time.
“The mentality towards disabled people changed a bit after the work we did. It helped to change the perception of disabled people.
“And I proved what I set out to prove, that these people were employable and should be able to work.”



































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