GESH – an caring community facility set in Redcastle Square in Easterhouse -
was founded by Michael and Maureen Ferrie. Michael and Maureen have each devoted 35
years of their lives to this unique project; it truly is a labour of love for this
extraordinary pair. The couple has positively touched the lives of thousands of
people throughout Easterhouse and beyond.
GESH is the hub of the community and is pivotal in the lives of over 600 members, especially those who have physical and mental disabilities, and who rely on the facilities of the centre on a weekly basis. However, that doesn’t mean that you have to be disabled to use the facilities: it is a social club par excellence and a wide variety of activities and entertainment is available for everyone in the local community; from bingo to carpet bowls, wheelchair basketball to country and western Dancing, DJ courses to exercise classes! Members have their own committee and make decisions about what activities they want, which means GESH really is a community centre that caters to the local community. GESH arranges numerous activities and entertainment for hundreds of disabled people every week including the ever-popular Friday night disco! Even local Councillors and MPs stage their surgeries here on a monthly basis, and the Community Council meets here, emphasising the centre’s important role in the community.
Michael and Maureen found a community facility in Garthamlock that had lain derelict for about a year that was perfect for expanding the centre. The building was council- owned and would have eventually faced demolition if nothing was done to save it. So Michael and Maureen decided to take it on.
With the help of the work offered by Community Payback Orders and the Unpaid Work requirement they began the task of repairing and refurbishing the new centre. Together with other volunteers and tradesmen, the building underwent a transformation. Within six months the building was ready, opening in 1999, and due to the invaluable assistance of volunteers and the unpaid work through Community Payback orders, the bill was kept down to a modest £200,000 – all raised locally. The community gained a much-needed social venue, but it was primarily to cater for people with special needs and those with reading difficulties in the local Easterhouse area. GESH does not receive public money, so as the reputation of the centre grew, the powers of persuasion of Michael and Maureen became more honed. Several organisations became involved as financial sponsors - including British Telecom, BP Exploration, Radio Clyde, The Body Shop and North Glasgow College. In fact GESH is flourishing and has managed to procure an impressive variety of support and donations, including the fund-raising football match which the ex-Celtic striker Frank McGarvey helped to organise.
GESH has established a partnership with the local housing associations, the local community council and any agencies dealing with single parents and the elderly, as well as churches, chapels, local groups, and via the Easterhouse Citizens Advice Bureau. GESH works with a number of major social care providers, and creates a focus for the tasks that need addressing by the community volunteers. Over 40 caring agencies such as Enable and Key Housing provide social activities for the disabled. GESH has taken around 150 members on exchanges to Nuremberg in Germany, and a holiday caravan is available in Ayr for use by members.
The unpaid work through Community Payback orders continues to play a major role in the work of GESH. As a result, GESH has received numerous letters of thanks from delighted residents who were helped out by these teams of volunteers. Several volunteer offenders who were involved in the Community Payback orders and the Unpaid work requirement saw the value of GESH and have returned as volunteers themselves.
GESH’s work has led to Michael and Maureen being nominated for a number of awards, among them Maureen being nominated as a finalist in ‘Scotswoman of the Year Awards’ in 2001 and a ‘Great Scot’ nominee in 2006. In 2011, GESH won the Scottish Community Service Award for the best Community Project in Scotland and recently won the award run by the GHA and Tower Homes for the best in the community.
Michael is now in his late 80s and Maureen in her late 60s, so they are looking to find safe hands in which to pass the responsibility of GESH – and its hundreds of members who enjoy the spirit and positivity of the community centre and all it has to offer.