A Banbury volunteer who has selflessly donated his time to charitable organisations for almost 50 years was recognised last month at a House of Lords awards reception.
Barry Bryant-Kobil, 69, began his work with community groups some 47 years ago and has spent the majority of that time with Banbury’s People Have Abilities group known as Phab.
The club consists of people with autism, Downs Syndrome, behavioural difficulties and a wide range of learning and physical difficulties and enables them to fulfil their potential.
Barry’s entry into the world of community volunteering fell into his lap almost by accident at the age of 22. Since then the list of organisations and tasks Barry has volunteered for is almost endless.
Barry said: “This particular group was in the Palace Green Nursing Home in Cambridgeshire and was for people with severe disabilities. A young lady named Christine asked me if I would care to come and help with the Cub Scout group.
“So I went along and I was shaking. A nurse opened the door and you get the smell of hospitals. She pointed to a door down the corridor and said they are in there.
“I went in and saw they were severely disabled and I thought, ‘What can I do’. Christine introduced me to them one at a time then asked me to step back out of the circle and as I did I tripped over a chair. They all laughed exactly what anyone would have done and I thought then they are no different to me.”
Barry was awarded the Paul Hope Award last month but the club’s committee arranged for a surprise presentation at the club’s AGM with dozens of members in attendance.
The club is affectionately known as Barry’s club and his role ranges from mentor, event organiser, driver and best friend.
During his almost 40 years with Phab, Barry has seen many of members grow from children into adulthood and has been a constant for them.
Neil, who has been attending the club for 17 years, said: “Barry’s done so much for me. I have Asperger’s and epilepsy and have certain ways of doing things and Barry brought me out of myself and I’m able to speak to people.”
One highlight on the Phab calendar is the annual trip which has had profound effects on club members.
Neil said: “We went camping down to Mersey Island and Barry gave me enough confidence that I actually volunteer down there now.”
Fellow member Ryan, 37, added: “I’ve known Barry all my life, since I was a toddler. He deserves the award very much. I have been coming since I was 11 and I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for Barry.”
Even given the scope of his involvement, he had no hesitation in describing why he has given so much for so long.
“Just look around you. It says it all.”