Unsung Hero Award – Jennifer Drewer, Phab Life
Who is she?
Jennifer Drewer has volunteered for disability charity Phab Life for 30 years, since the age of 14. She first became involved in running a Youth Club open to all young people, irrespective of needs. After seeing first-hand how support and opportunities for people with additional needs dropped dramatically once they reached 18, she wanted to bring about change.
What has she achieved?
Despite never having worked in retail or run a business, in 2012 Drewer opened the Phab Shop, with “crossed fingers and a credit card”. She invited people with additional needs to volunteer in the charity shop, giving them the opportunity to actively support Phab Life, make a significant contribution to society and learn retail skills in a real working environment. Within the first year the shop was self-funded, and today it has more than 30 volunteers, over 90 per cent of whom have additional needs. Last year two volunteers moved into full-time paid employment.
What else did she do?
Volunteering at the shop was so popular that a waiting list developed. Drewer raised grants and donations to launch the Phab Café, a training centre for people with additional needs who were keen to enter the job market but needed support in making the transition. The café opened its doors in April 2021 and is already supporting 12 trainees, who are learning all aspects of running and working in a busy café. Phab Life says that Drewer is one of the most modest, thoughtful, kind, helpful, supportive people one could hope to meet, seeking out, nurturing, and valuing the best in everyone.
What did the judges say?
“Jennifer is really inspirational in her dedication, creativity and courage. She deserves recognition for her passion, commitment and incredible contribution to the Phab Life charity.”
- Zach Eagling, Epilepsy Society
- Ruth Hooper, Designability
- Mark Thornberry, King's College Hospital Charity