Norwood featured in the Jewish Views podcast

14 January 2020

This month’s episode of the hugely popular Jewish Views podcast features Eveanne, who spoke so movingly at our recent Annual Dinner sharing her personal experience of the work that Norwood does and the very real impact that it has on people across the Jewish community.

You can listen to the podcast here, or read the transcript below.

Jewish Views interview

Phil Dave (presenter)

Now, last month saw the annual Norwood dinner take place. As ever it was a perfectly lavish affair – and I know cos I was there – that raised a considerable amount of the £12m Norwood needs to run – I know, £12m. Set against a backdrop of guest speakers, well-known community members and some of the more generous individuals Judaism has to offer, our next guest was, like me, one of a great number of people who were recently at the Grosvenor House Hotel.

Eveanne Baker’s son, Joseph, featured in the appeal video and she also gave the appeal speech on the night. I’m thrilled to say that we can speak to her now to find out more. Eveanne, welcome to The Jewish Views and thank you very much indeed for taking time out to come and speak to us. First and foremost we have to start off with saying well done to Norwood. What a night. It was fantastic…

Eveanne Baker

It was incredible, wasn’t it, the whole evening was just amazing and it was such an honour to be part of it.

PD

And not to mention it was catered by Tony Page, noch, so it was very nice food as well – not that Tony Page is paying me anything to advertise him but still I thought it was worth mentioning just to give you some idea of what we were up against. Now the evening itself obviously had a very serious purpose, and that is actually something that you know only so well, because, as mentioned, your son Joseph was in the appeal video… So why not tell us, first and foremost, what it is that Norwood means to you and your family and what they’ve done for you…

EB

Well, Norwood means everything to us, particularly at the moment, it’s such an exciting time for Joseph. But if I go back, to when he was 16, well even before that, he had trouble learning at school, he found keeping up with all his friends at school really difficult, he had terrible anxiety which just grew and grew and grew, which is such a common thing these days – life’s very difficult for young children at the moment. And they just helped him. He was just like a lost soul. They took him in – well eventually we found them – and they just taught him life skills. Things that your mum and dad and your sisters can’t teach you. And I’m just so grateful to them. Now he is just doing so amazingly well. He’s just got himself a new job. He’s going to be a driver. He got an email from his new boss saying you’re going to be driving Tesla cars. He’s just in heaven at the moment.

PD

Well that’s not a bad gig to have. I tried to buy one recently, they’re a bit too pricey for my liking. So that’s not a bad job at all. So what would you say then in that case that this has meant for you, because a lot of the time people forget that with Norwood, it’s not just the individuals who have, shall we say, a need for their particular services, but people underestimate just how much the families benefit as well. It’s a cliché, but it sort of gives you a break, doesn’t it?

EB

It gives you space. I don’t think you realise what it’s like to have a child with special needs. If you watch the film you’ll see what it’s like to have a child with special needs or anxieties about life. It’s just all consuming. It’s all you can think about all the time. In this day and age, we had so many courses that he could go on but every time we tried to access one, they had cancelled it. And it’s just painful for you. It’s painful for the family. His sisters used to take him out and do lovely things with him. But that’s not cool. You can’t keep going out with your mum and dad, and your sisters. You need to go out with someone the same age as you or someone independent who can show you what life’s all about.

PD

Well let’s have a little hark back shall we to the actual night itself. You were not only among the guests there, you were actually among the speakers, because you stood up in front of a room full of about 1,300 people and that’s impressive. Were you nervous?

EB

I was a bit snappy a few days before the AD, but then I thought: nerves are such a waste of time. I want to really enjoy this amazing experience. I’ve accepted this challenge and I really wanted to enjoy it. And I threw my nerves away and I partly did it for Joseph as well because I wanted him to see that you face your challenges and do them, and how wonderful you feel afterwards. It was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever done.

PD

Well if you don’t mind me saying I think it’s a rather impressive achievement to get a room of 1,300 Jews to shut up and pay attention so you did something right that’s for sure. So as far as the evening was concerned I actually happened to be extremely privileged to sit on the same table as the cast of Fiddler on the Roof, of course they were just in the West End, but we’re talking about a fancy shmantzy do this, this was not just a run of the mill charity dinner. It was above and beyond.

EB

It was incredible The people that were there . . . it was wow, look at these people! And there’s little old me – a teacher.

PD

Just to give it some context, a lot of the glitterati were there. Some of the wealthier members of the community were there, obviously because they had to do their fair share of donating. The Chief Rabbi – Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis – was there. All of these amazing individuals all under one roof and it felt like a great privilege to be there.

EB

But I learnt something from the night. I was looking at all these very wealthy, very influential and very important people, and I felt humbled because they were there to help us. These people, if you need to ask for help, these are the people who want to help you. And I didn’t feel ashamed to be there, I was treated as an equal and it was just a lovely feeling that you were part of their group, equal to them, and they just wanted to help you which is just an amazing feeling.

PD

It really was a fabulous evening, I can’t go on about it enough, and I should point out the importance of nights like that for charities such as Norwood, because these are the institutions that keep our community going and really actually help to make Judaism in this country what it is, they really do need our backing or else we risk losing. So, Eveanne Baker, thank you very much indeed for playing your part in helping to keep Norwood going, and it’s been a great pleasure speaking to you.

EB

Thank you so much.

You can read more about Norwood’s annual dinner here.

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