We spoke to Paul Nilson, Founder and Manager at Team Oasis about the work they do to raise awareness and understanding of disability at an early age.
Tell us more about Team Oasis and what was the impetus behind it?
Team Oasis Children’s Charity was established to create an environment where all children and young people have a forum to meet, develop friendships, build awareness and understanding. Five of my relatives have a physical disability or special, educational or additional needs, and it was imperative for me that our children’s charity would be substantially different from anything prior or since.
The driving force for me personally was to build awareness and understanding of disability at an early age and if it wasn’t such a mouthful, the full title of our Charity would be ‘A Totally Inclusive, Early Intervention Children’s Charity’.
Why is it so important to engage children at an early age?
Before establishing Team Oasis, I had witnessed first-hand how the majority of people, despite their kindness and compassion, had little experience of engaging directly with a disabled person. We have tried to address this over the last twenty years by bringing together children and young people of all abilities at an early age. Along the way we have transformed thousands of young lives as they become adults themselves and pass on their experiences and learning to their own children.
What kind of support do you provide?
Team Oasis has rented over 20 different centres over the years in order to sustain, expand and develop our extensive range of services. It was always central to our agenda to deliver a wide range of activities in order to ensure that our young people had the maximum opportunity to explore and ultimately realise their undoubted potential.
Since 2012 we have been providing activities including: football, dance, sports, drama, music, singing, film-making, photography, line dancing, Morris dancing, kudo, BJJ, after school clubs, toddler groups and youth groups from our activity centre in the Dingle.
We know from the feedback we get from the young people themselves how much they value this support and its impact on their future lives.
What are the main challenges you currently face and how are you tackling them?
It has not been an easy journey over the last twenty years, navigating our way through the various financial crises, austerity, recessions, Brexit, the tragic Covid 19 pandemic and currently, the ongoing ‘cost of living’ crisis.
As so many other local organisations closed, Team Oasis had to expand our services even further. For example, we now have a breakfast lounge offering free breakfasts to children before school, plus free food for our pensioners and others who may be lonely and isolated. In addition to offering free groceries every week to local families, this hub also provides warmth and company and is crucial addition to our local support services.
Over the past two years we have also purchased two static caravans in North Wales, where over 80 families have benefited from free respite holidays.
How can Liverpool Chamber add value to the work you do?
Personally, I have been a Chamber member for many years in various roles and I recognised at an early stage how useful Liverpool Chamber could be in helping us to engage with local businesses. The relationship between charities like our own and businesses is changing with both recognising the increased value we can bring to each other, particularly for those looking to develop their ESG strategies.
Team Oasis has achieved so much – what are you most proud of?
Receiving plaudits for our work, both locally as Liverpool’s Children’s Charity of The Year and nationally through The Weston Award, Children & Young People Awards in 2021 and 2022 plus The British Safety Council Award and Northern Enterprise Awards in 2023 are all a wonderful testimony to what this team has achieved.
However, it is the real difference that we make to the lives of over 350 children and young people every week that really makes me proud!