Jackie Hewitt-Main, founder of The Cascade Foundation has been awarded an OBE in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours List.
Jackie’s journey to help others started after her son sustained severe head injuries in a car crash and she had to support him to learn to read and write all over again.
She soon realised that the typical ways to address the relearning process within the NHS simply didn’t work for her son so she gave up her job, visited academics and researched different ways of learning. All of this work led to her developing a new, unique approach to help her son.
When her son was well enough, Jackie took him to college every day so he could complete the exams he’d missed at school. At the same time, she visited South East Essex College in Southend and met a lady called Sue Blackburn. Sue immediately recognised Jackie’s learning difficulties and arranged an assessment. Jackie ended up with a statement of special educational needs (SEN) which diagnosed severe dyslexia, dyspraxia, dyscalculia, ADHA and slight Asperger’s Syndrome.
As a result of her diagnosis, Jackie felt compelled to help others in the same situation so she studied for a degree in SEN and a PGCE qualification. Her dissertation subject was the highly neglected area of ‘Dyslexia in UK prisons’ which ultimately led to the delivery of a variety of learning projects for male prisoners in HMP Chelmsford and, most recently, HMP Doncaster.
At the same time, Jackie founded The Cascade Foundation, a charity that aims to teach, mentor and support people who have dyslexia, dyspraxia, head injury or other learning difficulties. She upped sticks from her home county of Essex and moved to Doncaster and in the summer of 2017, after two years of searching for the perfect location, she opened The Cascade Foundation Health & Learning Hub on Marshgate right next to HMP Doncaster in the town centre.
The Hub has fast become a place for a wide variety of people of all ages and backgrounds from the local community including ex-prisoners, the long-term unemployed and people struggling to keep a job to meet up and find out more. They all have one thing in common: they are dyslexic and they feel angry, upset, frustrated and misunderstood because of their disability. But Jackie and her growing team of volunteers are on hand to help and are seeing some incredible success stories on a daily basis.
Commenting on her award, Jackie said: “When I opened the letter I had to read it at least twice before I realised what it said, I couldn’t quite believe it and wondered if someone was playing a joke on me!
“Now it’s sunk in, I can’t wait to go to Buckingham Palace and collect the award with my family; it will be such a special day. There is so much more work to do though and I can’t wait for the next stage of the journey and helping even more people with learning difficulties to realise their true potential.”