Partner Spotlight

Partner Spotlight: OKE's Paul Dickson

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This Week's Spotlight is on Paul Dickson from OKE Charity

We caught up with Paul and asked 5 questions to find out more about him as an individual.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background.

My name is Paul Dickson and I’m the Founder of the Oke Charity. I was born in Birmingham, England and grew up with my brother and sister, with our parents divorcing when I was just four years old. We lived in a council flat in a suburb of Birmingham called Kingshurst and although it had a reputation of being a rough council estate, I didn’t see it. All I saw was a neighbourly community where everyone looked out for each other. I started working life at sixteen, as a business apprentice at Jaguar Cars Ltd, learning everything I could about the manufacturing of these luxury vehicles. This led to a twenty year career in project management in the automotive, power, military and infrastructure sectors. In 2016 I became a stay at home dad and launched the Oke Charity at about the same time, and I’d say the work life balance now is pretty awesome.

How did you get into the area of work you’re in?

Back in 2014 I was approached by Papatoetoe West School to help fundraise and build a new school garden for them to implement their school garden program. So, we raised the funds, pulled a few epic people together and we got their garden built in just one day. The Principal was blown away that this kind of project could be done in such a short timeframe, but I said building a school garden is a lot easier than building a power station! We were than approaced by another local school, Papatoetoe East, to build their school garden and it became obvious that these spaces were wanted and needed at schools, but there was never the budget or time to get them built. So we created the Oke Charity.

What motivates you to do what you do?

It is my family that motivates me. My wife Anj has been my biggest champion and for Taylor, Oke has been a big part of his entire life. They are always supporting me and reminding me about how amazing the Oke Charity is and how the work we’re doing is improving our communities. The day to day struggles of running a charity are worth it when a working bee happens and you see the excitement from everyone involved to get the school garden built. Once it starts growing the smiles on the kids' faces at seeing what they’ve grown is a huge energy boost to keep on keeping on.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

Without doubt it was from my grandad and his words of wisdom...”don’t let the b*stards grind you down”. To put this into perspective, this was a man who had served during WWII and had overcome smallpox whilst serving in the Air Force, which is kind of remarkable. When I was at Jaguar Cars, the factory would close at midday on a Friday, so I would go to the pub and meet my grandad for a pint. He would listen to what I’d been through at work and his reply to any bad stuff would always be the same - a pat on the knee followed by the above words of wisdom. When he passed in 2003, everyone at his wake raised a glass and said these seven immortal words.

Knowing what you know now, what is one thing you would do differently if you were to start again?

If I were to start this charity journey again, I would definitely ask for more help in the early days...from those who have been there and done it!

Nischal Chakravarthy
13 June 2023
min read

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