Erica: ‘My dream job’
Filling in holes made by naughty petting zoo rabbits, tracking down truant animals (such as pink cockatoos) and keeping WindReach’s many programmes spinning in harmony it’s all a part of Erica Fulton’s diverse duties as the charity’s head.
“My dream job was always to become the executive director of WindReach,” said Miss Fulton who was appointed to the post in August. “I think I have wanted to work at WindReach since I graduated from university. It was then that I realised I wanted to work in the third sector. I have always had a real affinity for WindReach and what it does. I think they provide so many unique opportunities in Bermuda that are needed.”
She started volunteering with Bermuda Riding for the Disabled at age 14. The charity, which offers a therapeutic riding programme, merged with WindReach three years ago.
“My parents, Ian and Anna Fulton, always encouraged my brother and I to volunteer,” she said. “Because I was involved with horses, that was something that I could do. I wasn’t nervous when I first started. Now I teach therapeutic riding once a week. I am a Canadian Therapeutic Riding Association certified instructor. My mother is an occupational therapist. My father is a doctor. Now, my brother, Richard is a paediatrician working in London. I come from a family who have played a lot of caregiving roles. I never felt pressure to go into medicine. I always enjoyed working with individuals with special needs.”
Miss Fulton obtained a bachelor's degree in European studies from the University of Manchester. She also has a master's degree in charity management, from England’s Roehampton University. Prior to working at WindReach, she was operations and programme manager of Friends of Hospice at Agape House for three years.
“As soon as I [completed my studies] I became involved with WindReach as a volunteer,” she said. “I have always felt comfortable with individuals with special needs. There is so much we can learn from everyone. It has been a great opportunity for me to take on this role.”
Miss Fulton continued: “When I heard that Lance Furbert was looking at retiring I felt like it was a huge opportunity for me to be able to apply for the position. Lance was at WindReach for six years and his face was synonymous with WindReach, so it felt like very big shoes to fill.
“WindReach is a busy, four-acre facility. I have tried to spend my first couple of months getting to better understand the organisation from the inside to see how I could fit in and work with the staff to continue moving forward.”
She subscribed to the view of WindReach founder Sandy Mitchell that it shouldn’t be a “ghetto” for people with special needs, but a place of inclusion where people of all abilities could be on an equal footing.
“That is what all our programmes are about,” said Miss Fulton. “For example, on Saturday we have wheelchair basketball at the Bermuda High School gym with Troy Farnsworth, our adaptive sports coordinator. Some people who play are wheelchair users and some are not. In another programme, for the month of August, we have children between five and 12 years old come to our facility as part of our blended summer camp. It is a great opportunity for people to integrate.”
Some weeks are more exciting than others. Last week was one of the more exciting ones Rosemary the pink cockatoo went missing. The bird was later returned by someone who found her on the road.
“It was great that the whole community pulled together to try to find her,” said Miss Fulton. “It shows what WindReach means to everyone. To think we had lost one of our birds was very sad. Every day is a new challenge. I am really thankful to our great staff who have been very supportive in helping me to find my way.”
WindReach has two major events coming up. On March 24, the community is invited to their 11th annual Walk and Roll event at Cooper’s Island Nature Reserve. On April 28, the charity will host a fundraiser for its therapeutic riding programme. Tickets are $100.
Useful website: www.windreachbermuda.org.