“The Upper Room changed my life”

Image above: Paras Shah; The Upper Room. St Saviour Wendell Park Church

Paras Shah tells Billy Beatty how help and support from the charity helped him stay clean and get a job

In the UK there are more than half a million people who are dependent on alcohol. One of those was Paras Shah (40) who is now four years into recovery. 

“Four years ago I was drinking 54 units of alcohol a day  [a litre of vodka and six cans of beer] while also taking three grams of cocaine.

I drank to take away my thoughts. The more I drank the less I thought about things.”

Paras decided he needed to change his life and he sought counselling. It was while he was living in a rehabilitation home in Pinner that he heard about The Upper Room.

The charity, based in Hammersmith, offers multiple services to people in need, such as help with housing and finance and help with finding a job. It was set up in 1990 as a soup kitchen but, realising the complexity of people’s needs, expanded to offer other services.

Paras decided to speak to The Chiswick Calendar to highlight the great work the charity has done for him and how it has helped many others.

One of the services the charity finds most useful is providing driving lessons

“I decided to give them a visit and they made me feel so welcome and comfortable, I decided I was going to try and get my driver’s licence with their help.”

One of the services the charity finds most useful to people in Pars’ position is free driving lessons:

UR4Driving breaks the cycle of unemployment and re-offending among ex-offenders by teaching them to drive in return for voluntary work.”

In October 2019 he booked his theory test and passed, first time.

“This was a lovely experience and I began taking driving lessons in my local area. The Upper Room paid for this and paid my driving instructor for all my lessons.”

Getting through Covid:
“although we couldn’t meet in person they wanted to make sure I was ok”

The Covid pandemic disrupted his progress but The Upper Room continued to meeting Paras and other users via Zoom and Teams.

“The wonderful team there decided they would keep on talking to us and although we couldn’t meet in person they wanted to make sure I was ok and this made me feel great as they were showing how much they cared and how much they believed in me.”

It was not until March 2021, seventeen months after passing his theory that Paras had a chance to take a driving test.

“I had to travel to Cambridge because there was a backlog in London. The Upper Room helped pay for some of my travel costs which was so kind of them. I didn’t pass, which was disappointing, but I just wasn’t confident enough. I was so nervous at the thought of failing.

“I spoke to the people at the Upper Room who advised that I do a few more lessons but book a test straight away as they felt I would be ready in a couple of months’ time.”

Paras passed his test in July 2021.

“I managed to pass at the second attempt. The feeling was amazing and I felt that I could now move on with my life and get a good job but I didn’t have a car. My mother decided to buy me one and I am so grateful for this as it has opened so many doors for me.”

“When I went for the interview for my job the first question they asked was whether I drove”

Paras now works full time as a carer and being able to drive is a key part of his job.

“When I went for the interview for my job the first question they asked was whether I drove. Having my licence and a car is probably the reason I got the job.”

Paras is now able to help his family and thanks the Upper Room for this.

“I am now able to take my mum shopping and pick up my nephew from school. Without the Upper Room I wouldn’t be able to do this.”

He also takes newcomers to addiction meetings, which he believes is his way of paying back.

The Upper Room relies on volunteers and the kindness of the West London community that allows them to offer their various services as well as meals to adults five days a week (Monday-Friday),  bedding, toiletries and clothing.

The Upper Room offers multiple volunteer roles that can be found on their website.


Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Nicki Chapman to open Bedford Park Festival 2023

See also: Cheese Market donates £5,000 to The Upper Room

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