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19/04/2012

Brain Injury Charity Receives Lottery Windfall

A Ballymena group providing vital support for people living with brain injuries and their carers has been awarded a grant from the Big Lottery Fund.

Headway Ballymena is one of 73 groups across Northern Ireland that have been awarded grants totalling over £564,137 from the Awards For All programme.

The organisation has been awarded £6,600 to take its members and their carers on a respite break to England. Chairperson Sandra Workman’s son Stephen suffered a brain haemorrhage 19 years ago, when he was just 14.

"There were no support networks out there. I really struggled for a few years, before I discovered Headway and my husband and I got involved," she said.

"Stephen is now able to lead an independent life, has a small job, cycles with Ballymena Cycling Club, and is still a regular attender at Headway, but none of this would have been possible without the group’s support. It is important for all of its members.

"After brain injury people often become isolated because their personality changes and they are not the easiest people to live with, although physically they do not look any different," said Sandra.

"We bring those people who have suffered a brain injury together with their carers because we want to make them feel part of a community. They make new friends who understand their circumstances and make allowances. Many people have been coming for years. They have a real sense of security and they know they are with people who understand."

The respite break is a big support for both the members and their carers. "For many of them this is the only holiday they will get," Sandra explained. "They are often living on benefits, and could not manage to organise it themselves. They feel secure knowing we are with them.

"There are also some mothers don’t get any time off from the caring role, and on the trip we can take the person they support on an activity for a few hours and give the mums a bit of a break."

The Macular Disease Society, which provides information and practical support for people who are visually impaired and their families and carers, has also been awarded £2,885 to run a skills and networking event in Belfast for volunteers.

"Macular Disease is a progressive condition which results in the loss of all central vision,” explained Head of Fundraising Sarah Day.

"The affect can be quite profound as the person can no longer do things like drive, read or even recognise faces. They cannot do the things that we take for granted on a daily basis and as a result they lose a lot of their independence.

"Our groups are run by volunteers, most are older people who have Macular Disease themselves and they do a wonderful job helping people not to feel so isolated and alone. This funding will be used to train volunteers at a networking event in Belfast so they can offer support and set up new groups."

Frank Hewitt, Big Lottery Fund NI Chair, commented: "The Big Lottery Fund’s NI Awards for All programme funds health, education, environment and community projects that help people bring about positive change in their lives, improve health and well-being, develop skills and create safer communities.

"The application process is simple and accessible, making it easy for applicants to successfully apply for small pots of funding that can have such a big impact on local communities and lives."

(GK)


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