The Attend meeting rooms filled with over seventy guests conversing and sipping wine during an evening event early September that launched the organisation. Glasses were raised to toast the achievement and speeches were made by Attend Chairman Richard Harries and FAABI Chairman Bridget Foley. However, most of the evening belonged to the guests for networking and socialising.
Clients and ex-clients, volunteers and funders, as well as friends of Attend joined together to get to know each other better and coordinate future collaboration. They form the basis of a Friends group, which will complement the existing ABI rehabilitation programme. Run by volunteers including Attend staff and ABI clients, FAABI has two sub-committees dedicated to fundraising and social networking.
FAABI has been established with the following aims:
- To run regular social activities, to allow those with brain injury to create new friendships
- To support workshops so people with brain injury can explore new skills
- To provide opportunities for family and friends to meet together informally
FAABI trustee and ex-ABI client, Jonathan (Jonty) Smallman Davies, describes the inspiration for the group:
“ABI [rehabilitation] focuses on the neurological and physical recovery, but long term you need the social side of things. As someone who has had a brain injury, the courses bring a lot of pressure… But you can come here purely to socialize in your comfort zone. A massive part of recovery is forming friendships and sharing experiences with people who have been through what you have. That’s why I feel FAABI has an important job.”
FAABI will host social activities and events with the hope of building a sense of community among the ABI population. It provides a warm and friendly atmosphere where people can just “be”. A place to relax, and enjoy life, as well as to learn, build confidence, share and know that you are important. Some activities aim to build knowledge or skills, others to increase confidence, but all will bring together people with similar interests and create lasting friendship networks.
As the evening wore on, a real sense for the future of FAABI began to emerge. Gauging the interest among attendees it became clear that FAABI will play an important role in creating a sense of community among the attendees, as well as the broader client group.
“I know many of us can feel alone and isolated like no one understands, and it is great to have a social group (not a day care service!), which is genuinely ours,” said guest Michael Dover in a brief toast.
Brain injuries do not discriminate, which made for a very diverse group of attendees. It would seem a miscellaneous assortment of people, but that is exactly what FAABI needs. People from different backgrounds each bring something unique to the table that someone else finds new and exciting. Guests eagerly conversed with each other and the volume level in the room rose rapidly.
Besides the social aspect, the diversity of FAABI holds great potential for fundraising. The pool of resources and ideas is large and varied. For example, an Attend staff accountant started chatting with an ABI client interested in working on the FAABI fundraising committee in order to gain experience for a career path in that field. They were joined by a guest who is employed at KPMG and offered contacts in Corporate Social Responsibility. Together they came up with a number of ways to appeal to corporations to make donations to Attend ABI, sponsor FAABI events, or involve their employees in volunteering and fundraising. Fundraising will be a critical function of FAABI, since their collection directly sustains the Attend ABI programme. Everyone in the Friends group is related in some way to ABI and therefore have seen its benefits first-hand. In addition, the informal character of a Friends group allows it to access fundraising sources unavailable to the formal Attend organisation.
The Board of FAABI is a strong team headed by Chairman Bridget Foley. The committee includes Tony Palluto as Vice Chairman and Eric Dontenville as Treasurer joined by Charles Perry, Kieran Lowe, Douglas Russell, and Jonathan (Jonty) Smallman Davies.
FAABI Trustee Michael Dover captured the feel of the evening as he raised his glass in a “toast to love and friendship… and to FAABI!”