There are over 120 Headway groups and branches across the UK, which are all supported by volunteers who give their time generously to support people affected by brain injury.
Dawn is secretary of the Headway Tamworth and Lichfield branch, and has been leading the group for over 16 years. She worked as a neurological Occupational Therapist, and in 2007, after researching with her colleagues and finding that there was no support available for survivors of brain injury in South Staffordshire, she set up the Headway branch.
Dawn helps to run monthly group meetings in Tamworth, with workshops on brain injury topics, guest speakers, art classes and socialising with tea, cake, laughter, and sharing experiences.
She also hosts a monthly members' breakfast for anyone who would like to socialise with each other.
Dawn says, “At each meeting there is a core of around 15 members, but this can go up to about 30. Not everyone comes every time, but they are always still welcomed. I meet with new survivors of brain injury who are not sure what happens next. I help them and their families to navigate services, fill in forms and explain where possible the effects of brain injury such as fatigue, memory problems, executive dysfunction. If anyone in the group has a problem, we will usually go off somewhere quiet to work through it. Often reports, official letters and medical reports have jargon in which I can help to explain. Some people never come to the group, but keep in-touch with me when they need to.
Sometimes they just need to know there is someone there.
Dawn runs the Headway Tamworth and Lichfield branch alongside other volunteers – a chairperson, a treasurer and carer support volunteers who can offer support to the carers who attend the meetings as they have experience caring for family members with a brain injury.
“The group is amazing, I always say they are the experts - I have not had a brain injury but can help with explaining why they feel like they do or how to continue their recovery. The group is a SUPPORT GROUP and it is what it does, they share their experiences, how they coped, what they did. For example, a new brain injury survivor came to the group with her mum, she sat by two younger members with their mums and they just got on with it! I asked near the end of the meeting if she needed anything from me and she said no, they were happy with the support they had had, they shared mobile numbers and Facebook etc. They have been coming for around three months and are very much part of the group.”
When asked what Dawn enjoys about volunteering, she says, I suppose as a neurological OT, it is what I did! But brain injury was my special interest, and now my passion.
“I do not see what I do as volunteering, it is just part of me.”
Thank you to Dawn and all the amazing Headway volunteers across the country.
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