Tony has been working at Headway East London for over 14 years. He has seen the charity grow at an incredible rate and this year became its new Chief Executive.
How did you first hear about Headway East London?
I first heard about Headway East London in 2002 when I applied for a position working at the Headway House. I had just returned from Australia, where I had lived for the previous 16 years and was looking to take on a new challenge. I certainly didn't envisage at the time that I would still working for the charity 14 years later but obviously I hadn't realised at the outset the extent to which the charity would envelop me in its drive and commitment to make such a meaningful and positive difference to the lives of people affected by brain injury.
What were your impressions of Headway East London when you first came to the centre?
Headway East London was a much smaller enterprise when I first joined its ranks, essentially running a day service for up to 15 people per day, 3 days a week, at the Alfred Heath Centre in Homerton. Soon after I started working the charity moved to Mildmay Mission Hospital in Shoreditch and opened its Day Services on a fourth day. My first impressions of the service were that the members who attended felt that they were very much part of a community; where their needs and aspirations were addressed in a very positive way. In many ways the centre served as a 'home away from home'; a place where members felt safe to express their hopes and indeed their frustrations, without undue judgement, where they were treated with empathy and understanding.
How has Headway East London developed since you started working for the charity?
Headway East London has grown considerably since I started, relocating in 2008 to its present site in Kingsland Road, Haggerston. In the last year the charity has directly supported approx. 400 brain injury survivors and 200 family members affected by a loved one's brain injury. The range of services and opportunities have also grown significantly with the charity currently offering day service opportunities to up to 160 people per year, community support work for upwards of 50 people per year, neurological therapy support to approx. 75 people a year, and advice and advocacy to upwards of 250 people per year, as well as offering a range of family support services and activities. We are also working in close partnership with the Royal London Hospital acute neurological and trauma wards and the Homerton Hospital Regional Neurological Rehabilitation Unit; with Headway staff present to offer support on a weekly basis at both sites. Brain injury survivors accessing our services have unique opportunities to take part in stimulating and meaningful occupational activities, such as working in food, art & writing projects, as well as volunteering and member-led training opportunities for a range of professionals and the general public.
What do you like most about the charity?
The most important aspect of Headway East London has always been its commitment to support people to realise their aspirations, to be a ‘listening ear’, to value the unique contribution of its members and to embrace their insight in developing and tailoring the services and projects it offers. Over the years Headway East London has assisted a multitude of individuals to 'find their voice' and to feel valued once again. This individual sense of self-worth resonates in their lives beyond Headway; and is evident in their enriched relationships with family, friends and the wider community.
Why do you think it's important for people to get involved with Headway and support us?
Everyone who has got involved and supported Headway over the years have always commented on the passion and energy of the community at Headway and reflected on what they have gained from that experience and how they have been inspired by the members stories and their courage in overcoming great challenges. Without the continued support of a myriad of people, whether they be volunteers, sponsors or funders we could not carry out the scope and variety of the work we do with our membership.
If you do get involved in supporting Headway East London I can't guarantee that you will still be involved 14 years hence but whatever the length or extent of your support I can guarantee that you will, as I have been, be enriched by the experience; an experience which has been both inspiring and humbling. I am very proud to have been part of Headway's journey thus far and as the new Chief Executive I hope to continue that journey and further enhance the invaluable work of Headway East London in the future.
Oh and I forgot to return to Australia!
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