When we think of occupants of shared office accommodation, our minds may be drawn to corporate ventures – business owners and professionals like accountants and insurance companies. At Formation Works, we’re surrounded by many of these successful businesses and they contribute so much to the hive of activity we experience daily. However, there are other organisations in our midst that bring a very special dimension to our premises. The community and voluntary sector is such a vital lifeline and we’re honoured to have some hugely important charitable work being done throughout our FW venues.
One such organisation is The Brain Injury Foundation. Based at Formation Works Armagh, BIF is a user led recognised charity formed to help support and improve the quality of life of Acquired Brain Injury survivors, their families and their carers. The work of BIF often stops us in our tracks – giving us a much-needed dose of reality in our busy working lives. We caught up with the very busy Olive Hawthorne, Manager for the Brain Injury Foundation, to find out more about the work of this fantastic organisation.
Tell us about the Brain Injury Foundation and your role within the organisation.
The Brain Injury Foundation was formed in 2012 to help brain injury survivors and those who care for them. We serve the Southern Health & Social Trust Area. We currently have over 40 survivors and over 40 carers registered with us and we also have over 20 associated members.
Acquired Brain Injuries are for life and are incurable and the effects on patients and those around them can be devastating. Our focus is to give a window of socialisation to our members, albeit for a few hours in every week, to give survivors and their families a chance to escape the day-to-day reality of their conditions and also provide an opportunity to meet others facing similar challenges in their own lives. Our members take part in a range of activities here in Armagh including arts and crafts, wellbeing events, horticulture and photography.
I’ve been with BIF for four and a half years now, with the last one and a half years in this managerial role. I really enjoy being able to deliver a service to our members that I know makes such a difference in their lives, giving them a reason to come out and meet other people. This engagement has such an important role to play in improving their mental health and wellbeing and in reducing social isolation.
Have you always been based in Armagh and if so, why that location?
Our headquarters is based in Camlough, just outside Newry. There we have a centre of excellence where we deliver a similar programme to here in Armagh, but we also have a pub with no beer. Throughout the years we have seen an increasing number of self-referrals as well as referrals from statutory organisations from the Armagh area and we have seen our membership grow as a result. As a member led organisation, we listen to what our members are telling us and one thing which became increasingly apparent was the desire for members from the Armagh area to have their own dedicated base like the one enjoyed by the Newry membership.
What are your thoughts on the importance of an attractive office environment for your organisation?
Our main priority is to have a safe, appropriate and welcoming environment for our staff and for our members to come to which will meet their needs effectively and positively.
How did your move to Formation Works Armagh come about?
One of our founding members and myself had searched for a few years to find the right property. After looking at several buildings we knew what we didn’t want so it made it much easier for us when we found Formation Works. We could easily see our members partaking of activities there and the ample spaces and car parking facilities all amounted to the perfect space for us. The standard it has achieved of late in terms of refurbishment is first class and has only affirmed our choice of location.
How have you found the experience to date?
We have found Stuart, Claire and all their staff most accommodating and supportive of the work we do here, and more than helpful with any requests.
How would you describe the building?
The building continues to be transformed every time I go to it! The reception area is very welcoming and the rooms have been kept to good sizes for the activities we have scheduled for our members. The appearance is now very modern and is well maintained and very clean, all of which helps provide a very positive experience for those who use our services.
What would your advice be to anyone considering a move to a Formation Works venue?
Don’t hesitate in contacting Stuart and the team – they will try their very best to accommodate your needs. That’s one thing that stands out for me – they will always go above and beyond to provide a tailored solution for the needs of your organisation instead of trying to shoe-horn you into an unsuitable property.
To find out more about the incredible work of the Brain Injury Foundation, visit www.thebraininjuryfoundation.com, follow them on Facebook at The Brain Injury Foundation or call the team on 028 3083 9943 or 07511 210 281.