13 January 2020
Coffee, Cake and Companionship
A cuppa, A natter and a slice of cake are what makes Britain great, and now they're on the menu for Members. Behold the Blesma Brunch!
Following the appointment of nine Outreach Officers to bolster Blesma's Ranks, our Members are feeling closer to the association, and each other, than ever.
Midlands Outreach Officer Vanessa organises several Brunches across the area, now sponsored by the National Lottery Community Fund. They bring Members and their partners together, giving them the opportunity to meet people from totally different walks of life, but who share their links to Blesma. The brunches are simple events, with no airs or graces, but bringing people together is what is most important.
Scroll to read what some of the brunch participants think!
Len, 82, who served in the Royal Army Ordnance Corps, attended the event with his wife, Muriel. An unsuccessful operation three years ago led to an above-right-knee amputation
You’ve been making friends thanks to the Blesma Brunch...
We have, and it’s just wonderful. We’ve been to two so far, and Sam and Vanessa have done us proud. It was so interesting because we found out that the people at the end of the table only live a couple of miles away from us, and we are now friends, which is the point of things like this. We’re going to pick them up and have a cup of tea soon.
And there’s a constant supply of new Members coming through…
Yes. There were two ladies we met at the first brunch, and it was as if we’d been friends all our lives, it was amazing! And we all chat about our amputations – I’ve even made some progress on the leg situation thanks to chatting with other Members, which is a tremendous benefit of going to an event like this.
You’re getting involved in some pretty wild Blesma activities too, right?
Ha, yes! Last year I took part in the zip wire event in Wales, and I was going to try the skydive this year, but unfortunately it didn’t go ahead. I might try to get a place on the Arizona Cowboy College activity because I love country music. I would try to get sponsorship for it, but I don’t think you can sponsor someone for having fun, can you?
Eric, 68, from Derby, was injured as a teenager shortly after joining the Grenadier Guards. He came to the brunch with his wife, Jennifer.
You were heavily involved in your region’s Branch, weren’t you?
I was the Branch Secretary, and would often drive around the county to see people. I enjoyed it, but unfortunately, I was the one who had to recommend the closure of the Branch. I was the youngest Member at the time – at 48!
Does this feel a bit like a return to those days?
Yes. I really enjoyed the brunch because I got to see other people from around the same area with the same problems, and I could sit and chat about them. It was brilliant. Jennifer and I have been to two now and they’ve both been really enjoyable. In the past, Branches were a central point of contact for Members to meet up within the county. Now we’ve got Ness, it feels like there’s a central point again.
What did you enjoy most about today’s brunch?
Meetings like this are a bit like the Members’ Weekend; you chat to people you’ve never met before, and they can be very inspirational. They make you realise you need to just get on with life, and that’s always been my attitude. I joined up just after my 17th birthday and was injured on an assault course that had been neglected 18 months later. I’ve had a number of operations throughout my life, but you carry on because there’s no point moaning!
Andrew, 41, from Swadlincote, served with the Queen’s Royal Lancers and was injured in Afghanistan in 2010.
You’re a busy man, was it nice to be able to squeeze a Blesma event into your week?
I work as an enforcement agent, and I have a wife and stepdaughter. My wife is studying at university so I’m working extra hours to keep the pennies coming in. As much as I’d like to be heading off with Blesma for a week, it’s not easy for me to get to day-long events. This was a perfect compromise, I could go for a few hours, and because it was local, it was easy to get to.
Did you enjoy it?
It was my first one and it was good to meet other Members. It’s a bit different, informal, and a nice break for a couple of hours. It’s great to talk to people, find out what other activities are happening and chat to people who have done them. I like meeting the older Members, too. And you got involved directly because of Vanessa, right? Yes. Ness and Sam are brilliant, they’re doing such a good job. Ness is always in touch, she’s been very proactive. The Outreach Pilot seems to be getting more people involved. It definitely connects people.
Margaret, 86, from Mickleover, is a Blesma Widow. She was married to Bill, who served with the Royal Corps of Signals.
What do the Blesma Brunches mean to you?
I’ve enjoyed every one I’ve been to. I don’t like to be greedy and ask to come to too many, but they’ve told me I’m welcome to come along to them all! That’s lovely, and they’re such nice, helpful people. I enjoy the chat, and the food is great, too – today I had bacon, egg, mushrooms, beans and toast, it was delicious. I love meeting everybody because when you live on your own, you do miss the company and having a chat.
How much did Blesma help you and Bill over the years?
They’ve been brilliant for us and have done all sorts. They provided Bill with a wheelchair and always looked out for him. It’s a marvellous charity and I can’t thank them enough. When Bill passed away three years ago, we had a collection at the funeral for Blesma because I wanted to repay them for all they had done for him. I always tell everybody I meet about Blesma.
And now you’re getting more involved yourself…
Yes. I didn’t hear from them for a while, then all of a sudden I heard from Samantha, and now they always invite me to things. I’d like to take part in more Blesma activities. I’ve put my name down to go to Alvaston Hall on the Widow’s Week – hopefully, I’ll get to go. The company and change of environment are great, and it’s so nice to speak to people who have been through similar things to you.
Paul, 61, from Kings Bromley, sustained a spinal injury in a car accident in 2003.
You didn’t know about Blesma for 15 years, despite being eligible to join…
That’s right. I met somebody on a cruise who had a spinal injury and was a Member of Blesma. By chance, I’d mentioned my military background – I had been in the RAF – and he told me about the charity. I didn’t realise I was eligible because I wasn’t limbless, but he explained and I joined last year. Events like this one mean I can make connections with people in the area. It has been a very nice and very sociable event.
Getting people together locally is a real focus for the Outreach Officers…
It’s important that people get to know that Blesma is a charity that works on a local level, rather than an Association that just
organises big trips. And it’s not a club solely for young people or Widows either – it makes links through the generations. Sam and Ness have worked hard on this, and are very good at staying in touch. When I joined, Sam came over and we had a good, long chat. She helped me to understand more about what Blesma could do for me.
Who have you linked up with recently?
Ness put me in touch with two Blesma Widows who I drove to the event. That’s part of it; Members helping each other. They might not have been able to make it to the brunch otherwise. And there’s talk of me being able to help another Member who is a tree surgeon.