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Meet the Community Support & Membership Team

Meet the Community Support & Membership Team

Community Support and Membership is a team with a wide range of skills, knowledge, and experience. We are still working, from our dining tables and home offices, to ensure that we can continue to the support services you need. We can be a listening ear if you’d like to share your experience of living with EB or if you have a challenge that needs addressing – from benefits, finance and employment housing, school and more.

Over the next few editions of our Members e-news we will introduce you to some of the team and to put a face to the voice at the end of a telephone or the name at the end of an email. Click a name below to find about the team:

The Team

Karen Thackray - Membership Liaison Manager

Alawiye Abdalla - Community Support Manager

Victoria Bruce - Community Support Manager

Amelia Goddard - Community Support Manager

Rowena Hamilton - Community Support Manager

Nathalie Austin - Community Support Manager

Shamaila Zaidi - Community Support Manager


 

Karen Thackray - Membership Liaison Manager

“I was really pleased to join DEBRA in June 2019 after working in a similar role for another national charity. I have volunteered as an advocate for people with disabilities for over 25 years and moved to work in the charity and voluntary sector after having my children. I have gained experience in advocacy, event delivery, training and supported employment. I have also been known to run a very organised fundraising gift tombola!

I am passionate about enabling people with long term health conditions or disabilities to have a voice and be empowered to be as independent as possible and achieve their goals.  

I am working hard to increase our engagement with members, with all EB types, ages and across the four nations. Due to the pandemic this has mainly been via Zoom, or you may have had a wellbeing call from me. I am here to listen to what members’ need and I will work with the DEBRA team to see how this can be achieved. Please do email me at any time, karen.thackray@debra.org.uk or phone 01344 771961 and select option 1.”

When I am not working:

“I started my volunteering at the age of 18 as a special police constable. I now like to spend my free time walking, or cycling, and at any opportunity I am near water (yes, I am a Pisces!).”

 

Alawiye Abdalla - Community Support Manager

Area of special interest - education and families.

“I heard about DEBRA when I supported a young girl with RDEB at the school where I previously worked.

I have 8 years of experience and knowledge of the education system, SEND plans and EHCPs as well as having a good understanding of children and families needing support at school.

Currently’ I am helping members to complete DLA and PIP forms and supporting families during SEND/EHCP meetings at schools and colleges. I am also advocating for a member to ensure that she is suitably housed with the correct adaptations and equipment.

I can speak and write fluent Arabic and I recently helped a family to join an online member get-together by translating the Zoom instructions The online get togethers are good fun and a great way to make new connections. I love meeting members this way."

When I am not working:

“I practise Yoga, Pilates and weightlifting to benefit my wellbeing. I am an autism advocate; a meme enthusiast and I love to eat cakes and sweets but not bake them!”

 

Victoria Bruce - Community Support Manager

Area of special interest - Developing and promoting EB support across Scotland and young people. 

“I have 15 years’ experience in providing support and guidance to vulnerable adults, children and families in Scotland with a vast range of requirements. Prior to working at DEBRA, I held a very similar role for another charity.

I have a strong passion and motivation for the importance of peer support. I assist with leading the new virtual Teens and Twenties forum which provides an online platform for our young members to come together to offer informal peer support in a safe and secure online environment.

A crucial element of my role is really getting to know our members and offering a holistic, person centred support from the onset and throughout their journey. This has enabled me to support with employment, accessing statutory services, benefits and obtaining funding for emergency household items.”

When I am not working:

“‘Puppy life’ is keeping me well and truly on my toes and no two days, maybe even two minutes are ever the same! My favourite past-time is going on family walks, watching some Netflix (with puppy on my knee of course) and undertaking home décor.”

 

Amelia Goddard - Community Support Manager


Area of special interest: Bereavement support

"I have worked at DEBRA for just over a year. My background includes childcare and varied family support roles in both charity and local authority settings.  Most recently I worked in a Children’s Hospice and enhanced my skills in listening therapy and support both before and after bereavement.

I have utilised my skills in bereavement work to help write the bereavement section on our website. I enjoy my role here at DEBRA, working with members in key ways, using the varied specialisms we have across the team to ensure they are supported to the best of our abilities.

What I learn each day is the strength that our members have – how they overcome the challenges they face in daily life and I find it a complete privilege to be allowed to witness this."

When I am not working:

"Aside from spending time with my family, caring for our pet Praying Mantids, I am also a keen gardener reaping the rewards from home grown vegetable crops.  When the world is open, I look forward to trips to concerts and theatres once again!"

 

Rowena Hamilton - Community Support Manager


Area of special interest – Housing

"I started working for DEBRA in June 2018. Prior to working for DEBRA I had a 25-year career in Social care, I have worked in a variety of different sectors including working with children, adults, the homeless, housing, domestic violence, vulnerable women and families.

I have a lengthy background and knowledge in housing enabling me to assist our members to access the correct help within the housing sector.

I have had the pleasure to support our members and healthcare teams over the past four years and I am very passionate about the quality of service we provide."

When I am not working:

"I am a very sociable person and love spending time with my family and friends, I am passionate about keeping fit and enjoy going to the gym, running and walking. I am known for taking on new challenges and in 2018 I trekked 150km across the Sahara Desert in aid of DEBRA."

 

Nathalie Austin - Community Support Manager

 Area of special interest - Welfare Benefits across all ages.

"I started at DEBRA three years ago. Prior to DEBRA, I used to help families in my local community and specialised in community equipment. I worked with people to understand what adaptations were needed to increase their independence at home.

I have always practised a holistic approach in my previous roles which I have carried across to DEBRA, along with enabling and empowering people. This means that I look at what else might be affecting individuals and we work together to find solutions. I am determined to bring the best that I can to help the members I work with. I enjoy working in partnership with the medical teams and thanks to them I have learnt a great deal about EB.

Working with individuals living with EB has given me a great insight of what resilience is about."

When I am not working:

"I enjoy walking with Happy (in the photo) especially on the sea front and watch him run after the seagulls but never catching one! I like reading about history in general. When I have some spare time I also enjoy researching my family genealogy."

 

Shamaila Zaidi - Community Support Manager

Area of special interest: Support Grants, Personal Budgets & Direct Payments, Carers’ Assessments, Mental Health First Aid

"I joined DEBRA in November 2019.  I have previously worked for various councils and charities developing services for people with disabilities, integrating them into mainstream services. I was involved in Direct Payments and Personal Budgets initiatives when it was originally introduced.

As well as working for DEBRA I am also an Independent Assessor for the Family Fund, assessing the eligibility of children/young people with disabilities for grants.  During one of the family visits, I met a boy with a severe form of EB.  Seeing how this condition affected him and his family, made me carry out research EB  and then I came across DEBRA. A few years later when I noticed the advert for CST Manager, I just had to apply, and here I am.

I am really enjoying the role and I have developed a positive relationship with the healthcare teams and the EB community."

When I am not working:

"When I’m not working, I like to keep fit and enjoy going to the gym and a run. I have 2 very young children that keep me mentally and physically active. I love to travel to different countries."

 

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