My name is Colin McAlister. In October 2008, after fifteen years as an Architectural Technician with over ten years at the same practice, I found myself suddenly out of work. The disastrous crash of the construction industry in Northern Ireland shocked me to the core and put my home in jeopardy. I was left with a palpable fear of what the future would bring.
I somehow managed to get by on a few short term contracts until 2010, when a colleague told me about the Architects Benevolent Society. I'd never heard of them, and I was delighted to receive a letter from ABS saying that their committee had agreed to assist me during my financial crisis by way of an on-going grant. This was a huge weight off my shoulders and an unbelievable boost for morale.
The ABS helped me manage until Autumn 2011 when my circumstances changed once again. My dear Mum, who had a deteriorating motor neuron condition, was now gravely ill. At this time, ABS stood by me. Aidan from the Society visited me to offer continued support – again a huge relief when worries for my mum were compounded by my financial concerns. When Mum sadly passed away, I felt terribly alone, having already lost Dad tragically in 1988. Thankfully, any sense of vulnerability was noticeably eased with ABS being alongside me. When Helen from ABS kept in touch over 2012, my deep appreciation for the charity was strongly reaffirmed.
Now the state of the Architecture industry is tangibly improved in Northern Ireland, which traditionally lags behind the UK. I’m back at work, albeit on short term contract, but it has recently been extended so I've got my fingers crossed. And with the ABS, I am free to focus on the job in hand so things are looking up.
I want to thank the ABS for all their help and support, both financially but also in a personal capacity. I don't know where I'd be without them – but certainly not in my own home. It’s so reassuring to know the ABS is always there at the end of the phone should I ever need them.