Please take the time to read this personal letter from Thomas, who we helped earlier this year. Here at the Architects Benevolent Society, we rely on our supporters to raise funds to help people in times of need. We are responsive and unique in being able to provide immediate financial assistance to past and present members of the wider architectural profession in times of crisis. By giving to the Society this Christmas, you will be helping many people, like Thomas, whose lives have been turned upside down by unpredictable events. We are very grateful to him for sharing his story.
My name is Thomas. I’m a landscape architect, renting a flat in South East London, with over 15 years’ work experience, and have never been unemployed during that time. So why would I need to ask the Architects Benevolent Society for help?
Just when life seems good, fate can really turn round and kick you in the teeth. That’s what happened to me. And it could happen to any one of us, which is why it’s very reassuring to know that as professionals who work in the built environment, we can turn to the Society for help when we need it.
So, what happened to me?
On May Bank Holiday, a bike ride with my friend Petor started like any other but ended in disaster. We had been mountain biking all morning and planned to stop for lunch after one final red route. Not far in, I hit a tree root, was catapulted over the handlebars, and went skidding down the ravine face down. As Petor caught up with me, he could see that my back wasn’t the shape it was supposed to be! I had fractured my spine. Everything was a bit of a blur. I was told later that it took nearly two hours to get me out of the ravine as the ambulance couldn’t reach me and I had to be transported on an inflatable stretcher on the back of a pick-up truck to the ambulance.
I contacted the Society from hospital, and reeled off problem after problem to Aidan, the welfare officer. He was able to help me think clearly about one thing at a time and was incredibly supportive.
When I was discharged from hospital after a week, I needed help with daily care including eating and drinking because of the injuries to my face. I was wearing a back brace, was in a lot of pain, and couldn’t manage the daily challenge of the stairs up to my flat. So I went to stay with my mum in Devon. I wasn’t sure how I was going to get there, but the Society stepped in by covering my travel expenses and helping find suitable transport.
I am basically a cycling nut and I haven’t stopped cycling since my uncle took the stabilisers off my bike when I was a kid. In fact, I did a fundraising bike ride for the Architects Benevolent Society three years ago, cycling the last stage of the P2P (Portland in America to Portland Place in London) with Peter Murray and the gang.
I used to cycle 60-70miles a week, something I can’t do now and which I really miss. Cycling made me happy, and my social life was based around bikes. The accident knocked out my entire life for a while; it was a crushing experience.
The physical and emotional impact of this accident was compounded by the fact that I was due to start a new job two days after I fractured my spine. It couldn’t have been any worse. There was some financial help from my employer through statutory sick pay. However, this was not enough to cover my rent and living expenses so the Society gave me a regular grant for a few months.
I’m not sure what would have happened to me without this support. Knowing that I didn’t have to worry about my financial situation was such a relief and meant that I could focus on my physical and mental recovery. Like many people in my circumstances, I probably wouldn’t have been eligible for financial support from the state and even if I had, it would have taken ages to sort out and I needed immediate help, which the Society was able to give.
I really am hugely thankful to them for supporting me get back to work and become a productive member of society again. The financial help was great, but just knowing that there was someone there to offer advice and support really helped me out during a lonely time.
I really wanted to tell you my story because I think we are lucky to have a charity like this and I wanted to give something back. I would urge you to give whatever you can so the Society can continue helping people like me.
Have a Happy Christmas and New Year.