A Safe and Welcoming Place
The room is cheerfully decorated and there’s the smell of fresh coffee brewing. Amanda and Glen are busy rearranging the tables in a way that will make the meeting more inviting. As people come in they greet each other with a friendly smile and warm words. Amanda smiles, knowing how important the weekly Brain Injury Drop In at Communitas Supportive Care Society is for those who come.
“It’s a safe place where people who come know that they will be welcomed and understood,” she says.
March is Brain Injury Awareness month and those who live with Acquired Brain Injury (ABI) are grateful for the opportunity to help others understand the realities with which they live. People who live with ABI have either experienced an accident that has resulted in trauma to the brain or they’ve had a stroke or a disease that has affected the brain. Unlike people who are born with a developmental disability, those who live with ABI live with a “before and after” reality, which often makes for a difficult adjustment. Feelings of depression and isolation are not uncommon. It is for this reason that the Brain Injury Drop In is so important.
“Often those who come to our group have already gone through a whole process of coming to terms with what has happened or what is happening to them,” Amanda explains. “When they come here, they are seeking a community.
The purpose of the group is twofold: to create and foster community and to include a learning component. On Wednesdays, they meet for a social time that includes an evening meal. There is also often another activity planned like a movie, for example. Learning times include topics that are determined by the group. They have discussed topics like mental wellness, positive self-esteem and breaking stereotypes. People are invited to bring their spouse or another support person with them. They average about 30 people each week.
Glen, who has been part of the group for several years, says there are many people in Abbotsford who live with brain injuries but do not get the support that they need. He encourages those people to visit the Brain Injury- Drop in at Communitas.
“People who come here get a lot of support,” he says.
Sherry has also attended the group for years and her face lights up as she talks about her experience.
“I love coming here,” she says. “It makes me happy. We get a great meal and I’ve met a lot of people and made some good friends.”
Amanda is encouraged when she hears this, knowing some of the challenges that these participants have faced. Some of those who attend the Brain Injury Drop In talk about the stigma they face when they’re out in community. Amanda hopes that people in the general public will embrace those who are different or who live with the challenge of ABI.
“People with a brain injury are just like you and me. The desires of a person haven’t changed after their injury, they still want to fit in, to be loved, to be respected,” Amanda says.