SSAFA Norton House, Selly Oak, a home-from-home for the relatives of injured Servicemen and women who are receiving hospital treatment, reunited former guests at a lunch to mark its fifth anniversary.
The house is one of two Norton Homes run by SSAFA, which are close to the main military treatment centres at Birmingham’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital and the Defence Medical Rehabilitation Centre at Headley Court in Surrey.
The spacious seven-bedroom house offers a safe and supportive environment to those coping with serious illness or life-changing injuries to a loved one, while its trained staff provide practical and emotional support.
Making a difference
Laura Brown has stayed at SSAFA Norton House many times, initially for a period of five months when her fiancé Lance Corporal Callum Brown of the Royal Regiment of Scotland 2nd Battalion was severely wounded in Afghanistan. The couple were married in Queen Elizabeth Hospital while Laura was staying at Norton House.
She said: “In the early days when I was visiting Callum, I stayed at the Alex Wing, then at a hotel and later in a flat, but moved to Norton House in March. It was so much better there because you were never on your own.
“When you got up in the morning or when you got home from the hospital in the evening there was always someone you could talk to. I got so much support from the team at Norton House and it definitely helped to have other families around in a similar situation – people who understood and who could relate to what you were going through. It helped not to be alone.
“Callum still has a lot of operations to go but I know that I’ve always got somewhere to stay when I visit him. Because we’re based up in Scotland it’s a really long way to go and to have somewhere safe and familiar to go makes a massive difference to me. I’d have been lost without Norton House.”
Resilience and strength
The fifth anniversary event reunited some of the first guests at the house and also brought together many who have supported the project.
House Deputy Manager Helen Gibson said: “When we arrived at SSAFA Norton House as a team we had a wealth of experience working with people. But we have found the resilience and strength of human spirit of the families who stay here truly humbling and I can honestly say it has changed our lives.
“To date we have seen over 1,600 people pass through our doors – mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, aunts and uncles, even grandparents. And it has not only been the families that have had an impact but the numerous volunteers who have offered their services, from gardeners and cake-bakers to fundraisers and massage therapists, there has been a whole host of people who have wanted to give. It’s a unique and special place.”
Follow Norton House on Twitter @NortonHouse or visit www.ssafa.org.uk to find out more.