Thursday, 8 March 2018

R.A.B.I – supporting farming families in Powys

Becky with her Dad, and his dog, Merle!
This week’s guest post is from Becky Davies
Regional Manager of R.A.B.I for North Wales and Warwickshire 

My name is Becky and I work for a charity called R.A.B.I, aka the Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution. We are a national farming charity working throughout Wales and England. We aim to help people of all ages from the farming community, particularly those who have found themselves in difficult circumstances through no fault of their own.

I work for R.A.B.I four days a week as a “Regional Manager”. What this means is that I help to raise money for the charity and also raise awareness of what we do, and how we can help people. The charity has its head office in Oxford, but I get to work from home, and my work takes me out and about throughout North and Mid Wales, and Warwickshire. I am originally from a farming family in Shropshire but I have recently moved to live on a farm near Dolgellau. My colleague Linda Jones also works with me as a Regional Manager in Powys. Linda and I have two fabulous colleagues working with the farmers in Powys – Mel Jones and Claire Critchard. Mel and Claire are Regional Welfare Officers. They both work very hard visiting people in Powys and beyond, making sure that we are doing all we can to help.

Some people don’t understand how farmers can end up feeling depressed. It can be a lovely, rewarding occupation. They are surrounded by our beautiful Welsh countryside, getting out into the fresh air each day. But from time to time it can be difficult to pick your head up and notice the beauty in your surroundings.

Farming is a 24/7 business and many in the industry work very long hours in isolation in remote, rural areas. On top of that, there will always be factors that can quickly cause stress and anxiety to escalate such as market fluctuations, poor harvests, bad weather and animal disease. Not seeking support when symptoms first emerge can make things much worse.

People approach the Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution (R.A.B.I) for all sorts of reasons. At R.A.B.I we give out grants to people from the farming community, and provide a range of additional support. For some people, our help might just provide a breathing space to hopefully take the pressure off. It’s incredible how having someone to talk to can so often be that vital first step on the road to recovery. For some people, tackling their financial problems can immediately relieve some of the stress, anxiety and worry.

Farmers Lizzie and David Ottley with R.A.B.I Regional Welfare Officer Sally Hubbard
We offer a free, and confidential service. Most of the people that we help, choose to remain anonymous (as is their right), but some individuals agree to share their story. David Ottley is one of these people.

David and wife Lizzie run Blue Welly Farm and have three young daughters. David remembers the time before he called on R.A.B.I for help: “I had the farm and the family I’d always wanted but something was not right. I was not happy.”

Over the years, David’s problems worsened. A string of unfortunate circumstances befell the farm and David felt that he had ‘hit the bottom and crashed’.

David described a particularly difficult time when his ewes developed health problems, leading to them lambing four weeks early. Most of the new-born lambs could not survive.

“I was afraid of going into the lambing yard to see what I’d find next. I couldn’t do it. Lizzie held it all together, until the morning that she needed my help with a ewe that was having trouble. She said it was like watching someone who had never lambed before. I didn’t know what to do.

“I sat on the floor and felt empty and dead and just for a second I felt I might as well be because I had no feelings.

“I went to the doctor's and went on medication, but I was still under a very dark cloud. Months of not being on the ball had meant that money had gotten very tight. I started hiding the bills from Lizzie, but also from myself.

“One day I sat outside at our table. Everything was dead, there were no birds and no life. I decided I had to do something because this couldn’t carry on.”

David sought the help of R.A.B.I, and Sally Hubbard, one of our welfare officers, met with him to work out how the charity could help him and his family.

“She came out and went through everything. She helped us put together a plan on how we were going to pay off these bills. Things weren’t as bad as I thought they were. She also called some of our creditors and spoke to them on my behalf, which is something I couldn’t do.

“Most of all, she listened. She listened without rushing me.

“The money R.A.B.I gave us kept the house running so the farm had a little bit of time to rest and pay for itself. We could function and pay our bills.

“Sally and R.A.B.I helped me focus on the farm and walk through the fog to see the sun and hear the birds. They helped me get back on track to do farm work again. I’m looking ahead with a smile again.”

People are generally surprised when I talk about all that R.A.B.I can offer. Our primary aim is to offer financial support to farming people, but in reality, we do so much more than just hand out grants. You can explore a bit more on our website. Many of the people who have made the brave step to contact R.A.B.I are often relieved once they have contacted us. If you know of anyone linked to the farming community that might need our support, please get in touch with R.A.B.I by emailing: or ringing the freephone helpline: 0808 281 9490.

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