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MEET AMELIA: DIRECTOR OF SMART

In 1985, St Mary Abbots Rehabilitation and Training (SMART) was registered as a Charity to support people affected by mental illness on their path to recovery.

Since February 2017, the Royal Garden Hotel has fund-raised over £27,000 by hosting several events including raffles, auctions, food and drinks sales and much more.

Below you can read just how important meaningful activity and training is, as a way to rebuild lives and how the money raised by the Royal Garden Hotel has helped contribute to that.

Please introduce yourself and your role at SMART.

Hi I’m Amelia and I run SMART.  I’ve worked there for 11 years with a couple of breaks to pop out babies.

Can you tell us about the work that SMART do?

SMART was set up 35 years ago to help some of the most unwell people in our community to recover and stay well. We believe that purpose, meaning, friendship, laughter, love, fun, music, hard work, giving to others and self care, are really important elements of what we do. We run little businesses, including a community cafe, garden project and floristry (with flower stall), in which we employ and train people- all of the recovery work we do is focused around that... around what people can do. We work intensively with people to build skills, experience, self-management techniques and confidence in a friendly and enabling environment. We also provide lots and lots of opportunities for people to build social networks, have fun and get healthy in other ways. We do yoga, music, mindfulness, meditation, art, Zumba, book clubs, jewellery making - the list is endless and we do it every day of the week and most evenings too.

We have also started doing lots more work with people who have conditions like anxiety and depression or who have mental health needs that are stable but just need a bit more help to find or keep a job or get some practical help.

I usually sum up what we do by saying that when people walk through our door, we don't rub their nose in their pain, we believe in them until they can believe in themselves.

Are there any inspiring stories you can share?

We’ve had so many people walk through our doors and achieve incredible things that no-one thought them capable of. There was one lady who was so lost in her illness that she couldn’t speak but after a few weeks of sitting in the cafe during our music sessions she got up and sang; a few months after that she brought her violin and played the most incredible solo. It turns out she had been a professional musician and finding her way back to music with us helped her find her path back to recovery. She was a mum to two small children, a wife and an accomplished and talented lady – sometimes it is easy to forget that people have these lives before they become an unwell and to see someone be able to once again take their place in society and enjoy ordinary things that we might take for granted, like being part of family life, is truly wonderful.

What will the money donated by the Royal Garden Hotel be used for?

We are really mindful about how much individual effort and thought has gone into raising every penny of the money donated so we have tried to honour what we think are the Royal Garden Hotel’s values as we spend it. We have focused on creating a welcoming and hospitable space, inspiring people to work hard and, of course, making sure that good food, drink and company are high priorities. So far the money has funded or will fund:

  • 3 Christmas Day dinners and drop-in sessions for between 30 and 40 people
  • A community fridge so that we can accept donations of food and let people help themselves, thereby reducing food waste and filling hungry tummies
  • Funding new drop-in sessions and activities to reduce social isolation and promote health e.g. yoga, mindfulness, film nights etc.,
  • Funding the food safety qualification we teach
  • Our plot to plate course where people grow fruit, vegetables and herbs and then learn to cook them
  • Seed funding for our fledgling catering social enterprise
  • Renovations to SMART’s entrance to make it more welcoming
  • Improvements to the cafe (including a new counter) where most of our drop-in activities happen

Any advice for anyone thinking of fundraising for charity?

Make it fun! If your chosen cause has a fundraising pack then do make use of it – things like gift aid forms can increase your donation by 25%; often raising awareness is as important as raising funds so using the charity’s information leaflets can be really helpful. The Institute of Fundraising has some great guidance on best practice https://www.institute-of-fundraising.org.uk/guidance/ and you can always email me if you want some advice or ideas.

How can an individual donate to SMART?

We welcome donations of time, money, equipment and expertise. You can donate money online here http://www.smartlondon.org.uk/donate/ or text SMAR01 followed by the amount you want to donate to 70070. If you would like to volunteer or give us anything else then just email me amelia.mustapha@smartlondon.org.uk.

What are the future long term plans for SMART?

We have some really big plans! What we do is quite different and it works, but I usually spend so much time trying to fundraise and keep the charity afloat that it has been hard to plan. The funding from the Royal Garden Hotel has given me some breathing space and I’m now looking at renovating the derelict parts of our building to create a mental health and well-being hub, where people can get all the support they need in one place – everything from talking therapies to advice, somewhere to socialise, to somewhere they can retrain and find a job, or simply somewhere to go in a crisis. I’m planning to increase the income from our little businesses to create some financial stability and I also want to build a retreat where we can do intensive recovery work with people. Finally, we want to really address prevention and provide support in schools, training to employers and activities in the community that promote emotional resilience and recognise those first signs of mental ll-health.

The gift that the Royal Garden Hotel has given us has made an immediate impact to the people we serve but we think that in 3 to 5 years time you will be able to see the larger, lasting impact as our plans come to fruition.

Please come and visit us anytime – you are always welcome – and thank you!

 Share your stay with us on FacebookTwitter and Instagram with our hashtag #RGHFriends.
We would also love to see your family adventures in London with our hashtag #RGHFamilies.

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