Real life stories

We understand that taking the first leap of faith to talk to someone about the challenges you face can feel like the hardest step.

Farming people are raised to be robust, however an expectation of always being strong, healthy and virtually invincible simply isn’t realistic. No one is indestructible and we all have the capacity to be impacted by difficulties and challenges.

Talking to someone about your challenges can make a real difference and will be one of the most positive steps forward you can take. Some of the people we’ve supported have very kindly shared their stories to help to illustrate how a little support at the right time can make a world of difference:

Debbie and James’s story

Dealing with the sudden death of a loved one is hard enough, but how do you cope when that person is also the driving force of the family business?

Following the loss of her husband Norman, Debbie Billen and son James were left with the responsibility of running their farm without a guiding hand. “It was a surreal time,” said Debbie. “But however bad we felt, we still had to get up every morning and do the milking.

Hardest of all for Debbie was watching her son struggle to come to terms with the overwhelming responsibilities that had been placed on his shoulders, at a time when he was also trying to deal with the loss of his dad. James said: “There had been no handover so I was just coping from day to day.

Debbie came across RABI online and made the all-important call. A welfare officer went out to meet the family and quickly arranged for them to receive a grant to fund some temporary farm help.

It wasn’t just about having someone to help with the work; it was such a relief for me to look out of the window and see that James had someone to talk to and he wasn’t on his own,” said Debbie.

David's story

David, who runs a farm with his wife, had everything he ever wanted, but felt something was 'not right'. As his mental health worsened, he began to drink more. A string of unfortunate circumstances befell the farm, leaving the family in financial difficulty. David says he felt like he had ‘crashed and hit the bottom.’

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.

He met an RABI welfare officer, to see how the charity could help him and his family.

David said: “The welfare officer went through the paperwork and helped us put together a plan to pay off our outstanding bills. Most of all, she listened. She listened without rushing me.

The welfare officer and RABI helped me to 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 once more.

David and Tracey’s story

David and Tracey Grigg’s world fell apart when their daughter, Julia, became seriously ill. Tracey gave up work to stay in hospital and care for her.

It’s like your world’s come to an end,” David said. “We were out doing the work one Sunday and when we came in Julia was flat out on the bed. We rang 999 and they came in ten minutes. She went off with Tracey to hospital then was airlifted to Bristol.

Tracey said: “I was worried about how David was going to manage all his work and all my work as well. We’d been reliant on friends and family while we’d been away, but obviously that doesn’t last forever.

Through a chance encounter with a regional manager, the couple learned of RABI and soon got in touch.

David said: “The RABI funded Lauren, who started working for us as an apprentice to feed the cows and do the things Tracey would have done. The good news is she’s still with us.

Chris' story

When second generation Worcestershire dairy farmer Chris Heath suffered a serious farm accident, his world was turned upside down. 

Chris suffered life-threatening injuries when he was propelled from the tractor he was driving and fell in its pathway as it ran over him. His injuries included a pelvis fractured in four places, three displaced vertebrae, a dislocated shoulder, six broken ribs and serious internal crush injuries to his bowel.

That same evening, after being airlifted to Coventry Hospital, the father-of-two was in theatre having part of his bowel removed. He was put into an induced coma and it was more than three weeks before he came around.

The accident happened in January 2019 but within six months Chris was walking around the farm again and taking nothing more than Paracetamol. He’s amazed doctors, family and friends with his progress, but he knows he’s been lucky. He said: “I could have died. I could have been in a wheelchair for the rest of my life. I still have quite a few issues, but I know things could have been much worse.

Chris’ family contacted RABI, who provided an initial grant towards the costs of relief farm staff. Because of the large vet bills and delays in benefit claims, RABI provided a secondary grant in June.