Real life stories
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 R.A.B.I online and made the all-important call. Welfare officer Cathy Denslow went out to meet the family and quickly arranged for them to receive a £2,000 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.
Learn more about Debbie and James's story in this video.
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 R.A.B.I welfare officer Sally Hubbard, to see how the charity could help him and his family.
David said: “Sally 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.
“Sally and R.A.B.I 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 regional manager Jenni Green, the couple learned of R.A.B.I and soon got in touch.
David said: “The R.A.B.I 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.”
Learn more about David and Tracey's story in this video.
Peter Holliday, a 53-year-old self-employed agricultural contractor from Silloth in Cumbria, was diagnosed with throat cancer in 2015. His first thoughts were not about his illness or his long-term future. It was how would he and wife Ali pay the bills while he was undergoing surgery and radiotherapy? Peter said: “The disease itself didn’t really faze me, although it upset everyone around me. It was the financial side of things that bothered me.”
R.A.B.I and Macmillan Cancer Support helped him throughout his treatment – with R.A.B.I clearing some domestic bills and covering the costs of hospital travel.
Peter said: “You’ve no idea how much it meant to me to see a cheque arrive through the door, it was such a weight off my mind. All I could see was a heap of bills on the table."