We recognise how important it is for people impacted by brain injury to connect with others who understand. Our Peer program is making this a reality for people across a range of activities, in-person and online. Nadine Holliday recently joined the Synapse Peer team as Project Lead and talks a little about her background and the exciting times ahead.
Tell us a little about your background and what drives you.
I grew up in Johannesburg and moved to Australia with my husband in 2006. Initially we had no family here but, over the years, some of our family immigrated to Sydney to join us, which has been fantastic.
I completed a nursing degree and a pharmacy degree in South Africa and worked for a few years in both professions. Shortly after arriving in Australia I moved into a Medical Information role but, since then, having kids has taken my career in new directions, by virtue of who they are and the experiences they’e had.
My eldest daughter developed Guillain-Barre syndrome in 2014 and gave me first-hand experience of living with a debilitating neurological condition. She made a full recovery over timebut, as a result, I know how stressful and difficult it can be to care for someone living with physical and emotional challenges.
Both my daughters also have dyslexia and, in my journey to learn more about this learning disorder and how I could help them, I found myself volunteering and then later working at a wonderful organisation called SPELD NSW. SPELD helps children and adults with learning difficulties and provides training and resources for reading, writing and maths to parents, teachers and therapists.
This inspired me to complete a Masters degree in Public Health in order take on new opportunities just like the new role here at Synapse! I’m always up for new challenges, learning new things and helping others in the process.
Can you tell us what the Synapse Peer program is all about?
The Synapse Peer program creates opportunities for people with a brain injury and their families to connect with each other and share their experiences. We know how important it is to be able to speak with people you can relate to and who understand what you’re going through.
That’s what the Peer program is about – making safe spaces for people to get together, share their stories and support each other. We have seen over the years that this kind of peer and community support can help to reduce the impact of brain injury on people’s lives.
Who does the Synapse Peer team consist of and what does everyone do?
The team’s stars are our Family Liaison Officers, or ‘FLOs’ as we like to call them – the people with lived experience of brain injury who will be connecting with the community directly. The FLOs personally understand the situations that people with brain injury, their carers and family members face. They offer guidance and support through the challenges of receiving a diagnosis, navigating the rehabilitation process, returning home and beyond into everyday life.
Then there’s myself and the program management team who will be leading and guiding the progress of the program – keeping things running smoothly and working alongside the FLOs and the community.
How do you see the program evolving?
Well to start with, the direction of the program will come in part from our peer community, who have personally experienced life after a brain injury. We also have a wonderful range of people acting as our Peer Advisory Group – people with brain injury, family members and carers as well as service providers who really understand brain injury. The group will help us guide decision making for the program and ensure we’re always meeting the needs of people living with brain injury.
What’s ahead for the Synapse Peer team in 2021?
As we see zero cases of community transmission of COVID-19 across many states and the easing of restrictions, I look forward to the Synapse Peer team being able to get back out into the community, hospitals and brain injury rehab units to connect with people face-to-face.
It will be wonderful to offer people safe places to meet up, enjoy a tea or coffee together and chat about their life experiences with people they can relate to. I’m also looking forward to developing our volunteer mentor program in 2021 – you’ll hear more about that one soon!