Gina Awad, presenter of Phonic FM’s ‘Living Better with Dementia’ programme, has been awarded a British Empire medal by the Lord Lieutenant of Devon this autumn for her voluntary service to people with dementia in Devon.
Gina trained as a volunteer Dementia Friends Champion, the trailblazing Alzheimer’s society social action movement. This occurred in 2014 half way through her Open University degree whilst she was studying a module on Dementia Care. It was at this point a journey for dementia she could never have contemplated would become the catalyst for her impact on the city of Exeter and beyond.
“Most people are surprised to hear my drive for dementia is not borne from being directly affected by it with a family member or friend. However my drive and commitment derives from childhood memories of visiting care homes with my grandmother who encouraged creative arts within them. At 8 years old my sister and I visited care homes with her. What really struck me then as a child over 40 years ago was not the residents who were involved with the activities but those that weren’t. I felt a myriad of emotions that at the time I didn’t connect with. It wasn’t until a few years ago I realised the impact of the residents who weren’t engaged had on me. As a little girl I observed and identified with a sense of disconnectedness, fear and vulnerability from the residents. That sense of what I perceive as isolation and loneliness affected me on such a deep level it never left me. I now understand many of the residents were living with dementia and very little was understood all those years ago. This identification was ignited when I began to study my dementia module and something clicked in my unconscious. However at that point I still had no idea where this revelation would take me”.
Since 2014 Gina has delivered 105 Dementia Friends sessions reaching 1600 people in a wide range of businesses and organisations across the city and county.
From here creating the Exeter Dementia Action Alliance and has inspired 64 businesses to take action by creating a 3 point action plan considering their service provision for people living with dementia and their families. Gina was awarded Dementia Champion of the Year in 2016 at the national Dementia Friendly Alzheimer’s Society awards.
Gina has been presenting a quarterly radio show on Phonic FM 106.8 FM since 2016: ‘Living Better with Dementia’ which provides a platform for people to share their working practice, as well as guests who are living daily with dementia.
Gina adds “the work of the Exeter Dementia Action Alliance flourishes with city organisational support and we will continue to create partnerships and inspire action. Together as a community we can and will create transformational change”.
On receiving her British Empire Medal (BEM) “I am not one for resting on my laurels but am delighted to receive this honour and realise it is a tremendous accolade. For me it’s about making a difference for people with dementia and their families. I want people to feel included, understood and be treated with compassion to enable a life of meaning. Through education and awareness this will contribute toward that.
“I would like to thank my family, friends and supporters for everything over the past few years”.