Report: ‘When I was on my knees, Abta LifeLine was there for me’

In a special National Travel Agent Day webcast, Sam Robinson outlines how the charity supported him and his daughter after the death of his wife

A former employee of the Monarch Travel Group and Funway Holidays has spoken of how support from Abta LifeLine helped him in his darkest hour.

Joining a webcast on National Travel Agent Day, which this year is focusing on raising funds to support the trade following a torrid 16 months, Sam Robinson explained how the charity had helped “take away the pressures” and “lighten his load” when he was at rock bottom.

He shared his story to encourage others in the travel industry to ask for help if they need it – and to help raise awareness and funds to ensure Abta LifeLine can continue doing its “vital” work.

It is the chosen charity, along with the Irish Travel Agents Association Benevolent Fund, for National Travel Agent Day on Friday July 23, the second to take place in the UK.

Robinson told Travel Weekly: “About 20 months ago, my wife was diagnosed with incurable breast cancer, which had spread from primary breast cancer into her bones.

“I reached out to Abta LifeLine about a month before she eventually passed away, as I’d just been made redundant and the demands of my wife’s needs meant that I couldn’t be in a senior marketing role in the travel industry for a while. I needed to be there for her treatment and to look after our three-year-old daughter, Molly.

“I was really struggling because I’d been made redundant, I’d got a wife who was terminally ill and a three-year-old and very little resources to keep the roof over our head and food in our tummies.”

Robinson explained how a former colleague had introduced him to Abta LifeLine, a charity he’d not even been aware of previously.

“I didn’t even know that Abta Lifeline was a thing until I needed it. It’s so important to raise awareness of it, for people that might be in need and don’t know where they can turn,” he said.

“About a month after I first engaged with Trudie [Clements, Abta LifeLine director], my wife passed away. That was about 11 months ago now. I was faced with an even bigger challenge of adjusting to life with no work, but having to solo parent, run a home and deal with grief and bereavement and all of the mental health impacts that that came with.”

Robinson said Clements and the Abta LifeLine team had been “fantastic”.

“The biggest thing that they did for me was straight away taking care of things so I didn’t have to worry about them and most of that was financial,” he explained.

“They contributed towards my wife’s funeral and dealt directly with the funeral directors and made that a really seamless process for me.

“Then they supported me with supermarket vouchers for a period of time on a monthly basis so that I knew that that was one less thing that I had to worry about and Molly and I were going to be fed.”

He added: “When you’re dealing with anxiety and overwhelm, it’s the little things that bother you the most, the things that rush to the front of your head. Having that support from Abta LifeLine and knowing I didn’t need to worry about those things was incredibly helpful.”

Robinson said he received counselling via the local hospice but pointed out that Abta LifeLine could have helped with that too and didn’t offer just financial support.

He said: “When I was on my knees really struggling and the world felt incredibly heavy, they came in and just took away a couple of the pressures and lightened my load and I am very grateful.

“The work that they do is incredible.”

Robinson said he felt sure, given the effects of the pandemic, that many others in travel would also be feeling overwhelmed and at rock bottom.

“Given the way the world’s been for the last 18 months, I can see how many people in the travel industry are going to need that support. And so the fact that you’re able to do something to raise awareness and help raise funds is incredible, to help people like myself who felt like I had nowhere to turn.”

Robinson explained he had now launched his own marketing company.

“Not having to worry about some of those financial elements allowed me to not have to rush back into the work environment. My family model lost 50% of the parent availability when Lauren died, so my goal is to try and give Molly more of my time and the only way I can do that is by being in control of my work environment.

“That means working for myself and so three months ago, I set up a marketing consultancy called ‘Whole of the Moon Marketing Ltd’. It’s been going very well and I’ve been very fortunate I’ve got some good clients so far.”

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