In my experience over the last 4 years, I can safely say that Birmingham is full of inspiring people. Now that may be said of many big cities, just based on population density alone. But truly, Birmingham residents seem to have that little something special. I’ve lived in many cities across several continents and I’ve never experienced the welcoming sense of community and commitment of the people in Birmingham and getting important things going here is so much easier because of it.
Meet Lisa Thompson, Chief Executive of RSVP, a Birmingham based charity running since 1978 for survivors of sexual violence and abuse, and Founder of GINA, the social enterprise she started and named after her Birmingham born Nana Gina, who was raped as a teenager and kept her secret for nearly 70 years. GINA stands for Grow, Inspire, Nurture and Achieve, to encourage people to believe in themselves, their resourcefulness and their potential.
I met up with Lisa at RSVP during one rainy April afternoon and was struck immediately by her presence and kindness. She has a very natural charisma, coupled with an air of confidence and gentleness that immediately puts one at ease. Lisa is also an England Athletics approved run leader and has been running since school. Having finished her first half marathon with her Dad at age 19 in 1988, she then did many more before completing a full marathon in 2010, a 30 miler in 2012, a 50 miler in 2013, and in 2014 she completed a 100 mile run in 29 hours 23 minutes and 11 seconds! Lisa says that she feels there is a connection between running and surviving, and that a running group is a great way for survivors of abuse to get their confidence back, grow, be inspired and nurtured, as well as achieve their goals.
The free GINA running group is an official Run England Group that meets twice per week, on Wednesday evenings and Saturday mornings. It’s open to both men and women in Birmingham of all abilities. To find out more about how you can get involved visit: http://gina.uk.com/running/
Apart from the running group, GINA also offers other opportunities for people affected by rape and sexual abuse and for those working with them through the provision of training, expert reports, products and activities.
There's also a lovely "wall of kindness" area on the Gina website which opens with this amazing statement written by Lisa:
"For my late Grandmother Gina and all other children, women and men surviving rape and abuse like her, this message is for you. I want a world which shows you more kindness; a world where you can use your voice to proudly speak out; where the blamers and shamers stay silent, not you and where you can thrive by following your heart’s desire and embrace opportunities to grow, inspire, nurture and achieve. I have created this online space for you, so you can visit it and see messages filled with kindness, hope and nurture from people across the world and know that there are people who really do care. I hope these messages will embrace you when you feel low; lift you up when you are down; motivate you to live the life you dream of and help you realise that, despite traumatic experiences, you can thrive."
As written on their website: ‘when you support GINA you help to create a future where people surviving rape and sexual abuse can thrive and live the life they want’. Help support them today with your BetterPoints donation.
You can also follow GINA on twitter @GINA_CIC