Leavitt Twomey, a parent and social worker, hosted the inaugural meeting of the group in his Lisburn home. As chairman of the new group he hoped the membership would grow to raise enough money to pay for tea and biscuits for the entire year! “We already have 12 members including myself, my extended family and our treasurer. We hope to have many more soon. We count everyone as a member, so even if your child is 3 years old, he or she will be a member, we won't exclude anyone. As long as an individual meets our criteria as indicated on our membership form, they can join. If every parent and child in Northern Ireland who are affected by autism joined our group, including their grandparents and friends we would have tens of thousands of members! To that end, we have already printed 5000 membership forms for PASSIVE NI. It only costs £20.00 to join (£25. 00 for children under the age of 16 and unemployed/senior citizens).
Leavitt brought the group's attention to the 'no paper' policy of the meetings and in the interest of the environment, no printed paper of any kind, including research papers, or printed information from other agencies or groups will permitted or circulated. He said the only exception would be PASSIVE NI's membership application forms, sponsor sheets for the group's upcoming bungee jump and of course, tissues.
“Mostly what parents want”, Leavitt said, “is for someone to listen to them. I am a social worker, so I know how the system works. Parents don't need to concern themselves with things they know nothing about. Further, our group is not about research or learning. We are here to cry on each others shoulders if we have to. Parents are happy to let others advocate for their children's future as long as they have someone to listen to them in the meantime. This is how it's always worked in Northern Ireland regarding autism and we have no desire to change that.”
PASSIVE NI knows that parents whose children have autism spend much of their time and energy caring for their children. “We know that time is precious to parents and that's why we have an array of fund-raising activities planned for parents that will take their minds off of autism. Parents will do anything to help their children. Fund-raising for PASSIVE NI is a great way for parents and their children to come together socially and to meet new people.
Fund-raising for PASSIVE NI will pay for tea and biscuits, Leavitt said, but he also hopes to employ two part-time professional fund-raisers very soon. Leavitt also hopes to quit his job as a social worker so he can work full time for PASSIVE. “We know that public awareness about autism is growing and we know how generous people in Northern Ireland can be when it comes to giving. I hope we will be able to raise enough money to pay for my full-time salary in the next six months! We are 'ambitious about autism!'
Albion Yurtale is a parent of two children, both of whom have autism. He is an accountant and is also the group's treasurer. He echoes Leavitt's optimism about the future of PASSIVE NI. “We are in the process of establishing new groups all over Northern Ireland. It will be my job to visit each of these groups and set up their accounting systems. Each of the groups will be required to carry out their own fund-raising. A stipend (75%) of all monies each group raises will be provided to PASSIVE NI's head office at Leavitt's home. The rest can be used by each group to carry out further fund-raising and to pay for tea, biscuits and tissues.
“Anyone who wishes to get involved with PASSIVE NI or who would like to start their own branch of PASSIVE NI is welcome to contact me at our premium telephone number :
(* calls to the above number charged at £2.50 per minute. Mobile rates may vary. Please check with your provider)
A shoulder to cry on