Brighton & Hove Albion are delighted to announce that our latest donation from the Albion As One fund will support a new bereavement charity, StrongMen.
The charity's co-founder is Efrem Brynin, whose Albion-supporting son James was tragically killed in action in Afghanistan on 15th October 2013.
StrongMen is part of James' legacy and encourages men to open up about bereavement, alongside their peers, in a safe and secure environment.
“Four years ago I participated in Channel 4's SAS: Who Dares Wins, while the following year a guy called Dan Cross took part in the series,” Efrem said. “His wife, Nikki, was tragically murdered while Dan was away on business and so given what we had both been through, we developed the idea of an alternative support service for men who had lost someone – be it a partner, child, parent, friend or even colleague.
“Rather than receive generic medication or counselling, we came up with StrongMen, based around taking guys to remote, beautiful locations, providing a safe and secure environment for them to share experiences with men who have suffered similar experiences. The weekend includes physical challenges while providing them the opportunity to open up about their bereavement and talk about where they are in their lives.”
The first two camps attracted a total of 50 participants, while 400 men had signed up for this year's four events, which have been postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. With an additional waiting list in excess of 800, the charity is going from strength to strength and, as a result, the donation from the Albion has been gratefully received.
“We've been a registered charity since last July 2019 and whilst we have received small grants from the National Lottery and the Government, the majority of our funding has been raised independently,” Efrem added. “Our weekenders cost us around £500 per person which includes insurance, accommodation, food, drink, kit, activities, as well as the professional team who join us.
“We are, therefore, extremely grateful for the donation we have received from the club, as that has enabled us to take on our first employed part-time member of staff, and we are now in the process of training our next group of volunteers for our recently-launched Man2Man service.
“When I saw Albion As One had been launched, it didn't surprise me at all, given the way the club is so intrinsically linked with the local community, and the donation has made a big difference to us, as it must have done to a number of charities throughout the city and county.”
When the first lockdown was announced back in March, Efrem and Dan came up with the idea of Man2Man, which provides peer support on the telephone to people who need help now. With the second lockdown starting this week, the service is expected to be even busier than usual.
“Our peers are all volunteers who have participated in one of our StrongMen Weekenders and who want to give something back,” Efrem points out. “Men need to talk more, and, as we don't know how long it will be before we can get back to our weekends away due to the pandemic, this service provides not only an immediate service, but a real understanding as the person on the other end of the line has gone through a similar experience.”
StrongMen - Visit our website to see how we can help.https://t.co/4cHLSXyzNF#strongmenorguk #wearyourheartonyoursleeve #PeerSupport #mensmentalhealth #bereavement #charity #yourenotalone #timetotalk pic.twitter.com/e4VTntMXV7— StrongMen-Org-UK (@StrongmenOrgUk) October 28, 2020
The charity has also provided some solace to both the Brynin and Cross families, given their traumatic losses. “There was nothing like this available for us,” Efrem points out. “We could go to the doctors for sleeping tablets for instance, but we're a family that would rather treat the cause rather than the symptoms. I was 41, my wife Sharon was just 40 when we lost Jay, so we were still very young to deal with such an unexpected death.
“While James' loss is still challenging for us as a family, StrongMen has, without question, helped us. It's such a great legacy for James and Nikki, and it has been so cathartic for both families as well.”
You can read the full interview with Efrem in Friday’s matchday programme against Burnley.