I am here – A place to be me

Not-for-profit respite service I Am Here (formerly known as Hunter BIRO) has been discreetly providing a home-away-from-home for children and adults with an acquired brain injury (ABI), cerebral palsy, physical, intellectual and other lesser-known disabilities for over 20 years in the Hunter.

Operating from an unassuming yet stylish and comfortable red brick house down a leafy driveway in suburban Elermore Vale, 2017 looks set to be the start of a new and exciting era for the entire I Am Here family.

General Manager, Ingrid Airlie, is passionate about providing the best possible respite care for the diverse guests of all ages that come to stay in the recently renovated house.
“I strongly believe that excellent short-term respite is the best model of care for people with a disability. Our guests are supported to live at home with their families and then come to us for a break. Their families also benefit from receiving a rest, safe in the knowledge that their loved ones are being well cared for and are having a good time,“ Ingrid describes.

“While many of our guests’ background stories are incredibly sad, involving sporting incidents, car accidents, shaken babies etc., our guests are not. They are wonderful individuals who are so much more than their brain injury or disability and we offer them and their families a bespoke service that respects their unique personalities and diverse needs.”

I Am Here started life in 1996, when two loving mothers joined forces to purchase the Elermore Vale house after both of their sons experienced the trauma of an ABI. They understood the importance and necessity of good respite care and together with dedicated staff and volunteers; the service gained a great local reputation operating as Hunter BIRO.

Ingrid began working with the organisation in mid-2015 after almost fifteen years of service at Calvary Mater Newcastle in Waratah. Aside from altering the name to I Am Here, Ingrid has made a number of other changes to the operation that include all staff relocating to an office on site in Elermore Vale and a complete refurbishment of the house.
“When I came on board there was an opportunity to make some significant improvements and it was with the help of the knowledgeable and supportive team here that we got started”….

Story Laura Jackel. Images Melissa Webster.