Darren Murinas pays tribute to his mentor Chantal Benjamin, and describes his journey to become a trustee of Lankelly Chase.
I started getting involved with Lankelly Chase in the summer of 2014; they came up to stoke to visit myself and the Expert Citizens. They came up to talk about their promoting change network and their work around severe and multiple disadvantage. This led to myself and other Expert Citizens telling our personal stories and our lived experience around this area of work. During this conversation there was laughter, tears and joy. This was the start of a very important relationship with a very truly inspirational woman, who herself had battled many demons for many years and had come through the other side stronger.
Chantal Benjamin had worked in the BBC for a very long time and then became a Communication Manager for Lankelly Chase. Over the next few months I and Chantal had many phone calls, emails and chats that lasted for hours. We would ‘put the world to rights’. The advice and guidance Chantal gave me was fantastic; supporting me with writing blogs and dealing with the media. She really championed me within her own organization. This led me to be involved in the great work that Lankelly Chase do; this includes the Hard Edges report which myself and other Expert Citizens have participated in.
I was invited to Manchester to help to launch the report for Lankelly Chase. That’s when I was first told that Lankelly Chase were looking for new members and trustees. My name was proposed and I was contacted to see if I was interested in this role. At first I found it quite daunting and really needed to think about it a little bit more. I contacted Chantal about it for a bit of advice; her words to me were “Darren, you will be fantastic in this role with your many years of lived experience.” So, I jumped at the chance: it was a quite a difficult interview process with phone calls and interview panels. The only interview I have done in the past was with the police in my pervious life but, yet again, Chantal’s words of wisdom helped me through this process and a few weeks later I became trustee and board member of Lankelly Chase.
At this time Chantal was just starting work on Lankelly Chase’s new website and invited me to be involved in with helping with an animation film. What I didn’t know at this time was that Chantal was diagnosed with cancer, and was really poorly. This remarkable woman had won many battles in her past but this was one fight too many. In august this year Chantel lost her battle and passed away.
Chantal Benjamin your memory and legacy lives on.