We are delighted to bring you an interview with the lovely Gethin Jones. Gethin, aside from hosting our BAPS Awards in May, also has his own autism charity, NAI.
What is Nai?
‘Nai’ is a charity that raises awareness and money for children and people with autism. I set it up with my best friend, Sion Tudur. We were inspired by our nephews, who are both autistic. ‘Nai’ is the Welsh word for ‘Nephew’.
How did it come about? How long have you been running it?
We’ve been going for about 18 months now. We knew we wanted to help, after seeing the battles and stresses our sisters had been through. Our nephews are the inspiration, but they don’t benefit directly from Nai. We pay all the charity’s expenses, so every penny raised goes to where it needs to go – that’s important to us.
Last week, we gave £10,000 to various autism projects – that felt good.
Who is behind it? How many of you are involved?
Me and Sion!
Our sisters sit on the ‘board’ and every decision is discussed and debated with them – they are the experts! I’ve know Sion for a long time, but never have I been prouder of him.
A successful solicitor – he does the work of 10 men, and still found time to run three triathlons for Nai last year! This is the man who would admit he couldn’t run 5k a few years ago. It’s aged him a bit mind…!
What do you do at Nai? Who do you support and how?
We raise as many funds as possible, and then encourage people to pitch for the money.
We’ve bought iPads for units within schools, we’ve funded autism projects for children, and also funded seminars and courses for parents with autistic children. It just drives us harder and harder, there’s so much to do.
What are your aims for the charity?
That’s a big question. Our end goal, our aim, is for people to treat autism and autistic people exactly the same way as they do anyone else, but with a bit of patience.
‘Raising awareness’ is a power phrase you hear all the time. But that’s exactly what we aim to do. I’d like to see a world where autistic people are not restricted just to get from day to day, but live a life to the full, offering their skillsets, character and unique qualities to society.
What tips do you have for people wanting to fundraise or even set up their own charity?
You know, it’s tough. Fundraising, in particular. There are so many fantastic organisations and charities out there doing so much good. Just look at how many JustGiving pages, tweets and emails you get.
It’s brilliant so many people are doing what they can.
We ask nicely, and are quite willing to do the mental and physical graft for as long as we can. If it was easy, it wouldn’t be worth it, would it?! It’s in our blood, I think of my nephew (Alby) and his brother Lenny every morning, and I go at the day 100%.
What advice can you give to parents of children with additional needs?
Get on a ‘Nai’ course! They are free. Run by the brilliant Donna Sharland, goodness are we lucky to have met her.
Early diagnosis is key. The system is different all over the UK.
It’s a complex subject, and something both our nephews’ parents had to endure.
Advice, that’s not something I can give, despite all my learnings. But I can definitely put you in touch with the right person, and get you the guidance you need.
Gethin, thank you for being the host of our 2018 BAPS Awards – we’re all very excited. What made you agree to be involved?
Well, this is the easiest question to answer so far!
The Awards are about Bloody Awesome Parents! I know one or two myself.
My sister inspires me, and I get to help recognise and celebrate people like her!
I also know how important communication has been for Mererid (my sister) and Ffion (Sion’s sister). Through Facebook, blogs, online… Blogging develops a community, which is invaluable to help those who feel isolated and lonely about the situation they are in.
Do you have a message for our nominated bloggers and finalists?
Apologies if I shed a tear as I introduce you! I had a read of the finalists’ blogs on the plane back from America on my 40th birthday and it was an emotional start to the day, I must admit. The air stewards were constantly asking if I was ok!!! ‘Eye infection’, I would reply!
One of the autism blogs I read included this…
‘The Maori word for autism is Takiwātanga. It means ‘In his/her own time and space’.
I love that.
There was powerful writing across the board.
I’m not sure how the judges are gonna separate them to be honest!
Last year we had a conga line, but with your Strictly credentials can we expect some special dance moves from you on the night?
Ha! Conga, old school I like it! Better try and get my dancing game back then.
Is there anything else you’d like to add about Nai and supporting our BAPS (which makes you a BRA (Bloody Reliable Ally) by the way!)?
Thanks for letting me spread the word about Nai. Thanks for asking me to be involved! I’m really looking forward to it.
What a lovely man! Please take a look at Nai, and its fantastic work. And, if you want a chance to meet Gethin and celebrate Bloody Awesome Parents, tickets are available for the BAPS Awards, on the 17th May in Coventry.