accessibility & help

Belfast volunteer given award by Prime Minister

4 February 2016

A Belfast psychosocial trauma consultant who volunteers to help thousands of children cope with trauma has been given an award by Prime Minister David Cameron.

Dr Marion Gibson first started knitting and organising others to knit “trauma teddies” 15 years ago.

She was inspired by firefighters in Australia who gave children soft toys to help them cope with the shock and trauma of losing their homes in bushfires. The teddies gave the children such comfort that she was inspired to source the knitting pattern and share it widely with different community groups.

Marion, 74, has dedicated her entire career to caring for traumatised people. She began working in an interface area of Belfast, where riots and civil disobedience were common. She later helped Vietnam war veterans returning to the US, before post-traumatic stress disorder was recognised as a condition.

Support after the tsunami

Marion volunteered for the British Red Cross in Thailand after the 2004 tsunami. She was one of the founders of the British Red Cross psychosocial support team, which supports the Foreign and Commonwealth Office crisis response.

Marion is the latest recipient of a Point of Light award, which recognises outstanding volunteers who are making a change in their community and inspiring others. Every day, one person is selected to receive the award to celebrate their remarkable achievements.

Prime Minister David Cameron said: “Marion’s trauma teddies are a simple but powerful idea that have provided much-needed comfort to thousands of children affected by natural disasters and conflicts around the world. 

"She has inspired a huge number of people to support her work by knitting bears, including her local community in Belfast who recently welcomed child refugees from Syria with trauma teddies. I am delighted to be able to recognise Marion as the UK’s 462nd Point of Light.”

Knitted with love

Marion said: “I am surprised and delighted to receive this award from the Prime Minister. I accept it with gratitude and the knowledge that it also honours the courage of those people whose lives have been shattered by trauma and who have allowed me to support them as they struggle to rebuild their lives and begin to find hope for their future. 

"The trauma teddies are knitted with ‘love’ by volunteers to bring love and comfort to children facing trauma in their lives.”

British Red Cross chief executive Mike Adamson said: “We are very proud of Marion and delighted she has received this award. Her teddies are a reminder to us all that the refugees we see fleeing the war in Syria are human beings, people and not simply numbers.

“Assisting such people is not just a matter of logistics; these people are fleeing conflict and have faced significant trauma.

"Beyond the physical needs there are pyschosocial support needs and the teddies are a symbol of the compassion we feel towards all those who are suffering because of this conflict.

“We sometimes forget the staff and volunteers working on this crisis, but they are vital in helping people who are deeply affected.”

How to support refugees

We have been overwhelmed with offers of support and unfortunately we cannot accept any more trauma teddies from the public at this time.

If you would like to support refugees in other ways, find out how to: