This annual event, sponsored and co-organised by "Always a Chance" for the third time, commenced on Friday evening (6 May 2016) with 26 old and new Murdered Abroad members re-acquainting themselves or socialising for the first time in the hospitality areas of the Sunley Conference Centre, Northampton University.
The attendees were the families of 16 victims, bereaved by tragedies in 10 different countries.
Saturday started with a round-table introduction by each of the members present. Each victim’s family had a chance to summarise and update the group on the progress of each of their tragic cases. Members find that the opportunity to talk openly and honestly about their circumstances with other families who truly understand, is extremely therapeutic.
The first Guest Speaker of the weekend was Tony Blockley, a retired police Senior Investigating Officer who now heads the Criminology faculty at the University of Derby. Tony gave an expert’s opinion on "Supporting families following Murder Abroad". His fascinating talk was based on his own experiences and illustrated using his more recent work in Northern Ireland supporting families bereaved during "the Troubles".
The second session of the morning was delivered by Georgie Vestey, a campaign strategist, based on her approach of: "Nobody is listening - what can I do next?". Everyone found her determination and innovative approach to a variety of ways of "getting the message across" to be really energising and motivating.
After an excellent lunch in the conservatory and gardens, everyone returned to a "question and answer" session with the guest speakers of the morning. This was followed by an update on Murdered Abroad's activities and the reasons for our name change from SAMM Abroad to Murdered Abroad. Eve Henderson (Co-Founder, Trustee & Director) led the way with a summary of meetings attended throughout the year with politicians, FCO and the UK police. Brian Chandler (Trustee & Director) gave a summary of the Charity's finances and funding and Bren McLaughlin (Trustee & Director) talked about the Helpline activities.
Afternoon tea was followed by reflections of the day and the evening was spent on site with everyone getting further acquainted.
Sunday morning commenced with an extremely moving session by Philip Painter, a secular celebrant from Kent. He read three poems and had prepared a very touching and thought-provoking non-denominational service. He read out a roll call remembering each of the victims with an individual candle lighting ceremony around a Remembrance Tree provided by members Hazel and Pete Kouzaris. It was a very moving, emotional, and therapeutic ceremony.
The second session was delivered by Tim Elliston from "The Happy Starfish" which concentrated on Mindfulness - the ability (which can be learned) to focus our own thoughts in more positive ways, once we understand our own thinking processes. Mindfulness is essentially a tool to help individuals to replace negative thoughts with positive motivation.
Attendees then had the option to be involved in four separate wellbeing activities; Yoga for relaxation; Neck, shoulder and hand massage; Gongs for relaxation and meditation; or simply a walk around the open fields surrounding the campus in the pleasant summer sun.
At the conclusion of the weekend, all participants were asked to complete a questionnaire covering all aspects of the Conference, the venue, and their thoughts on what they had found helpful or not. Murdered Abroad's Trustees analyse and use this feedback to help plan and improve future years’ events.