Initially the acronym ‘WAVE’ stood for Widows Against Violence Empower, as the objective of the organisation was to empower women whose husbands or partners were murdered.
The women chose a lighthouse as the corporate logo as they wanted WAVE to become a beacon of light for many people coping with the aftermath of traumatic bereavement and/or injury as a result of conflict.
Today WAVE is the largest cross community victims’ group in Northern Ireland, with five centres and 15 sattelite projects, spread across the country.
It is to the credit of all those involved that it has grown so successfully from what amounted to very modest beginnings.
The organisation was formed relatively late in the Troubles in response to specific need. Whilst initially concerned with the bereaved, in 1995 the remit was expanded to include those who were injured and/or traumatised in the Troubles/Conflict in Northern Ireland.
In 2020 WAVE Trauma Centre together with the Victims and Survivors service (VSS), launched a new service dedicated to supporting the health and wellbeing of Survivors of Historical Institutional Abuse (HIA).
The first Centre opened its doors in Arthur Street in the centre of Belfast in 1991, before relocating to 523 Antrim Road. During those early days the organisation experienced a time of rapid growth with Welfare Advice, a Youth Service and additional therapeutic interventions being added to existing Outreach Befriending and Social Support programmes.
This was followed in 1997 by the opening of the second WAVE Centre, in Armagh City. WAVE were getting a lot of referrals from the Armagh area and Belfast was considered too far to travel. After Armagh, additional WAVE Centres were established in Omagh, Ballymoney and Derry Londonderry. Satellite projects were also established in Newry, Lurgan, Strabane, Cookstown, Enniskillen, Dungannon, Newtownstewart, Ballymena, Larne and Magherafelt. There have been so many highlights throughout our history that it would be impossible to include them all in this introduction to WAVE. That said, a number of events and developments do stand out – the first WAVE trip to the White House, and Margaret McKinney meeting Bill Clinton and enlisting his support for the Families of the Disappeared. This helped to put the Families of the Disappeared on the map and eventually brought about the infrastructure needed to locate the missing bodies.
Other highlights would include, Social Support programmes, such as the Mardi Gras, or memorial projects like the Day of Reflection, or the WAVE Tree of Lights. WAVE’s 21st Anniversary Service at St Anne’s Cathedral also stands out, as does the launch of numerous publications.
Gaining recognition for victims and survivors is central to the work of WAVE and this has been demonstrated in many of the publications undertaken. WAVE has produced around 20 books, documenting the traumatic experiences of clients, including, That Night in December (2008), Injured on that Day (2010), Families of the Disappeared (2012) People Like us (2015) and ‘The Troubles’ and Other Losses (2018). In addition to publications, the organisation was also pleased to offer an on-line storytelling archive, called Stories from Silence, this project was first launched in 2009 and has now completed four phases with more to come.
A more recent highlight would be artist Colin Davidson’s Silent Testimony exhibition. This exhibition featured 18 large scale portraits of individuals impacted by The Troubles. Those that sat for Colin were carefully selected by WAVE to ensure a good representation of experiences. All of those chosen were relatively unknown, outside of their family and friendship circle. 65,000 people visited Silent Testimony while it was at the Ulster Museum, making it a truly remarkable exhibition that touched the lives of many.
Outside the public domain WAVE works in influencing policy with key stakeholders and governments, both internationally and nationally. Much of this work is by its nature confidential but essential to the cause of victims. Two examples which can be highlighted are the campaigning work undertaken on behalf of the Families of the Disappeared and the Injured.
In partnership with the families and the Commission for the Location of Victims Remains, WAVE have been campaigning to have the secret burial places of 17 victims disappeared by Republicans, made known, To date, 14 of the bodies have been recovered with further work on the remaining 3 ongoing. Concerning the Injured, campaigning work has been continuing on an Injured Pension. Many of those injured through The Troubles had to leave work and were not able to contribute to a work based pension. The Injured Pension will afford recipients the opportunity to live out their lives independently and with a degree of dignity. As a result of the collapse of the Northern Ireland Assembly in 2016 the campaign has moved to Westminster, lobbying MP’s and Lords to implement the pension without delay.
Another major development has been the growth of the education and training role of WAVE with close links with the School of Nursing and Midwifery at Queen’s University (QUB) and the establishment of the BSc trauma degree pathway, the only one of its kind in UK or Ireland. The community level trauma courses accredited with the Open College Network and now the School Of Social Sciences, Education And Social Work at Queen’s and the input WAVE has had with the nursing and social work students at QUB, has enabled the injured and the bereaved as ‘citizen trainers’ to form a unique partnership with the University, this has not only had a positive influence with the trainers, but has also been a tangible benefit to students.
A more recent development has been the Postgraduate Certificate and Diploma in Trauma Studies in partnership with University College Cork. The first cohort of students were enrolled in January 2019 and will graduate in January 2021. While all of this work was remembered and celebrated in a series of 25 year celebrations last year, of greater note for victims and survivors is the day to day work of WAVE. Much of this work is carried out at community level, with outreach casework undertaken in people’s homes or in places of safety.
The 2019 Annual Report states that 4588 case work visits were carried out to 945 clients. In addition to this 3001 Health and wellbeing visits were delivered to 571 clients. This has resulted in 6127 counselling sessions and 4052 complementary sessions. Across the five centres WAVE received 600 new referrals ranging from 7 years of age to 93 years of age, and finally the WAVE Welfare department dealt with 661 clients on 1278 cases, bringing back an income of £2, 306, 423. 72. These statistics indicate that the needs of those impacted through The Troubles is still very real. It’s impossible to know for how long that will be the case, but what is known is that there is need for WAVE today, an organisation offering a one stop shop to anyone impacted by the Troubles/Conflict in Northern Ireland, irrespective of community background, religion or political affiliation.
At WAVE the only concern to be considered is what is right for each individual victim or survivor that comes to one of our Centres. At its core WAVE believes that ‘trauma’ should never define a person. Trauma may well be part of a life journey but as individuals we are more than our trauma. It’s central to say that WAVE works to help individuals and communities to address their trauma or at least manage to live with it, and to rediscover a more fulfilled life.
There is help available at WAVE for everyone impacted by the Troubles/Conflict in Northern Ireland, this was our plea in 1991 and it is still our plea today.
Meet the WAVE Board
Marianne Moutray MBE
As a nurse in the Royal Victoria Hospital Belfast I witnessed first hand the physical and psychological impact of the “Troubles’ on the everyday life of people in Northern Ireland. Later, as a lecturer and then Associate Head of the School of Nursing and Midwifery at Queen’s University Belfast I came into contact with the staff at WAVE through the setting up of the BSc (Hons) Trauma Studies at Queens. Having become a member of the Management Board I took a special interest in the education courses offered by WAVE and now Chair the Trauma Education and Contract Review subgroups.
I have been involved with WAVE since I volunteered as a young person during some of their previous summer programmes. Following a path into Education and Community Relations, I completed and delivered various training courses with the organisation throughout the years. I have served on the Board for the past two years, bringing my experience of social media and communications from my role as Campaign Manager within the Integrated Education Fund.
I have spent the past eight years working with the WAVE Injured Group to advance a pension for seriously injured people. I am a paraplegic following a shooting at my home in 1979, my father also died at the scene of a heart attack when he thought I was dead. I have been an archivist since the 1980s and have a large collection of ‘Troubles’ footage, which is housed on the Cain Website. I joined the WAVE Board in 2016.
Dennis Godfrey CBE
I joined the WAVE Board in May 2013 and am currently media adviser to the Independent Commission for the Location of Victims’ Remains. Previous to this I was Director of Communications at the Northern Ireland Office until my retirement in 2011. I was also awarded the CBE in 2008 for services to the Northern Ireland Peace Process.
The Good Friday Agreement 1998 was the instigator of my initial contact with WAVE. My personal experience of the ‘Troubles’ drew me to WAVE, a service which represented my thinking on The Agreement. Over the years I have benefited from the many resources it has to deliver and in return I have had the pleasure of representing WAVE at international forums. I have been a member of the Board for over 15 years and have previously held the position of Vice-Chair and currently Chair.
Dr Mary Hannon Fletcher
I first got involved with WAVE at a Summer Graduation in 2016, on the Jordanstown Campus when Sandra was awarded a Doctorate for her work with WAVE. James Nesbitt introduced us and the rest is history. I was shot in October 1976 and have been in a wheelchair ever since. I am a member of the WAVE Board and the Injured Group, we are petitioning for a pension for the severely injured as a result of the “Troubles’. I often think I’m one of the lucky ones, as I was able to go back to my job after the shooting. I’m now a senior lecturer in Biomedical Science at Ulster University.
Reverend Dr David Clements
I have served on the WAVE Board for over 25 years, initially being drawn to the work with victims and survivors because my own father William, a policeman, was murdered in 1985. I am a Methodist Minister, currently leading the work in Cullybackey Methodist Church.
I spent approximately 40 years in Criminal Justice, mediation and for the last 25 years closely involved in the development of Restorative Justice as a working philosophy in Northern Ireland. I came onto the Board after doing some work in this area of practice with the CEO some years ago. Hopefully my experience in these areas are of some benefit to WAVE Trauma.
Mark Kelly MBE
I have served on the WAVE Board for almost 12 years, 5 as Treasurer and 4 as Vice Chair. I was also pleased to chair WAVE’s submission to the Bill of Rights Forum in 2008. I am a double amputee of the lower legs following a no warning bomb in 1976. My career background is training and employment, I was Chair of the Statutory Committee for the Employment of Disabled People at the time of Disability Discrimination Act Consultation. I also ran several businesses in the Technology entertainment fields, before being employed as General Manager/Training Executive of Antrim Community Enterprises Ltd. I was awarded an MBE in 2000
I first became involved in WAVE Ballymoney following the death of my father. I was drawn to the organisation because of its cross community work. I was privileged to engage with Colin Davidson in Silent Testimony and also in the ‘Hear My Voice’ film. I was also honoured to serve on the Victim’s Forum. I founded a charity in memory of my father in 1993, called 'Road of Hope' helping people affected by conflict. My work has taken me to Bosnia Herzegovina, Croatia and Romania.
I having been working in the field of HR in excess of 30 years and have been involved with WAVE as a Board Member for over 20 years. I initially volunteered to assist with HR matters but since then I have variously been Chair, Vice Chair, Treasurer and I currently Chair the Finance and HR Sub-Group. I feel privileged to be part of such an extraordinary organisation with a staff and volunteer team who always go the extra mile in support of victims and survivors of the conflict in Northern Ireland.
My first involvement with WAVE was in 2016, where I took part in the Strictly Come Dancing fundraising event. I have worked in the financial services industry for 20 years, currently as a project / people manager. As a member of the WAVE Board I hope to be able to use my skills to support the work of WAVE in the local community.
Professor Tony Gallagher
I am a new and recent recruit to the WAVE Board. I’ve been involved in teaching and research at Queen’s for over 25 years and my main area of interest has been the role of education in divided societies. This work has largely focused on Northern Ireland, most recently on Shared Education, but I am also working in Israel, Los Angeles, Lebanon and parts of South East Europe. I hope my research experience generally, and my work in education in particular, will be of value to WAVE as we continue the process of learning to deal with the legacy of our conflicted past working towards a better, shared future.