A young Co-operative Travel agent left paralysed by a rare condition following a stroke has received vital aid from the Abta Benevolent Fund.


Mia Austin, 21, is the latest recipient from the fund. The benevolent fund is on the verge of a major rebrand, which Abta hopes will revitalise it, highlight the good work it does and inspire more donations and applications.


And this week, Travel Weekly, The Co-operative Travel and the Abta Benevolent Fund have teamed up to launch a fundraising appeal to raise £50,000 for Mia.


A £10,000 donation from the benevolent fund has already helped pay for a specially-adapted car for Mia. The money we raise will mean she can leave hospital to be cared for at home.


Trudie Drake, the first inhouse director of the Abta Benevolent Fund, said the charity was keen to re-engage with the travel industry so it could help more people.


“This is exactly what the benevolent fund is all about: help when it’s needed most,” she said.“This vehicle will help Mia’s rehabilitation by giving her the ability to go and see her friends and visit the places she loves.”


Mia Austin with the adapted vehicle paid for with help from the Abta Benevolent Fund
Mia with the adapted vehicle paid for with help from the Abta Benevolent Fund


Mia, who worked in the Heswall branch of the Co-op in Merseyside, suffered a stroke in November last year, a day before she was due to leave for the US on a fam trip.


The stroke brought on a rare condition known as Locked-in Syndrome. It affected the part of Mia’s brain that controls movement, leaving her paralysed and able to communicate only by blinking.


Her family says her personality has not been affected and they hope, with the right care, she will recover some movement.


Rick Austin, Mia’s father, described her as a lively person, who loved her job and aspired to have a long and successful career in travel.


“Her strength was her bubbly personality and big smile,” he said. “She was very comfortable relating to people, and customers asked for her specifically.”


Rick praised the support the family has received from Mia’s colleagues in the Co-op branch, which has organised fundraising events, and the retailer’s head office.


The donation from the Abta Benevolent Fund has enabled Mia to spend time away from Clatterbridge Hospital.


“If she had any choice she would want to be at home and we would want her here,” said Rick. “To have the transport to be able to get her out of hospital for a break – it’s things like that that keep her going.”


Mike Greenacre, managing director of The Co-operative Travel and an Abta director, said: “Mia was a brilliant member of staff and we are delighted she has got some of the help she needs.


“This is an excellent example of what the benevolent fund can do and I’m glad it’s now inhouse so we can help more people.


“I’m delighted Travel Weekly has agreed to launch this campaign and with the help of its readers we look forward to providing Mia and her family with more assistance.”


We have set up a JustGiving appeal for Mia. If you wish to make a donation please visit justgiving.com/miaaustin.


If you know of any past or present employee of an Abta member who needs help, please visit abtabenevolentfund.org or email benevolent@abta.co.uk