Chris has been chosen to receive a Child Bereavement UK 21 Champions award in recognition of her 6 years of outstanding volunteering for Child Bereavement UK’s Trusts and Grants team.
Just over 6 years ago I decided, with trepidation, that it was time I retired from ‘proper’ work. Unlike most people, I was dreading the prospect of not working, and of leaving good friends and colleagues, so I knew that I would try to fill my time with alternative activities.
Having lived and worked in and around High Wycombe for many, many years, I was well aware of Child Bereavement UK, how it had grown and become well known and well respected. So I applied to be a volunteer and, after a lovely meeting with Julie, did various tasks before being invited to join the Fundraising team. Previously, I had worked in a variety of companies, large and small, mainly in an administrative or financial role; the one which most relates to Child Bereavement UK was a large housing association and charity for which I organised some events.
At Child Bereavement UK I ‘work’ about 6 hours a week – a desk is always found for me and I am made to feel SO welcome every time, and thanked profusely each week, as well as being offered plenty of coffee! I have also attended a couple of conferences which made a big impression on me – hearing the speakers who have either been bereaved, or in some way been involved with the bereaved.
Initially at Child Bereavement UK my task was to research and check that the records of all the Trusts, Grants and Foundations which have historically donated to the charity over the years were up to date, and to add/amend the records in order that in future a constant good relationship can be maintained with these Trusts.
Currently I’m helping to do online research on further Trusts which may specialise in donating to causes such as ours, those which may fund a special project Child Bereavement UK is launching, or those which may want to help in a specific area of the country where we are now working. My colleague Sheila then compiles a detailed request for funding; every stage of the process must be carefully documented and the records kept up to date, especially when the Trusts need updating as to how their money has been spent.
Another reason why I started volunteering with Child Bereavement was entirely personal. Very many years ago, while living in North London, my husband and I had a full term stillborn baby son.
Back then, before Child Bereavement UK or any other similar charity existed, there was nothing that I could find to help us answer questions or provide any kind of support – no information, no Internet, and no help. Just indifferent medical staff (with one shining exception) who of course were untrained and seemingly unsympathetic and uncommunicative. It was very much a case of it all being ‘swept under the carpet’. I resorted to visiting the library to try and shed some light on my unanswered questions, but it was a difficult time for us, and too difficult even for the medical profession to talk to us.
About 6 years later, by now having moved to beautiful Buckinghamshire and also after having 2 healthy daughters, I read an article in the Sunday Times magazine which told of Bel Mooney, a journalist, and Hazelanne Lewis, a psychiatric social worker, who both gave birth to stillborn babies in the mid 70s. At that time in the UK, most parents were not allowed to see or hold their babies, no photographs were taken, parents were not told where their babies were buried, and they could not put their baby’s name on the stillbirth certificate. Bel wrote an article in the Guardian describing her experience, and Hazelanne then wrote to national newspapers asking bereaved parents to contact her and share their stories. An avalanche of replies from all over Britain revealed a vast unrecognised need for support and information for parents and families.
I was one of the people who responded to the article, as it described exactly the scenario we had experienced. The result of all this was that ‘self help’ groups were suggested and formed all over the UK. I was part of the South Bucks group which met in each other’s houses and visited recently bereaved families. We were very positively received at Wycombe Hospital maternity unit. These groups later evolved into the newly formed ‘Stillbirth Association’, now Sands.
It all sounds very archaic and medieval now, like living in the Dark Ages. But there are others like us, who still remember. Things have changed so much, thank goodness, thanks to Child Bereavement UK and other charities. It feels as though I have come ‘full circle’. Child Bereavement UK helps me as much, in fact more, than my tiny contribution each week helps them – and it happens to exist almost on my doorstep.
I am so very lucky to have a lovely husband, 2 daughters and 6 grandchildren, and hope to continue with Child Bereavement UK, plus volunteering at Hughenden Manor teashop, in between walking the Thames Path (not necessarily in the right order)! And watch out for me in bright yellow when I do occasional school crossing Lollipop duties!
Everyone at Child Bereavement UK is so charming, helpful and welcoming to me. Lovely, caring people. And the work that everyone does, for children and families who suffer so many different kinds of bereavement, plus the training for doctors, nurses, teachers, police and those from all walks of life who have to care for these adults and children, has proved to be invaluable.
AND what a lovely ‘perk’ being included with the staff team to meet the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge! I did not have the courage to say that I had been fortunate enough to meet Princess Diana a few times during events she was attending; she was a Patron of the Housing Association and charity where I worked for 9 years back in the 1990s.
Thank you Child Bereavement UK, for helping me – and for taking care of so many other people. It was quite amazing and an unexpected honour to be told that I had been nominated to be one of Child Bereavement UK’s ’21 champions’. This honour is deeply embarrassing, but I am very chuffed!