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30 years on our vision and mission remains resolute and it always will

CHAS Director of Fundraising and Communications, Iain McAndrew, reflects on our 30th anniversary and how the tenacity of our founding members inspires and resonates today.

Marking any charities anniversary can be fraught with challenges. It raises that ‘so what?’ question. What difference are you making? What impact have you made? And, what’s next?

We asked these very questions of ourselves before embarking on marking our first 30 years from when a small and visionary group committed to making sure that no one should face the death of their child alone. Prior to 1992, there was no children’s hospice service in Scotland. 30 years on that vision is becoming a reality with two children’s hospices (Rachel and Robin Houses), a nation-wide hospice into children’s homes service and supportive and palliative care teams working in partnership with Scotland’s children’s hospitals. All of this has been made possible through the unswerving generosity of the Scottish public who have stood alongside families going through the toughest of times imaginable.

In 1992, the founding members of CHAS had an incredible challenge in front of them; to raise the funds required to build Scotland’s first children’s hospice. It took four years. Yet, in that short time, £8 million was raised from a standing start, Rachel House was built; opening in 1996 caring for hundreds of children and has supported their families ever since.

Many years later one of those founding members, Heti Davies, was captured on film reflecting on that time.

As a fundraiser, I’m inspired by the clarity of vision and tenacity of those founding members. Yet, I can also imagine the feelings they must have had as to whether the task they were embarking on was indeed ever going to be possible. Listening to that interview again recently, I was struck by how much it personally resonates with me and how fresh it still sounds to any fundraiser.

For me personally, it perfectly captures the true essence of what being a fundraiser is. There is absolute clarity of vision, a clear need to be solved and the route to that solution evident. I’ve been humbled to hear stories from those involved at the time (and who are indeed still involved today) and reading the fundraising materials of the time; all of which communicated clearly the need and the impact that will be made through their donation. The passion is self-evident, as is their tenacity and it is the very same passion that drives our fundraising today. There is nothing more powerful than being able to demonstrate the difference CHAS makes through letting parents of those children we have supported tell their own story in their own words.

As a result of this vision, not only did Scotland get its first children’s hospice that vision has grown, being taken to the hearts of the public. This is in no small part thanks to the tremendous support we have received – and continue to enjoy - from the Daily Record. Today, Scotland has a unique national children’s hospice service dedicated to making sure we keep the joy alive even in the face of death. To each and every one that has contributed - in whatever way - you should be incredibly proud of your achievement. Nowhere else in the world is there such an integrated service where CHAS, NHS and local authorities work in partnership to put children and their families at the very heart of how care is delivered.

In the coming months, we’ll be sharing the personal stories of some amazing people that represent all of those who have contributed to making CHAS the place families can turn to for support a place they can call a home-from-home where they can make memories that will be treasured forever.

Although this year is to acknowledge and thank everyone that has helped us get to where we are today, it is also a time where we need to look forward. Over the last two years, our lives have been dominated by the Covid-19 pandemic; something we could have never imagined. We’ve all had to sacrifice time with loved ones and others a great deal more. Throughout the pandemic, I’ve been privileged to work alongside colleagues who have remained steadfast in their determination to keep our services safely open 24/7 over the last two years to ensure support is there for families.

As the Director of Fundraising and Communications at CHAS, we’ve seen (like many) our ability to fundraise was severely limited and our income reduced. Thankfully, through the generosity of you - our amazing supporters - this wasn’t impacted in the way we might have first feared. In addition, emergency government support and the ability to call on carefully managed reserves we were able to maintain critical services and weather the perfect story of increasing demand and reduced fundraising income.

I mentioned earlier in this blog that to build Rachel House, we had to raise £8 million and it took four years to do so. Since then, we’ve grown our income - thanks to all of our incredible supporters - in order to be able to reach more families than ever before; and are now raising on average £8 million annually. In 2017, we set out to redouble our efforts as we are still not able to reach every family that needed our support.

Over the last five years, with income growing, until the pandemic struck, we have been able to expand our services - thanks to supporters like you matched by government funding – getting us to a point where we are closer than ever before to a day where we are able to be there for any family that needs our support wherever and whenever they need it. Our priorities for the years ahead will focus on increasing our hospice into children’s homes, making sure that Rachel and Robin houses are equipped with the latest resources to provide support for the next 30 years and to build the partnerships with NHS and local authorities essential to seamless care.

To deliver to our vision, we need to grow our fundraised income to greater than £10 million per year in the next five years to ensure that no one will ever face the death of their child alone. I have no illusions this is an enormous challenge all be it one I know we are fully committed to achieving.

If you already help, you have my heart-felt thanks and if you would like to get involved and play your part in achieving a truly incredible goal do please get in touch: chas30@chas.org.uk

If you want to talk to someone about your own situation or find out more about our services, please get in touch: