This campaign is all about children.
The goals of this campaign are to:
1/ Raise awareness of two key children's issues.
2/ Raise funds for two organisations that work to support people experiencing these issues.
In order to support this campaign, I'll be taking part in the three-marathon challenge this year, for which I will be conducting a prize draw raffle.
What are the issues?
Support for the parents of premature babies urgently requires review
You or your partner are pregnant, but you've months to go until your due date. Imagine being woken in the middle of the night with a complication. You're told to make your way to the hospital immediately. It's cold and dark, you have to wake your children, as you've no family nearby and you certainly don't want to go alone.
Now you're at the hospital, being told that the life of the mother and of the baby is in danger and, as a result, the only course of action is to deliver the child right now - months early. You're told what could happen, the good and the bad as you're being prepped for theatre and before you know it, the procedure is underway.
The child is successfully delivered, but the most you see of it is a quick glimpse, as it's whisked away in a plastic bag. If you're the mother, you can't see you child until you're able to move under your own volition, which could be a couple of days. If you're the father, you can go to the intensive care ward that has just become your child's first home. Either way, you're not prepared for what you're greeted with. Machines, wires, alarms, staff flying about frantically, it's overwhelming to say the least.
The most you can interact with your newborn child is to place your hands into the incubator, one on the head, one on the bottom and keep them there. It's mimicking the sensation in the womb apparently - anything else and the baby will get irritated. Your baby seems so delicate, so breakable and the plethora of wires eminating from various parts of its body are intimidating.
There's a constant beeping from one of the alarms somewhere on the ward; there's always an alarm going off somewhere and you're constantly in fear of it being the alarm attached to your child. The environment is unrelenting, unforgiving and highly distressing.
That's before you've experienced the alarm monitoring your child actually going off. If you're lucky, it's only because (s)he has briefly stopped breathing, "they just need reminding", you're told. If you're not so lucky, you're left with a grey-coloured, lifeless baby and no idea what to do but shout for help.
This is just the beginning; the hospital becomes your second home for the next few months, as you watch the daily, constant and very apparent battle your child is in, just to stay alive.
This is just a brief window into the lives of premature babies and their parents. Arguably, in fact, this is a window into the lives of the lucky ones.
For too long though, that thought, that one should just feel grateful that the child has survived, has been the placebo administered to everyone involved. Acknowledge and accept that thought and everything will be fine apparently. It shouldn't be surprising then to learn that this is clearly not the case.
If you've got 5 minutes, take a look at the wife of Sir Chris Hoy, talking about her experience:
Support for children experiencing abuse is under-funded
We've all seen the news items on child abuse over the last few years, so there's little need to repeat some of those stories here - awareness isn't the issue. Those stories have been particularly shocking because they all involved people or institutions very much in the public eye. It's dramatically raised the awareness of child abuse from a couple of perspectives:
1/ Child abuse can occur anywhere, at any time.
Child abuse is far more common that most people ever imagine. The abusers could be close family members, family friends, family of your child's friends, new partners entering broken family units. Abuse can occur over a sustained period of time, or be a one-off event. Abuse can occur no matter the demographics of the child, or of the abuser. The definition of abuse is not restricted to abuse of a sexual nature, it can be physical without being sexual, it can be verbal, it can be phychological, it can be planned or unplanned.
2/ Child abuse is incredibly difficult to report.
The fact that so many people in the public eye were able to exhbit such behaviours for so long, without it coming to general attention, demonstrates just how difficult it is for victims to talk about their experiences. Abuse has dramatic consequences for those that suffer it, consequences that often follow the child into adulthood.
The more victims of abuse, of all forms, come forward to report their experiences and talk about what happened, the more able others feel to do the same. That is one of the more positive consequences of the recent media attention on the subject. But most people don't want to appear on television or in the newspapers.
More useful to most people is knowing that there is always someone impartial , friendly and supportive to call if you feel the need as a child. That outlet in the UK is Childline, the helpline run by children's charity NSPCC.
A child contacts Childline every 25 seconds and at the moment, only 3 out of every 4 children who need help can be suported.
The Childline service has become an integral part of the fabric of the support offered to young children in the UK since it was founded in 1986, having counselled four million children in the intervening years, but it can only continue to serve these children through the support of donors. It must also grasp the opportunity to develop its offering in response to advances in technology, as new avenues for children (particularly those children considered hard to reach traditionally) to access support open up.
The organisations you will be funding by supporting this campaign
BURPS Charity is made up of a group of parents and relatives that have had an ill or premature baby on the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Stoke Mandeville Hospital.
Their aim is to support the families of the babies on the Unit with advice and information, or simply to offer someone to talk to that understands the difficult situation in which they find themselves.
Another important part of their work is to fundraise to aid in the supply of additional equipment and training for the Unit which is essential to ensure the Neonatal team can continue to provide the exceptional care that every newborn baby deserves.
To find out more, visit: http://burps-smh.btck.co.uk/
NSPCC are the leading children's charity, fighting to end child abuse in the UK. They help children who have been abused to rebuild their lives, protect those at risk, and find the best ways of preventing abuse from ever happening.
To find out more, visit: https://www.nspcc.org.uk/
What is the 3 marathon challenge and why have you chosen these charities?
These issues have directly affected myself or close friends and family over the last 12 months and in recognition of that, I decided that I wanted to raise funds to support these charities.
The three marathon challenge is my running schedule for 2017 - to run the Brighton, London and Berlin Marathons. The particular challenge is to run the Brighton and London races just 14 days apart. It's something I've been preparing for over the last few months while little Leo has been in hospital and its helped me no end to have that goal and release from everything that has been happening.
I would very much appreciate any support that you could offer to help me reach the not insignificant fundraising target.
In return, I wanted to make sure that there was something to offer as a prize to as many donors as possible, so I decided to put together a prize draw raffle. To rules are simple, for every £5 you donate, you get a ticket to the raffle. Here are just some of the prizes that you could win!
- First Class travel for two to Edinburgh, courtesy of Virgin Trains East Coast, with an overnight stay in an exclusive hotel;
- 4-course dinner for two at Jamie Oliver's new restaurant in London, courtesy of Virgin Experience Days;
- 6-month membership of Virgin Active, courtesy of Virgin Active;
- Selection of Adidas running gear, courtesy of Adidas;
- Selection of high street shopping vouchers;
- Selection of newly published books.
*where the listing says "selection of", the prize awarded will be specifically chosen for the winner - i.e. female running gear for females etc.