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Plea:

Our Angels was established by a group of bereaved mothers in Harrogate in 2009 when they identified that there was a lack of care and support for bereaved parents in their area. Their original focus was memory boxes and a support group, both of which form the core functions upon which the charity is built to this day.

They then turned their attention to professional training and have run many study days for midwives and associated health professionals now. Our Angels have also provided much specialist equipment to Harrogate Hospital including cuddle cots and SonicAids, and are currently working on fundraising for a major refurbishment project for the Ferndale Suite, Harrogate Hospital’s bereavement suite.

Our Angels won the Mark Kennedy Award for excellence in improving the patient experience at the 2012 NHS Excellence Awards. In May 2015, Our Angels became a Registered Charity, which has enabled them to do even more, but have always remained true to their core belief that everything they do should be centred around monthly meetings, memory boxes, peer to peer support to help parents navigate their devastating journey, and support for the professionals providing care. Our chairperson Emma was awarded the title of Harrogate & District Volunteer of the Year 2015.

In the Summer of 2016, Our Angels spearheaded a complaint to the BBC about dangerously inaccurate information on one of their programmes regarding a baby’s movements during pregnancy, which was subsequently signed by a wide range of major charities and health bodies, including the Royal College of Midwives.

Our Angels have also obtained a commitment from Emma’s Diary, the online pregnancy network, to overhaul their system for unsubscribing from emails as many bereaved parents were still receiving upsetting communications for months after the death of their child.

In late 2016, Our Angels introduced a programme to fund up to six sessions of bereavement counselling for parents to help bridge the gap often left by the long referral period for NHS support.

Our Angels have worked extensively in partnership with the makers of the feature length documentary, Still Loved, to showcase this incredible work and provide funding to help them achieve some of the amazing things they have managed, including sell-out screenings to cinemas around the country for Baby Loss Awareness Week 2016 and domestic and international recognition.

In February 2017, Our Angels co-hosted a conference for 400 midwives and student midwives with the University of Bradford student midwifery society, with first class speakers including Jacque Gerrard, Director of the Royal College of Midwives in England, Prof. Alex Heazell, the Clinical Director of the Tommy’s Stillbirth Research Centre, and Cheryl Titherly from SANDS, along with numerous parents sharing their heartbreaking stories. The day was an overwhelming success and had an impact that reached far beyond conventional study days. Our Angels funded the entire conference in full, determined that qualified and student midwives alike should be able to access this sort of insight and learning for free.

The University of Bradford produced a fantastic Storify showcasing the social media response to the event, which can be viewed here: https://storify.com/bradforduni/bradfordbabyloss-event

On the back of the relationships Our Angels has cultivated in Harrogate, Bradford, and York, we recently invested £10,000 to provide all three of these NHS trusts with a year’s supply of MAMA Academy Wellbeing Wallets. Whilst we have built our charity on the cornerstone of providing support to bereaved parents, as our fundraising and profile have grown, we are now also in a position to focus extensively on prevention as well as support. We’d much rather no more bereaved parents ever walked through the door of our support group, and any involvement in projects designed to reduce stillbirth and neonatal death rates can only ever be beneficial.

Our Angels trustees have been involved in national stillbirth reduction work, including NHS England’s Saving Babies’ Lives Care Bundle initiative. As Our Angels have grown, parents are coming from further afield to access their support group – from as far afield as York, Selby, Bradford, and Burnley. Our Angels has expanded to become a hive of activity: combining fundraising, awareness raising, engagement with clinical professionals, and supporting parents, increasingly having an impact on a national as well as local and regional level.

So Our Angels have increasingly focused on a number of different aspects of baby loss – support for bereaved parents, education for maternity professionals, publicity and raising awareness, and fundraising to enable us to invest in more projects and cover more bases than ever before. All of this, however, ALWAYS comes second to ensuring that parents know they are not alone on this most devastating and challenging of emotional journeys.

 

What people say about Our Angels:

So I nominate Our Angels for the UK Support Organisation award for all of these things – supporting parents, educating professionals, saving babies’ lives and enlightening society. But there’s so much more than that. I nominate Our Angels for this award because I can safely say that without the love, compassion and support that Emma, Jenny, Diane and the rest of the group provided my wife and I with following the loss of our son Henry in 2014, I honestly don’t know where we would be today. They have been our absolute rock for the last three years, and have kept us going and picked us up when we’ve been down. I wish wholeheartedly that I had never met any of this group. But I thank my lucky stars every day that I know them now.

Our Angels are making a huge difference to parents and professionals alike with their work to raise awareness, raise funds, and improve standards of care. But most importantly, they are doing an amazing job of guiding heartbroken families through their darkness into the light of their new normal. We owe them everything.

(Chris, Henry’s dad and Our Angels parent)

“Literally had the best and most emotional day of my midwifery journey so far. So many brave, inspirational parents #bradfordbabyloss”
(Ellisha, student midwife and conference attendee)

“I have spoken at many events since Grace died and not only have I never seen a conference on this scale, I have never seen such a perfect balance of practical medical advice, academic revelation, charity involvement, and parent collaboration.
This isn’t just a great conference for which Our Angels and the Bradford University Midwifery Society deserve heaps of praise for being innovators and change activists; but it has taken a movement that began quietly years ago and moved it up a level.
Stillbirth isn’t just “one of those things”, the majority can be prevented. Bereavement care isn’t just a “nice extra”, it costs the taxpayer more than a live birth does.
More people than ever are beginning to wake up to these facts and the good midwives of Bradford and Our Angels have made an amazing step forward in arming their warriors.”
(David, Grace’s father, stillbirth activist, and founder, Grace In Action)

“Our Angels have supported me both within a group capacity and by funding much needed counselling with somebody who completely understood how I was feeling. I’ve also been able to feel ‘part of a group’. Granted, a group I never wanted to be part of, but nevertheless one I am insanely grateful for. These people just get it! No explaining, no going over it all again. They just know. A wonderful group of incredible people that I wish I hadn’t met, but bloody love that I did.”
(Emma, Theo’s mum and Our Angels parent)

“Our Angels thoroughly deserve this award – there is no collective noun for a group of parents joined by the death of a baby. They generate support, friendship and warmth to comfort others going through the same. They have formed a unique union and made an impact on the local community, working to help those going through the unthinkable.”
(Sue, Bereavement Support Midwife, Harrogate District Hospital)

What Others Have Said

Our initial meeting was one of a coming together of minds and experiences; two sides of a coin both helping the other to understand their viewpoint, and tailoring a bereavement training conference that we hoped would specifically meet its full potential. Our Angels also generously funded this event: their dedication being to make sure such essential information is accessible to all. He inspired us daily with new ideas that we could then implement with his help. He is sensitive to the fact that students can better start to provide effective bereavement care in practice, with the support of experienced and knowledgeable mentors, and that in order to dispel student fears, the dialogue surrounding babyloss must be opened.