Hope Support Services

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Up and down the country, there are thousands of people doing good deeds every day, and we decided to celebrate the great work that charities undergo with a regular feature on Tuesdays, to tie-in with #CharityTuesday on Twitter. This week, we caught up with Hope Support Services to find out more about them.

Where are you based and what geographical areas do you support people in?
Hope Support Services is a charity based in Ross on Wye, but provides a face-to-face service across Herefordshire and Gloucestershire. We also offer a national online service, so young people can access our support wherever they are in the country.

How do you support people?
We support young people aged 11+ when a close family member is diagnosed with a life threatening illness such as cancer. We are available from the moment of diagnosis for however long we’re needed, whatever the outcome for the patient.

Our face-to-face support in the two counties comprises youth sessions, regular trips and small group activities, all of which give our young people a chance to have a few hours away from a difficult situation at home whilst meeting others that are all experiencing similar things. Our One-to-One Support Workers are on hand at the sessions in case anyone would like to talk about what they’re going through, and all of the activities are decided on by our Youth Management Teams – these are groups of proactive young people who, through monthly meetings and fundraising events, use their own experiences of a family health crisis to help drive the service forward.

We also have Hope Online, where we offer two different types of support to young people across the UK. Firstly, we have the Suzie Hope Team; young people can have a one-to-one via video chat (eg Skype/VeSee) or Facebook message, and can share their worries, fears, hopes and successes as well as identify and work on helpful coping strategies. Then there’s the WeAre Hope closed Facebook group, where they can connect, chat and discuss their experiences with other young people who know what they’re talking about.

How did the charity come to be founded?
Sue Trevethan worked with young people as a therapist and trainer from 1994 within a number of settings such as social services, pupil referral units, young offenders and social care. She also worked in partnership with ChildLine, setting up an anti-bullying peer support programme within secondary schools throughout Herefordshire in 2000. In 2006 Sue was diagnosed with cancer, which was devastating. Over the following two years she went through major operations, chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Watching her three children who were 13, 15 and 19 go through the uncertainty and fear of whether she would survive or not was one of the hardest things any mother has to do. The guilt of putting her children through this situation was unbearable at times, as anyone can imagine.

In 2008, given her background of working with young people and the belief that all things happen for a reason and that good can come out of bad, she set about trying to find out if there were any services to support other young people who were experiencing the same emotional trauma as her own children. After extensive research, she was very surprised to find there was in fact nothing out there to match the vision that she had.

So, in 2009, Hope was born together with four young people, all of whom had experience of a family member going through a life-threatening illness. They held their first youth session in a local coffee shop, and were surprised at how many young people and their parents came to see them. With incredible determination and hard work Sue developed Hope over the next six years, taking it from its very beginning – operating from a laptop in her house – to a thriving, growing charity. She is still very much involved as Chair of Trustees, working with the CEO on a strategic level to move the charity forward.

How many people do you have working at the charity?
We have 11 employees, including a mixture of full time, part time and sessional staff. We also have over 70 volunteers including the members of our two Youth Management Teams (Y-Teams), which led to Hope being awarded the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service last year.

How can people support you?
There are lots of ways that people can support us; we are always looking for committed local volunteers to help at our fundraising events whether it be facepainting or selling merchandise, as well as those who would like to bring their specialist skills to our youth sessions (in the past some of our fantastic volunteers have held knitting workshops or led bath-bomb making sessions etc).

Sharing our social media posts is always a great, easy way to support us as it can help us reach people that may need our service – we often need people to perform quick actions such as voting for us online, which again we promote on our social media channels.

Of course, like lots of charities, we do rely on grants and donations for us to continue our work so donations too would be very much appreciated!

Have you faced any challenges along the way?
Obviously it has been a long, hard battle to secure funding from Hope’s conception to where it is now. The demand for our work is ever-increasing and so we need to grow at the same time as maintaining our current excellent service. It is therefore extremely frustrating that the more professionally run we are known to be, the more difficult it can be to still persuade people that we need financial support.

Do you have any charity events coming up and where can people find out about these events?
We often have fundraising or promotional events coming up and they can all be found on our website at www.hopesupport.org.uk/events. There is of course our annual skydive coming up early next year in Swindon, so we’re accepting sign ups now from brave participants!

Is there any advice you could give to other charities?
To always be true to your mission and become known for being specialists and excellent in what you do – don’t duplicate what others are doing but work in partnership. Always listen and remain close to your beneficiaries and let them guide the service that you provide.

You can find out more about Hope Support Services at their website or via Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.