The Crescent, Russell Avenue, St Albans. in the U.K. Head of operations Ian Murtagh seen with administrator Fran Murtagh
It has been some time since we last updated you on our story,
Once again, in January, it seemed as though we would be closing as money had begun to run out again and it really didn’t look like there was any prospect of further funds on the horizon.
In a last ditch attempt we cut everything right back and sacrificed many things on a personal level to maintain some form of service for those we continue to support and the new members we had gained as a result of the referrals from local hospitals in the tail end of 2013.
Just when we thought all was lost a light appeared! The local centre for Voluntary Services (CVS St Albans) came to our rescue with advice and practical support on fundraising and trust applications.
With their help we managed to secure a grant from a local charity, the John Apthorp Trust for our counselling work, and another for our support lunches and social inclusion work from another local trust supporting the older members of our community.
We were also very fortunate to be awarded another generous sum from the Mission Giving Fund from Cathedral and Abbey Church of St Alban this year which again helps us provide much needed help.
We also once again received a donation from the St Albans Lions (part of the Lions International Group) who held a quiz night for us raising more for us. We are so lucky to have gained so much support locally. It is so very heart warming and helps us keep the subject of HIV in the news and in the forefront of people’s minds.
Outreach work reached a new level when our member and Trustee Rachel Dilley appeared in numerous National Newspapers and Magazines talking about her life with HIV dispelling the myths that HIV affects just LGBT and BAME communities as she is a white heterosexual Grandmother. This lead to national TV, plus national and international radio interviews as far flung as Sydney Australia with Rachel appearing live on Sydney’s Kiss FM breakfast show.
Then a local fashion and lifestyle store came up with a fashion show for our benefit hosted and paid for by store which raised a marvellous sum for us ensuring we had enough to pay the bills!
This gave us once again a base to work from, and with some collaboration with a local arts charity the Trestle Arts Base we gained some invaluable support. With the help of their marvellous Denise Parsons we set up a busking day by the 15 century clock tower in the city centre of St Albans at the end of May.
The weather was, it has to be said, fairly damp and the event looked like it would be a wash out however by 10am the rain had stopped, and for a while the sun came out and the event took off. We had a great selection of musicians from far and wide who volunteered their services to raise funds for us.
By the end of the event we had raised over £1400, a local pub, (The Boot St Albans), had provided food and drink throughout the event, held a raffle to raise extra money and volunteered to support us on an ongoing basis. Several other local businesses including a record store (Empire Records) and a dog walking service (My Doggy Walks) and a business park (Horseshoe Park) had all helped out by “sponsoring the mike”
Another new local business (The Meating Room) who have a restaurant in the city also handed out mini hand-made burgers to the audiences who had gathered under the trees near the clock tower to listen to the acts. The handmade cosmetics store Lush came down to offer free gifts to people too.
To add to the good news from this event an anonymous local donor offered to match the total monies raised with an extra donation.
All of this has raised our profile to a great degree and helped us to keep vital services going. Local County Councillors from across the political spectrum have also accessed their locality budgets to make grants to us again this year. It still seems odd that the County Council still refuse to provide any funding for us even though their own Councillors can see the benefit!
More BBC radio and local radio interviews have followed too with another of our members, Blessing, talking about her HIV diagnosis, coping with her young daughter who was also diagnosed at the same time, and how we helped her, and her daughter come to terms with this so that they could move forward together. They are now both helping raise awareness talking to University Students about HIV for course work and other educational/awareness work.
So we fight on, and have a series of events planned to raise both awareness and funds to keep us going. A recent quiz night hosted by our lovely Patron CJ de Mooi raised funds for us, the second such quiz the TV and stage star has held for us.
We also provided placement opportunities again this year with nursing students seeking help and opportunities with us to further their knowledge of HIV and PLWHIV.
This month (September) we have been awarded another grant from the St Albans City and District Council to help fund our support groups and social/ peer support lunches too.
We have an open day and afternoon tea party (how British) on the 21st September to which we have invited a wide range of community figures to showcase our work and facilities. On October 02 we will have another fashion show, again organised by the wonderful people at Chloe James store in the City.
Then following this we will have another concert organised by the Hertfordshire Chamber Ensemble in November and then for World Aids Day itself we will have a cabin in the Christmas Market by the Cathedral in St Albans, street collections throughout the City and the following Saturday another Busking event is planned.
We hope to gain more radio and press coverage of these events to keep the subject of HIV foremost and actively seek opportunities for our members to talk about their life with HIV with the wider community through a variety of engagement opportunities.
Lots to do as you can imagine and we cannot rest on our laurels, although we are raising money it is in no way matching that which we lost 4 years ago and so we must do all we can to keep the momentum going.
There have been points in the last 4 years where I thought we wouldn’t make it, certainly a year ago things looked very bleak indeed, but with the efforts expended so far we have survived and shown that even though our funds are small, a great deal can still be achieved in the fight against HIV and Stigma, and we can still support people in the way that they need and appreciate.
Finally a great piece of news is that we have gained another Patron! The Liberal Democrat Peer, and former Chief Executive of the Liberal Democrat Party, Lord Rennard has kindly agreed to become a patron of the charity. We are very pleased to welcome such a high profile figure to our organisation.
Lord Rennard has been a staunch supporter of our charity since we first met at the House of Lords in 2011 for the launch of our Healthy Futures funding appeal. We look forward to working together on ways in which we can further secure the future of our charity, and raise awareness of HIV right at the heart of our Government.
Onwards to 2015 and another set of challenges no doubt…