Adapting charity work in a time of pandemic - Jessica Wilson

As you would expect, the need for the specialist care provided to babies born prematurely or sick throughout Scotland has not been diminished by the pandemic. The demand is still there, but the way our charity raises funds and access for visiting these babies have changed considerably.

A baby being born prematurely or sick is distressing at any time, but in the middle of the pandemic parents were only able to visit their baby in hospital one at a time and grandparents or siblings were not able to visit at all.

Simpsons Special Care Babies supports the specialist care provided by staff at the Simpson Neonatal Unit in Edinburgh and offers help and advice to families whose babies are being cared for at this hospital. This support can take a variety of forms, from raising funds for a new family unit to accommodate those whose babies are being cared for at the hospital, to an app which allows communication and updates about babies at the touch of a button.

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With the introduction of the vCreate app, nursing staff can record videos of babies in their care which are then sent securely to parents' smartphones and tablets to create a video diary. The unit's ambition is that the service becomes even more embedded in everyday practice and the response from both staff and, importantly, parents has been overwhelmingly positive.

Like any charity, we depend on being able to communicate with people about the work that we do. Typically we would do that through fundraising events where we invite some of the children who had previously been cared for at the unit along with their parents. Marathons and other distance racing events are essential for our fundraising efforts, but they of course remain cancelled.

We have had to completely redraft our strategy and come up with new and innovative ways to raise awareness of our work. Thankfully, local businesses in Edinburgh have rallied to our cause when they helped raise awareness of World Prematurity Day 2020 in November. EICC, Camera Obscura and Apex Hotels all kindly illuminated their buildings purple for the night.

We have been overwhelmed by the incredible support we have received from individuals as well. People like KT Tunstall who stepped in to support our annual Sing a Song for Simpsons event last year by recording a special version of Teddy bears’ picnic.

We really hope that this celebrity endorsement will inspire people in Edinburgh and beyond to continue supporting us by getting involved with our upcoming Teddy Bears’ Picnic. This year, we’re asking people to host a picnic for friends and family throughout July, raise funds and donate to SSCB.The money we raise goes to supporting a number of important projects at the unit, such as our vCreate app and our family facilities project which will help provide comfort during an uncertain time. The unit and families who spend time there need our help and we urgently require funding to do that.

The trustees at Simpsons Special Care Babies are working hard to come up with new and creative fundraising ideas. It is going to be tough for us to continue to fundraise with restricted access to the public, but despite this challenging backdrop we continue to be amazed by the generosity of those who support us. Anyone looking to make a difference to the sickest and the smallest babies across Scotland can help us by hosting a Teddy Bears’ Picnic in July.

Jessica Wilson is a trustee at Simpsons Special Care Babies. www.sscb.org/teddy-bears-picnic Text Baby 5 to 70480 to donate £5, costs £5 plus standard rate message.

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