Baroness Howarth of Breckland writes about her ten year long involvement with the award winning childrens health charity 'Little Hearts Matter'.
Winning the ‘Children’s Champion’ Award at the Charity Champion Awards was a fantastic surprise. It was totally unexpected, being nominated was enough because that reflected the confidence of the charity. But winning made me think about what makes for a good partnership between charity and parliamentarian.
What attracted me to Little Hearts Matter ten years ago was not their national standing (didn’t have a lot), not their finances (always a struggle) and not a clear comfortable structure. It was simply the sheer courage of these children and their families and the determination of a few people to make their lives better.
Little Hearts Matter is a national charity working with children, and their families, diagnosed as having only half a working heart. To survive, these children need repeated surgery but their hearts will never be normal and they have to learn to live within the restrictions that their heart condition creates. For many, a transplant will be their only chance of reaching adulthood. The charity offers a wealth of support and information that enables families to gain a greater understanding of their child’s heart condition and the lifestyle challenges they face, as well as linking families and children to help them feel less alone.
Central to the development of the charity was Suzie Hutchinson who has remained as the Chief Executive to this day. She not only has overall management of the venture, she also works closely with the children and families and so completely understands their challenges and worries. From the onset of our working together she has accepted advice, kept up communication and works tirelessly and, as is well known in the sector, the relationship between key Trustees and the Chief Executive makes all the difference to the success of a charity.
Suzie Hutchinson has described my involvement:
"In Valerie, Little Hearts Matter has found a caring, knowledgeable and well respected President who works tirelessly to improve the lot of children. Especially ones who face a daily battle to get the most out of their disabled lives."
Initially, my task was to ensure there was good governance so that all else could follow. In return I have come to know some remarkable people (especially the children) and watched the charity grow in influence. We work hand in hand with health, education and social services, areas which I can often help, and partner other charities. More families are seeking the support and expertise of Little Hearts Matter at every stage of their child’s life.
Not so long ago our children would not have survived. Today, thanks to improvements in surgery and medical care thousands will survive and need the support of Little Hearts Matter. It is a privilege to work alongside them all.