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It is nearly 2 years since we first began to set up the regional group networks, which are now up and running in all seven regions of the UK.
Our Aims are to:
- Bring together Sands groups which are geographically linked
- Help groups to share expertise and support each other
- Strengthen communication between Sands head office and the groups in order to help Sands work better as a whole to achieve its aims.
- Be more aware of the different activities groups are involved in
The members of the network 'meet' via a telephone conference call every two months. These calls last about an hour. Although it is a commitment for groups to give that time, many have found the exchange of ideas actually reduces their workload when trying to bring about new initiatives or revise group literature.
"Running a fairly new group it has been great to share thoughts with more experienced members. I have learnt lots of fundraising ideas"
"It is a really good way of keeping up to date with what is happening nationally from head office. It makes me feel a part of the whole organisation"
Many groups have held network days so they can meet the faces behind the voices and share ideas about different projects they have been involved with.
If you are not already part of a network please contact Sue Hale, Group Services Manager on 0845 6520 443 or groups(at)uk-sands.org
Setting up the Networks
I know that some groups have been apprehensive about being invloved in a network as they feel it will be yet another committment on their time and are unsure of the benefits it will have for their group. Below is a personal account from Ann McMurray, Scottish Convenor, who has found the setting up a network a challenge, but has seen the benefits for groups.
'When asked to take on the task of Scottish Convener I was a wee bit nervous although it sounded simple enough to contact all Scottish groups and contacts, keep them informed about what was happening in Sands, not only in Scotland but Nationally, and to built a rapport with all. I did not think this would be too difficult, but I was wrong, part of the problem is trying to get in touch with everyone and then keeping in touch. It was, initially, much more time consuming than I imagined. It has, however, been a worthwhile challenge.
One of the first problems I came across was the fact that not all information we had was up to date. Groups and contacts had not been keeping in regular touch with head office. I realised this was something the Network could help with. A few groups and contacts were no longer involved or had given up because of lack of support locally. For others it could be geographically difficult to befriend. I tried to explain if they became involved in the network it would help make them feel more supported and less isolated.
Several groups became involved and we had regular network calls. This involves ringing a certain number at a set time so we can all talk on the same call , lasting around an hour. This is an ideal form of communication for all of us who not only look after home and family but usually work and also do our befriending and all that entails. At least you don't have to leave your home to attend yet another meeting!
The idea of a Scottish Network day seemed the ideal way to get as many groups and contacts as possible involved. The hope is this will become a yearly event which could take place anywhere in Scotland to allow the majority of groups and contacts to attend if not every year at least every other year.
As I write this our first Scottish Network day has happened and was well attended. The feed back about the day has been extremely positive.
Our aim to make the day as informal as possible to ensure everyone got a chance to meet and share ideas with many other groups and contacts worked well. As well as group committee members, I also wanted to give as many parents who attend support meetings the opportunity to come along and give them an insight into Sands; to be able to see what else we do apart from support meetings and befriending, such as the links we have with Health Professionals and other similar groups, creating memorial gardens, services of remembrance, and most importantly raising awareness thus ensuring that bereaved parents are better supported when their baby dies.'