Oxfordshire Sands to mark 40 years of helping parents

Karen Hancox of Sands (left) and MP Victoria Prentis plan the ribbon tree in People's Park, Banbury. NNL-161017-110558001
Karen Hancox of Sands (left) and MP Victoria Prentis plan the ribbon tree in People's Park, Banbury. NNL-161017-110558001

Oxfordshire Sands group will be commemorating the 40th anniversary of national Sands (Stillbirth and Neonatal Death charity) this month with a series of campaigns to break the taboo that still exists about stillbirth and neonatal deaths.

June is Sands Awareness Month, during which the charity will recognise the support of volunteers, befrienders, fundraisers, healthcare professionals (including midwives) for their contributions towards Sands’ aims to support anyone affected by the death of a baby over the past 40 years across the UK.

Oxfordshire Sands will be holding a bottle tombola at the Bloxham Steam Rally on Sunday, June 24, to recognise people locally who have made Sands such a success over the past four decades.

Karen Hancox, chair of the Oxfordshire Sands group, said: “All members of our group are bereaved parents so we know how devastating it is when a baby dies, whether recently or long ago.

“Sands’ 40th anniversary is a great opportunity to raise awareness of the help and support available and to recognise the contribution of the many volunteers that make the charity what is it today.

“I hope as many people as possible will come and see us at the steam rally.”

The Banbury Guardian has reported tragic cases of infant death and the brave steps taken by grieving parents to highlight the work of Sands.

Banbury MP, Victoria Prentis has personal experience, she said: “The loss of a child is an intensely traumatic experience for bereaved parents and their families.

“For forty years, Sands has been providing vital support to all those affected, including my own family, and has been doing some important work ensuring that issues including bereavement care and research funding remain firmly on the agenda of successive governments.

“We have made good progress in recent years with the launch of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Baby Loss, which I vice-chair along with other colleagues who, from their own personal experience, are absolutely committed to the cause.

“From improvements in the national bereavement pathway to funding for perinatal mental health and training specialist midwives to introducing a period of statutory parental bereavement leave, we are determined to make a difference.”

She added: “The heart ache of losing a child can tear 
families apart, yet through the hard work and support of charities likes Sands, families are able to find light and hope again.”

During Sands Awareness Month the charity will launch a series of online campaigns to break the silence and stigma that still surrounds neonatal deaths and stillbirths.

The ‘Finding the Words’ campaign will be launched tomorrow with the aim of helping everyone find the words to talk to someone whose baby has died before, during, or shortly after birth.

Sands has produced a short animated film called#FindingTheWords that it hopes will help explain the importance of breaking the wall of silence that too many bereaved families experience.

Hazelanne Lewis, who co-founded the charity with journalist Bel Mooney, said: “Thankfully bereavement care has changed for the better since the 1970s and we have seen the number of baby deaths reduced, but more research work needs to be carried out to reduce the number of deaths even further.

“I know Sands would be pleased to hear from bereaved parents, so please do get in contact and share your story if you feel able.”

Other online initiatives the national Sands website is launching are to encourage people to show their support using the hashtags #Sands40 #40yearsofsupport and #TeamSands.

Also available on the Sands website are suggested Twitter headers, Facebook cover photos and pre-written social media posts.

Other online tools include a template to print 40 year anniversary bunting and press release templates for Sands groups.

Oxfordshire Sands group meets on the first Wednesday of each month between 7.15pm and 9.30pm at St Edburg’s School in Bicester.

For more information visit www.oxfordshiresands.org.uk.