Margaret Bingham and Andrea Edwards arrive early to the offices. We hear them first chatting and laughing away. “Oh, we’re a bit early but we can wait, you just get on with what your doing.”
We are researching the Ciaran Bingham Foundation Trust for our community reporters course, and today it’s our first interview. We are quite nervous as we’ve never interviewed anyone before and these ladies are community champions and have agreed to be our guinea pigs.
The Ciaran Bingham foundation gained local public knowledge relatively quickly. Since then these two ladies and a team of volunteers have steered the popularity of the charity towards supporting the elderly and isolated members of their community. They have forged working relationships with practically every public and charitable service in the area, helping join the different wards of the South Leeds together and help to enhance service delivery.
Three years ago just shortly after his 19 birthday Margaret’s son Ciaran was killed in a motorcycle accident. Margaret received help and support from her neighbours including Andrea, a local mum. Andrea had recently taken voluntary redundancy from her busy full time corporate job, and the two became close friends. They decided to raise money for his Ciaran’s youth club; The Hunslet Club, a place where Ciaran was inspired by how it helped others.
They organised a 13.5 mile memorial walk, sponsored sky dive, ladies pamper night and other themed party evenings. It was through this and other kind donations from local businesses providing food, they reached their target raising £21,000 for the club. Overwhelmed by the success of the event Margaret and Andrea saw what could be done when a community works together. There was also a sense of solidarity especially from the elderly community, Margaret and Andrea’s zest and energy had struck a chord and they recognised more needed to be done to support this group of people.
Since then, the charity has established a popular Sunday Lunch Club, the Dementia Cafe and hosts a 1940’s evening complete with a singing war time female trio. Margaret and Andrea volunteer their time full time to the community. They are also providing a free Christmas Dinner for the elderly and isolated people on Christmas Day this year for those who are on their own.
Andrea says that her past role in the corporate world has helped with the running of the charity and the rewards are far better. Dealing with polices, procedures and building professional relationships she applies as her transferrable skills. Andrea says that volunteering to support people and seeing the differences they can make to peoples lives is better than any financial incentive.
Margaret has found the process therapeutic but also has a job; she is a midwife assistant at St. James’s Hospital. Sometimes the night shifts blend into the day duties of charity meetings. Andrea has propped Margaret up physically as well as emotionally through some of the hard times. However, it is due to the success of the charity that keeps them driven. Now with the support of the Rt Hon Hilary Benn MP and Leeds Rhinos’ Paul McShane they continue to thrive, winning the White Rose Award and just recently a Hamara Community Award on Thursday 5 December 2013.
They sit before us sharing their stories with us, their passion for their work is infectious. Needless to say the interview was shared with a big box of tissues and there was not a dry eye in the house. So where do they go from here? Andrea has to return to paid work next year, but from the snowball effect of the charity will be used to build on their work so far. They hope to increase their local knowledge by hopefully reaching all members of the community.
Margaret remembers days after Ciaran’s death, the snow was thick on the ground. She automatically went out to clear a driveway of an elderly neighbour. Another neighbour stopped her quickly saying she was doing too much too soon. Margaret said
“This is what Ciaran would have done. This is what he would have wanted.”
The Ciaran Bingham Foundation Trust continues to champion Ciaran’s memory in the most positive sense.
Thank you both for your time.
This article was written by Lucy Potter using our Community Reporters website