This last year has been particularly difficult for Margaret Bingham, the founder of the Ciaran Bingham Foundation Trust (CBFT), set up in her son’s name ten years ago.
As well as having to deal with the disruption of the coronavirus pandemic, Margaret lost another son. Joseph tragically took his own life last April.
Ciaran died in a motorbike accident in 2010 and as older people were close to his heart, the trust has worked to break social isolation for the elderly in South Leeds by providing meals and company.
Although it clearly hurts her deeply, Margaret is philosophical:
“I was privileged to be Joseph and Ciaran’s mother for 19 and 24 years, some people don’t even get that chance.”
Whilst Joseph’s suicide might have broken some people, Margaret doubled down on ensuring that the trust’s services continued. They moved from providing Sunday lunches at the Vale Circles centre in Beeston to delivering meals to people’s homes.
“We’ve never once, no matter what my family have been through, have we let one person down” she said. “We’ve been there no matter what, even the day before Joseph’s funeral. I honestly believe it kept us going at the time.”
With the centre closed early deliveries consisted of essential food items and, of course, toilet roll. After 18 weeks the centre reopened and a team of four were allowed in to use the kitchen to cook Sunday lunches. A team of volunteer drivers then take these out to the 70-80 mainly older people plus some people with mental health problems, that the trust support.
Everyone also receives a weekly phone call to check how they are and have a chat. On top of this volunteers have run errands to the post office and pharmacy to collect prescriptions.
Margaret’s work colleagues at St James’s Midwifery Unit have been very supportive too, raising extra funds for such things as Christmas presents, Easter flowers and making Valentine’s Day cards to send out with the meals.
Margaret is keen to stress that although staffed by volunteers, all the rules have been followed to keep volunteers and clients Covid-safe including PPE, regular testing and, of course, keeping the kitchen spotlessly clean.
A memorial event in honour of Joseph is scheduled for Saturday 31 July (subject to Covid restrictions) to be held at The Hunslet Club.
“The Hunslet Club did so much for Ciaran and Joseph” explains Margaret. “They forged good friendships there and I’ll be eternally grateful to the club for how they nurtured my children.”
The night will also be a fundraiser for the Trust. Raffle prizes already lined up include a signed Tyson Fury boxing glove and a signed LUFC shirt. Margaret has also teamed up with Tony Clark, the sculptor behind the bronze Bielsa statue, which toured Yorkshire last summer to raise funds for MIND. Tony is now making Mini bielsa srtatues which are being sold for £5, proceeds being split between CBFT, Martin House Hospice and the Yorkshire Air Ambulance.
In the future Margaret would like the trust to do more work around mental health, the raffle will help fund that work.
“I think there’s a stigma around mental health and I think people sweep it under the carpet” she says, pointing out that suicide is the biggest killer of young men in the UK.
But first she’s keen to get back to hosting meals at Vale Circles again when rules allow, bringing people together and fighting isolation. Having picked up people who are housebound, the service will be expanded so that they can continue to deliver to those people.
Photo: Volunteers set off to deliver Sunday lunch to isolated people