Our CEO, Trevor Johnson, spoke to the Express & Star recently about Acorns, the challenges the charity has faced and our plans for the future. Read on to hear what he had to say.
Before I stepped into the role of Chief Executive at Acorns Children’s Hospice – where I’ve been now for about five months – I knew all about this charity and its work.
I’m from a hospice background, so I’m very familiar with these vital organisations.
Now that I’m actually here, and I’ve had the chance to meet the incredible teams and some of the many local children and their families we care for – the reality is beyond my expectations.
The difference our wonderful employees and volunteers make at Acorns is awe-inspiring. Every single day, committed and passionate teams pour their hearts into everything they do, touching countless lives. The many stories I’ve heard, of local families supported in their hour-of-need is humbling.
As I’m sure people will remember, just a few years ago the story was very different for Acorns in Walsall. Our Black Country hospice – a beacon of hope for hundreds of families in the region – was on the verge of closing forever.
It’s completely unthinkable that this much-loved facility would cease to exist, leaving such a void for families. The local community was galvanised into action and achieved the impossible – saving the hospice for future generations.
But that wasn’t the end of the story. The support continued, so much so, that in April this year we completed a major £2 million refurbishment. Everyone at Acorns is so proud of the new-look hospice. The building has been completely transformed, with every little detail thought through with children and families in mind.
We launched a charity film at Acorns recently entitled Stronger Together. It’s a film whose message of hope echoes the inspiring story of our hospice in Walsall, how our care is only possible thanks to the support of the local community – who by fundraising or buying pre-loved items in our shops – ensure no family faces their journey alone.
Acorns has overcome great difficulties, and as I look to the future the way ahead is exciting and full of opportunity. However, I’m well-aware there will also be challenges, both seen and unseen.
The cost-of-living crisis is still very much a reality for organisations like ours – that rely on donations to continue and cannot pass on rising costs to customers. But most importantly, it also has a huge impact on families in the community caring for a child with complex needs.
These families very often feel the pressures of life much more acutely than others. There will be families we support in your local area right now worrying about the winter and how they will get through it. They will need Acorns more than ever.
Another area of uncertainty is statutory funding for children’s hospice care sector-wide. This funding makes up a smaller proportion of our care costs when compared to voluntary donations, but it’s just as important.
At Acorns – like others across the sector – we will be watching closely to see what decisions NHS England and other statutory providers make in the coming months to ensure hospice services are funded sustainably.
When it comes to the future, none of us have a crystal ball, but an analogy I like to use is the real-life example of the Choluteca Bridge in Honduras.
The bridge was built by some of the most experienced engineers in the world, designed to withstand the powerful hurricanes that are common in that part of the world. It was a fantastic piece of engineering.
In the same year it was built, Honduras was hit by Hurricane Mitch which caused significant damage and loss of life across the country. The bridge however survived, totally untouched.
The problem was, the Choluteca River – over 100 metres wide – had carved itself a completely new path during the hurricane, leaving the bridge stranded on dry land. The structure was rendered useless overnight and quickly became known as the Bridge to Nowhere.
The lesson here is when it comes to the future, is that it’s my responsibility at Acorns to ensure that we not only plan well, but we plan for the unexpected.
There may be circumstances out of our control that change the situation, despite all our best efforts. We must therefore be agile and adaptable.
We owe it to the hundreds of children and their families we care for today, and those who don’t yet know that they will need us – so that we’ll be here for everyone in our community tomorrow, and long into the future.
Acorns Children’s Hospice