An inspiring charity leader named this year’s Charity Champion is among the winners at the ScottishPower Foundation Awards
Peter Byrom, a longstanding volunteer for the stillbirth and neonatal death charity Sands, has been crowned the ScottishPower Foundation Charity Champion for his remarkable commitment to supporting bereaved families across the country.
Following the loss of his son Thomas, who was stillborn in 2004, Peter became a volunteer with Sands in 2018, using his first-hand understanding of how isolating it can feel following baby loss to support other bereaved families.
As part of this work, Peter realised that not many men attended the support groups and founded Sands United FC Bristol as a way for men to come together through a shared love of sport and to form a network where they can feel more at ease to talk about their grief.
A hub for many other dads, uncles, brothers and family members who have been through a similar experience to Peter, Sands United has grown over the past four years to over 800 men being supported weekly, through 42 teams across the UK. With each player commemorating the name of their baby on their football shirt, the innovative approach combines sport with physical and mental wellbeing while aiming to end the stigma and silence around baby loss.
Shining a light on the work of charities supported by the ScottishPower Foundation this year, the awards recognise the difference that people like Peter make to the lives of those within their community.
Peter said: "Winning the ScottishPower Foundation Charity Champion Award is truly amazing. This award is for my son, Thomas, and all the other babies whose parents are brave enough to share their stories and show other bereaved parents that there is a path. I will definitely be taking some time to go to where Thomas is buried and share the award with him in some way.
“Sands United has given me hundreds of brothers around the country that I didn't know I had. Thank you, ScottishPower Foundation, for helping to break the isolation and silence that men may face when they lose a baby, and for supporting us both on and off the pitch."
Sands was also recognised for its wider charity work, winning the Community Engagement Award for its commitment to high-quality bereavement support within local communities, across the country. In particular, Sands was honoured with the award due to its work to recruit and train 114 Hospital Liaison Volunteers to provide prejudice-free and compassionate care to support families impacted by baby loss. Acting as a link between Sands, local hospitals and community support groups, the charity plans to use the prize-winning donation of £10,000 to onboard and train even more volunteers.
Marc Harder, Head of Bereavement Care and Hospital Liaison at Sands, said: "We are thrilled to be recognised by the ScottishPower Foundation Awards. It means so much to Sands that we can shine a light on our fantastic Hospital Liaison Volunteers. Our volunteers are crucial to Sands' vision of saving babies' lives and ensuring that, when a baby does die, anyone affected gets the support and care they need.”
The Education Award went to Edinburgh Science Foundation, whose Generation Science programme won. Returning to face-to-face workshops in schools for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic, the largest science education outreach programme in Scotland was recognised for delivering STEM activities to all 32 local authority areas. It provides expertise, equipment and resources to help strengthen science education for over one million of the nation’s children, including those from rural areas and the most deprived backgrounds,
leva Matiukaite, the Development Officer at Edinburgh Science said: “We were thrilled to get back to delivering our activity in person and this prize will help us to deliver two newly developed workshops to primary school pupils in Scotland. We know that there is a need for Generation Science, and we are proud to play our part in supporting the teachers who book it year-on-year to deliver immersive and fun STEM activities to their pupils. A huge thank you to the ScottishPower Foundation for all its support.”
The final winner at this year’s ScottishPower Foundation Awards was the Volunteer Tutors Organisation, winning the Innovation Award for its digital one-to-one tutoring support across the UK. The charity moved its service online during the pandemic in order to continue supporting children and young people who experience difficulties with their education. It saw a dramatic increase in referrals from parents, schools and social workers, and was struck by the inequalities families living in poverty often face in accessing technical equipment. As a way of combatting this, Volunteer Tutors Organisation provides pupils with access to laptops, tablets and drawing tablets ensuring each pupil has the support they need during their education. The award win will help them to implement an improved online tutoring platform offering much more dynamic and interactive sessions to pupils.
Douglas Johnstone, Chair of Volunteer Tutors Organisation said: “Last year we hit an incredible milestone number of 10,000 supported pupils since the charity was launched. We know how impactful our service is and that it is a lifeline for many young people, not just in support of their education but to help mitigate the feelings of isolation and exclusion felt by many of them.
“It is incredible and encouraging that the ScottishPower Foundation has recognised Volunteer Tutors Organisation in the Innovation Award category. It is through ongoing support like this that we are able to extend our reach to many more young people who have lost confidence and become disenfranchised with their education.”
Melanie Hill, Executive Officer and Trustee at the ScottishPower Foundation, said: “A massive well done to all our winners at this year’s ScottishPower Foundation Awards, which is always a terrific opportunity to highlight the fantastic work these charities do.
“It was so difficult to decide this year’s winners with so many amazing charities nominated, but the efforts displayed by Peter and the Sands team alongside Volunteer Tutors Organisation and the Edinburgh Science Foundation truly epitomise what it means to be a ScottishPower Foundation Award winning charity, always going the extra mile to make a positive difference.
“It is such a joy to be able to celebrate with these charities who are so deserving of this additional funding, and I just cannot wait to see how they use the money to progress their projects. Once again, a massive congratulations - and keep up the phenomenal work.”
Further details on the winners and runners-up are available on the ScottishPower Foundation website: scottishpowerfoundation.com.