In its 43 years of life, the challenges for CHS have changed, but not diminished. CHS was founded to provide support for an expatriate community heavily centred on those with English as their mother tongue. Brussels has changed considerably in those 43 years and the community wishing to use English has widened, and will continue to change. Many more residents who have need of our support are not native English speakers, but have English as their first foreign language. CHS has adapted in its approach and will continue to evolve to provide support within this diverse community.
In May Rex Parker took over from Nick Fern as Chairman of the Board. Rex brings 30 years’ commercial knowledge and skill in running multicultural teams across the world to bear with CHS. Other Board member changes include the resignation of Mimi Armstrong on November 9, 2012 and that of Reverend Philip Sandstrom at the May AGM, the latter being replaced by Rev. Sunny Hallanan on September 13th 2012.
In addition Brendan Nevin resigned as Administrator on September 13th 2012 after providing CHS with excellent support for 12 months. He was replaced by Magda Kelley.
The Help Line continues to provide a 24/7 confidential listening and information service to the English-speaking community in Belgium, mainly of course in Brussels. Staffed by trained volunteers, under the supervision of professional therapists, this service received in excess of 2000 calls during the course of the past year. This is a reduction in numbers compared to previous years but that reduction is most likely due to changes in our tracking rules rather than an actual decrease in the number of people helped. When calculated as a ratio to the estimated English speaking community the number of calls is very similar to those handled by our Dutch- and French-speaking counterparts. Unlike those Help Lines for the French- and Dutch-speaking communities in Belgium, CHS receives no public funding, nor is yet considered a charity for funding purposes, which means that we continually struggle financially to ensure that our comprehensive service is maintained.
The Mental Health Centre, despite a number of changes in personnel, had the services of an average of 15 therapists in 2012. These psychologists and psychiatrists, working as a team, cover most disciplines for both adults and children. This is the only practice in Brussels that combines such a range of support skills, all available in English. During 2012, 771 new requests for appointments were made. Since most people require several sessions with a therapist to alleviate or solve their problem, our resources and facilities have a very high occupancy rate.
Our therapists have a multinational background and although all speak fluent English for many it is not their native tongue, reflecting the mix of our patient base. In 2012 Dr Lucy Fuks retired. She had been a member of the team for over 20 years and in particular she was Medical Director for the last seven. She will be missed. Her successor as Medical Director of CHS since mid 2012 has been Dr Harry Pomerantz, who includes as part of his extensive experience in the mental health field, proficiency in running a variety of Cliniques in the Netherlands.
After almost one year of successful operation and in order to further enhance its effectiveness a joint review by CHS and People to People International (PPI) Belgium of www.volunteers.be has concluded that the website will be better positioned for growth under the PPI umbrella. As a consequence the operation and administration of the site was transferred to PPI during the month of October 2012.
Financially, CHS had a less successful year in 2012 than 2011 but still achieved a small surplus of just over Euro 1,000. This vulnerability highlights the need for more routine financial support, and companies who may wish to help us under their Corporate Social Responsibility programmes are being sought. Income sources continue to be underpinned by the therapists’ contributions to infrastructure operating costs, for which we are very grateful.
The calendar and sponsorship are the main sources of income for the Help Line, and in addition we are extremely grateful to the BBCA for their generous support .As we were for the second year a recipient of some of the surplus from the Duchess of Richmond’s Ball we thank both the BBCA and the British Embassy for their acknowledgement of your contributions to Brussels English speaking society. Smaller concerts and individual fund raising efforts boost resources on a regular basis. Thanks are also given to all other sponsors and organisations who contributed to our funding throughout the year.
In addition to fund raising for ourselves a CHS team, led by Magda Kelley participated in the 2012 Relay for Life and succeed in both having great fun and raising nearly Euro 1,500 for the charity fund.
Internally, we keep operating costs under tight control and constant review. Here we are aided by the invaluable support of the many people who work as volunteers for CHS.
Without volunteers, CHS could not function. About 25 people ensure the 24/7 coverage of the Help Line by working shifts. Another dozen or so people support the office and the smooth running of the Mental Health Practice, event organisation, outreach and publicity. Money is important, but without the hours put in by the office staff, all of whom are unpaid, CHS would not exist. All volunteers are to be thanked and congratulated for their support and enthusiasm.
The future will bring new challenges. Reaching out to the wider community brings its own problems. In 2013 we hope to launch our new website and with it attract both more visibility and more sponsorship. With the aid of some of our more modern volunteers we will also explore how we can use social media such as Facebook and Twitter once the website is operational.
Community Help Service is a non-profit organisation that provides information, support, assistance and mental health services to anyone in Belgium who needs help and prefers to speak English, regardless of nationality and circumstances.
Patron: Her Majesty's Ambassador to the Kingdom of Belgium - Mr J Brenton