In its 44 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 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 the fourth quarter Neil Anderson took over as acting Treasurer, replacing David Lewis whose travel commitments have made it very difficult for him to continue in his role at CHS.
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. The Help Line is staffed by trained volunteers, under the supervision of professional therapists. The number of calls handled by the Help Line increased in 2013 to more than 2700 during the past year. This increase takes the number handled to more than 20% higher than in 2012.
The Mental Health Centre, despite a number of changes in personnel, had the services of an average of 15 therapists in 2013. 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 and other languages. During 2013 the number of new requests for appointments fell to just over 600, a reduction of 12% compared to the previous year. Since most people require several sessions with a therapist to alleviate or solve their problem, our resources and facilities remain at 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.
Financially, CHS had a poor year with a loss in 2013 of just over Euro 3,000. The loss can be overcome through previously built up reserves. However the result again 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 .For the third year we were a recipient of some of the surplus from the Duchess of Richmond’s Ball and we thank both the BBCA and the British Embassy for their acknowledgement of our contributions to Brussels English speaking society. Thanks are also given to all other sponsors and organisations who contributed to our funding throughout the year with a particular mention for St Anthony’s church which ran a quiz night from which the benefits were donated to CHS.
In addition to fund raising for ourselves a CHS team, led by Gerry Cain participated in the 2013 Relay for Life and succeed in both having great fun and raising nearly Euro 2,500 for the charity fund.
Our new website went on line in the fourth quarter and thanks to free help with the design from PelicanDream and FTI Consulting is a major step forward enabling the routine updates to be handled in house by Maggie Inglis. Coupled with this change we have successfully launched our Twitter and Facebook sites and these are admirably looked after by Niki Daun.
In the fourth quarter we also began a new phase of cooperation by working with a UK based addiction clinic Castle Craig.
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.
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