Chairman’s Report

In its 45 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 its approach and will continue to evolve to provide support within this diverse community.

During 2014 a number of board changes occurred with Anne Arthur replacing Magda Kelley as administrator in October, Marie-Therese Kastl becoming clinical director in place of Harry Pomerantz in December and the resignation in Q4 of Jo Ann Broger. The organisation extends great appreciation for their contributions to our ongoing success to the members leaving and warmly welcomes their successors.

The Helpline continues to provide a 24/7 confidential listening and information service to the English-speaking community in Belgium. The Helpline is staffed by trained volunteers, under the supervision of professional therapists. The number of calls handled by the Helpline was almost 3,600 during the past year. This compares with over 2,700 in 2013 which was already more than 20% higher than in 2012.

The Mental Health Centre had the services of an average of 15 therapists in 2014. 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 2014 the number of new requests for appointments increased to just over 730. 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 and we are exploring how we can add more therapists in the future.

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 good year with an apparent gain in 2014 of just over Euro 7,500 compensating for the loss in the previous financial year. In reality the benefit was a couple of thousands euro lower since part of the gain was due to an accounting correction from some years ago. However, the additional finances will be needed in 2015 since we will be forced to relocate to new offices thus incurring both moving costs and almost certainly a higher monthly rent. Once again this 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 other sources of income for the Helpline, and we are once again 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 Euroclear Bank for financing a CHS publicity campaign in the Brussels metro cars and St Anthony’s church which once more ran a quiz night from which the benefits were donated to CHS.

In addition to the fund raising activities a conference was held on the subject of “Burnout”. This took place in the ISB auditorium, which the school kindly offered to us, and was opened by our patron the British Ambassador Alison Rose.

Our website continues to develop under the guidance of Maggie Inglis and ideas for further enhancement of the site are in hand. Our Twitter and Facebook sites are also evolving under the expert guidance of Niki Daun.

2014 was the first full year of successful cooperation with a UK based addiction clinic Castle Craig, which has confirmed that they will be very happy to continue this cooperation through 2015.

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 Helpline by working shifts. Another dozen or so people support the office and the smooth running of the Mental Health Centre, 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.

Rex Parker

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 - Miss Alison Rose