2016 was another busy year for CHS. Expertly guided by Board member Laura Hoffman, we initiated a comprehensive review of our vision, mission, goals and approach to visual & written communication with our constituents. We worked with FTI Consulting in Brussels (who generously worked on a pro bono basis) and, as well as adopting a new logo, we developed a comprehensive new range of promotional material. While our partnership with FTI Consulting ceased at the end of 2016, we now have brochures, posters, banners, business cards, beer mats and tissues - with our thanks also going to Mireille Robbe of PRO 5. In addition, we upgraded our website and became increasingly active on social media.
We also reconsidered our core values. These are:
Confidentiality: Everything we do is with guaranteed anonymity and a high degree of privacy. We are trustworthy people in whom those coming to or calling CHS can have confidence.
Professionalism: All those working with CHS, including volunteers, are fully trained and qualified.
A non-judgmental attitude: Our mutually supportive environment values every person
Reliability: Our services include regular opening hours and a 24/7 Helpline for round-the-clock assistance and support.
We are now in an excellent position to launch a new campaign to increase awareness about CHS. We want all members of the Belgian international community who find it easier to communicate in English rather than French and Dutch to know about CHS in case they need to seek support for themselves, family members, friends, neighbours or colleagues. To help achieve this, we particularly want to work more closely with other mental health care professionals, doctors, hospitals, schools, churches, national consulates and community associations.
Our Helpline is an anonymous, confidential, 24/7 telephone service in English for children, adolescents and adults. It received more than 2,500 calls during 2016. It is operated by around 30 volunteers (trained, supported and supervised by professional therapists) who can provide general information, emotional support or help in a crisis
Our Mental Health Services Centre, at Avenue des Phalènes/Nachtvlinderslaan 26, 1000 Brussels (off Avenue Franklin Roosevelt, close to ULB), has an international team (15 at the end of 2016) of professional psychologists, psychotherapists and psychiatrists offering therapeutic services to deal with a broad range of mental health conditions, as well as psycho-educational assessments for children. There are two teams, one dealing with adults and the other with children, adolescents and families. Around 20 volunteers support the therapists, taking initial calls from clients, arranging appointments and welcoming clients, whilst also looking after the day-to-day running of CHS and the Centre.
As in 2014 and 2015, more than 700 clients contacted the Mental Health Services Centre during 2016, representing almost 40 nationalities, an indication of the diversity of the people using our services. While all therapists working with CHS speak fluent English, individual members also work in other languages.
Starting early in 2016, psycho-educational assessments in French and German were added to the service in English.
Financially, CHS incurred a deficit of €11,536 in 2016, similar to the €11,483 deficit in 2015. Total expenditure amounted to €120,553 (2015: €139,729) compared to total income of €109,017 (2015: €128,246).
The 2015 deficit was primarily due to exceptional costs linked to our change of premises.
In December 2015, NATO Charity Bazaar donated €7,975 to finance a dedicated assessment and therapy room for children and families but the related costs were incurred during 2016.
The running costs of the Mental Health Services Centre are significantly financed by contributions from CHS therapists, whereas the Helpline, which costs more than €30,000 per year to operate, is completely dependent on external funding. CHS receives no subsidies, unlike the three Belgian national language helplines which are subsidised by their respective regional authorities.
One significant development during 2016 was receiving agreement from the well-respected King Baudouin Foundation (KBF) to create a “Friends of CHS” fund within KBF in Belgium to help raise funds for our Helpline. Companies and individuals making donations in excess of €40 during a calendar year to this fund will receive tax certificates from KBF early the following year, permitting a 45% tax deduction in Belgium.
U.S. donors can also support the CHS Helpline in a tax-efficient way through a contribution to the “American Friends of CHS in Belgium Fund” at KBF in the United States (KBFUS). Because KBFUS is a public charity (within the meaning of Sections 501(c)(3) and 509(a)(1) of the Internal Revenue Code), donors may claim the maximum tax benefits allowed by U.S. tax law for their contributions.
During 2016, we were grateful to receive generous financial support, notably from the British and Commonwealth Women’s Club of Brussels (€3,136), the Brussels British Community Association (€1,500) and the Brussels New Generation dimension of the British Chamber of Commerce which supported CHS via their 2016 Charity Bake-off (€1,085) and two pub quizzes (€1,028).
We really appreciate all those who help CHS in other ways, such as advertising on our website, advertising in or buying our annual calendar, or inviting us to participate at events where we can increase people’s awareness of our services.
The budget for 2017 foresees a surplus of just over €7,000. This assumes that we can successfully attract at least €15,000 in donations via the “Friends of CHS” funds at KBF in Belgium and the U.S. (our most important financial objective for 2017). It also takes into account the increase in the number of therapists who will work with CHS, which should increase therapist contributions by €11,000. Total expenses are again expected to be around €120,000.
As indicated above, we are increasing the number of therapists in our Clinical Team and are hoping to attract other professionals to work with CHS - specialising, for example, in speech and language therapy, graphomotor (handwriting) therapy, occupational therapy, remedial teaching and learning support - thereby broadening the range of services we offer. We would also like to attract more volunteers, both for our Helpline and especially to assist with outreach to the community and fundraising.
Some building work started in May 2017 on an embassy/consulate site directly adjacent to the CHS premises and I ask CHS therapists, volunteers and clients to be understanding and patient during the inevitable noise and inconvenience that this project will entail.
There were some changes to the CHS Board during 2016, with former Chairman Rex Parker, Treasurer Neil Anderson, CHS Office Administrator Anne Arthur and Vincent Tassin resigning at the AGM in May. I thank them all for their different contributions to CHS. We welcomed Sue Borger as CHS Office Administrator, Stephen Mazurkiewicz as Treasurer as well as Ola Ajadi and Stuart Gregory.
CHS is unique in the way it offers its services and support in Belgium. It also brings together a great ‘family’ of people eager to help those in need while also enjoying the CHS working environment. On behalf of the Board, I would like to thank our loyal, enthusiastic and dedicated volunteers, who take calls on the Helpline, provide support to the therapists and/or assist with the many dimensions of CHS day-to-day operations (e.g. finance, building management, the website, publicity, event organisation and the annual calendar), and our very talented and committed teams of therapists.
Finally, I would like to thank our Patron, Alison Rose, Her Majesty’s Ambassador to the Kingdom of Belgium, for her continued support of CHS during 2016.
Community Help Service (CHS) is a non-profit organisation that provides information, support and mental health services to people in Belgium who need help and prefer to express themselves in English, regardless of nationality and circumstances.