Borders only dedicated stillbirth and child-loss charity to close after 17 years

THE Borders’ only stillbirth and neonatal death charity is to close at the end of this month.

The Stillbirth and Neonatal Death Society (Border SANDS) will no longer support parents who have lost babies before, during or after childbirth, after providing the service for the last 17 years.

Irene Halliday, Border SANDS secretary, has been with the charity from its very beginning. Like all the vounteers who helped run the scheme, she has experienced such a loss herself.

She started volunteering after she read an article in ‘The Berwickshire News’ about Breda Seaman, a midwife from Berwick Infirmary, who was keen to provide help for grieving parents. Breda was joined by Susan Bryson of Coldstream and Audrey Buglass of Duns.

Irene Halliday said: “SANDS was purely voluntary. It was just people supporting people who had suffered the loss of a child.”

Five members were trained as ‘befrienders’, while the rest were mothers who had suffered stillbirth.

One reason that the charity is closing is that fewer volunteers are willing to come forward to serve on the committee.

The way people search for information has also changed radically.

“People are at least as likely to use the internet as contact the hospital or a midwife.

“We were very lucky to be supported by the Duchess of Roxburgh, who became our patron. We were also the recipient of money raised by lots of volunteers over the years.

“We were able to use such funds to provide equipment locally. There was no other support network in north Northumberland or the Borders like SANDS.”

But the knowledge and expertise garnered by the charity will not disappear.

Many of the volunteers will be lending their skills to the Simpson’s Memory Box Appeal (SiMBA), an Edinburgh-based charity working to help grieving parents.

Irene added: “A huge library of materials was built for Borders General Hospital, and will still be available for anybody interested.”

A final SANDS remembrance service will be held in The Tryst, at the BGH, on Sunday, June 24. This will be a special service, and there will be an opportunity afterwards to view an album listing the history of Border SANDS, as well as a small exhibition of literature.