By Balshen Izzet, Chief Executive
Happy New Year! Action for Stammering Children had a fantastic 2015 and still have so much to do in 2016! We want to share with you some of our highlights.
We hit the ground running at the beginning of the year with a visit to Parliament to meet the Speaker of House of Commons, John Bercow MP, and the former Shadow Chancellor, Ed Balls. We joined Action for Stammering Children’s young ambassador, Thomas, who lobbied both politicians about services for children and young people who stammer. Both meetings went superbly well and we are proud to have such a great champion – thank you Thomas!
In February ASC Vice President and Oscar winner, Colin Firth, was special guest speaker at our inaugural Gala Dinner. At the dinner we launched the ‘Unlock a Child’s Voice’ appeal, which aims to raise £1.5million over three years to support the delivery of specialist services across the UK, to help us reach more children and young people who stammer.
On the night, the Unlock a Child’s Voice appeal raised over £90,000 – an incredible figure that will make a huge difference to the lives of many children and young people. Huge thanks to all our supporters who donated on the night and to those who have since donated on our JustGiving page here.
In April we had a visit from the Charity’s Vice-President, Michael Palin, the namesake of the Centre. Michael has continually supported the Centre and the Charity – the young people at the Centre always greatly appreciate his visits.
ASC were invited to be the chosen charity for an evening with Prof Paul Dolan, author of ‘Happiness by Design’, at the London School of Economics. Prof Dolan has a stammer and it was great to hear him speak about his experiences and how he hasn’t let his stammer get in the way of his ambitions.
Stammering went mainstream in June when the musician Ed Sheeran, announced at the American Institute of Stuttering’s Gala that he has a stammer, and that we should embrace our differences. Call us Ed, we’re here to help children and young people who stammer and we would love it if you could help us reach those children! Call us on 020 3316 8113!
ASC’s Co- Founder and Life President Travers Reid received an Honorary Fellowship to the notable Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists. Since 1945 the RCSLT has used its annual honours awards to acknowledge the achievements of its members and those who have contributed outstanding services to speech and language therapy. This year, the RCSLT chose Travers who prior to his retirement, was a prominent businessman and is co-founder of Action for Stammering Children. His experiences of childhood stammering convinced him of the need for a specialist centre to help children who stammer which has now become the world renowned Michael Palin Centre. ASC has a superb partnership with the Centre and long may that continue – we thank all the staff at the Centre for their great work to help as many children and young people in the UK who stammer.
This month we launched the recruitment of ASC’s Youth Panel. As a charity whose purpose is to support services for young people who stammer, we thought it only made sense to get a group of young people together to be the voice of those we campaign for. The only two requirements for being part of the Youth Panel was to be between 13-21 years of age and have a stammer. We hope that the panel will advise our Board of Trustees on important decisions, especially those that effect young people and the services provided for them.
The 8th October was #MAKESOMENOISEDAY and ASC was invited onto LBC Radio along with Michael Palin, Ed Balls and 3 young people from the MPC to talk about stammering, the Michael Palin Centre and how ASC works hard to continuously support young people who stammer. It was especially exciting to hear Ed talk so passionately about the work ASC does.
We had our first stammering network summit, bringing together voluntary organisations and service providers for specialist therapy in stammering to campaign for the stammering community. Will Earthy, who recently became a member of our youth panel gave a speech about ASC and how therapy from the MPC has helped him control his stammer and boost his confidence. Will, along with Ed Balls also sat on the Good Morning Britain sofa to spread the word about International Stammering Awareness day. We are so proud of Will for pushing his comfort zone and speaking so fluently on live TV, he is an inspiration to so many young people who stammer.
We also visited the Yorkshire and Humber residential therapy programme funded by ASC. The course was a huge success and we know that the 13 young people on that course faced their fears and will now go on to achieve the best they can be – we thank the team managing this programme and helping to change the lives of those young people!
This month we also had an addition to our staff team with Lucy Hayes our new Communications and Youth Engagement Manager.
There was no let-up in November and we continued with another month of exciting events. We kicked off the month with the Harrow School Long Ducker, an annual event which sees pupils and teachers of the school run 10 or 20 miles for a chosen charity- this year that was us! ASC staff and trustees volunteered to marshal the event and cheer on the boys as they ran from Hyde Park all the way to Harrow.
Finally and most excitingly, we had our first Youth Panel meeting. The panel will come together four times a year to discuss campaigning ideas and present them to the Board of Trustees. Our corporate sponsor, Tonic Insight, lent us their amazing office space and their Creative Director, Seyi Matthews, offered to run a workshop for the group. Having a stammer himself, Seyi was an inspiration to the panel and gave them some great ideas about how to run creative campaigns and create digital content. The meeting was a huge success and we look forward to the next one in the New Year.
The stammering network had its first official meeting and the members are working ideas for a joint public awareness campaign in 2016 – watch this space!
So, 2015 was full of great new projects and 2016 will be full of many more including a volunteer’s programme at ASC, relaunching the Youth Panel application for girls only because the group is only young men – we want a more diverse group to represent all children and young people in the UK who stammer and, of course, we are launching the findings of our independent review into specialist speech and language services across the UK. This review will help determine the future development of ASC.
However, I write this blog with a heavy heart. Having been in post for 13 months I am moving on to pastures new working for another Charity that I am equally fond of. I leave next week and my post has already been filled with an interim Chief Executive who has years of experience running charities. It is a huge comfort to pass on last year’s projects to Delyth Evans who will help build on our achievements so far.
Thank you to everyone who has helped me make all our achievements in 2015 possible!