Our Charity of the Year 2017/18, SiMBA, tells us why the Memory Box concept has proved to be so effective.
Founded by Sara Fitzsimmons in 2005, SiMBA, Baillie Gifford’s Charity of the Year 2017/18, was established in response to a lack of resources for bereaved parents. “I was a midwife for 21 years and I became acutely aware of how little support there was for parents who lost a baby,” explains Sara, Executive Director of SiMBA. “I wanted to find a way to give parents more than a brown envelope and a picture. I wanted to help them create memories they could cherish.”
Sara’s idea was simple yet effective; a Memory Box. “My son is now 19 and I started his Memory Box when he was a baby. It struck me that a similar concept could bring some comfort to parents who had lost a baby,” Sara says.
The contents of the box come together as a result of parents making memories with their babies. Typical items include a hair clipping, photographs, clay hand and foot prints, an inkless paper hand and foot print, a birth acknowledgement certificate, a nappy and a number of other mementos, “We have two different sizes of Memory Box, one for those who experience the loss of a child before 24 weeks, and another for babies who had advanced past six months. The birth acknowledgement certificate is a key component of our smaller Memory Boxes – a baby isn’t formally recorded until 24 weeks so there is nothing legal to acknowledge him or her. That’s why the certificates are so important,” explains Gillian Wells, Events and Communications Co-ordinator at SiMBA.
In recent years, SiMBA has become a nationwide charity, supplying Memory Boxes to more than 200 wards across the UK, “As well as hospital maternity units we also supply Memory Boxes to early pregnancy support units, colleges and some hospices,” Sara says. “Additionally, we provide guidance with the Memory Boxes, so that staff know how to use them in the most sensitive and effective way.”
In addition to Memory Boxes, SiMBA runs support groups across Scotland. These are attended not only by bereaved parents, but grandparents, friends and other family members who need support. For those not able to attend a support group session, social media has proved to be a useful tool, “We have a number of closed Facebook groups, all of which have a facilitator as a member. Our facilitators are trained by Child Bereavement UK to offer the best and most appropriate level of support, whether that be online or offline,” Sara says. “Although our facilitators take part in the Facebook group discussions, the members of each group also provide great support to each other, over a mutual understanding of shared experience.”
The charity also has a number of Trees of Tranquillity across Scotland. Made of copper, these trees feature leaves with engraved messages. Each leaf represents a baby and gives parents a way to honour their child in a peaceful location, “The Trees of Tranquillity are very important and while we currently have five across the country, over time we would like to have one in every maternity district,” says Gillian.
As SiMBA continues to develop, the charity hopes to ensure that everyone who experiences the loss of a baby is made aware of how SiMBA can help, “Ideally, we would like everyone to know what we offer. Not everyone will want a Memory Box, but I would hope every family would be offered one,” says Sara. “We emphasise that our boxes are a tool to make memories and while we can’t change the awful event itself, we can try to create some kind of positive impact by helping parents to make memories with their babies.”
You can find out more about SiMBA by visiting the charity’s website.