The Brussels British Community Association (BBCA) is happy to announce that it will donate €3,900 to the Community Help Service (CHS) Helpline thanks to the hard work of its volunteers and supporters throughout the year. This is a significant increase on previous years and reflects the large rise in demand for CHS services during the pandemic.
With the end of the year approaching the BBCA Council has been deliberating on its charitable donations for 2021. In recent years, our policy has been to split the funds available equitably between our four principle associated charitable bodies: The British Charitable Fund (BCF), The Community Health Service (CHS), The Royal British Legion Brussels branch (RBL), and The Wednesday Club. However, for 2021, in the light of the increased level of calls on the CHS due to the COVID pandemic and Brexit we are giving a larger amount to support their valuable work.
2021, like 2020 before it, has been a very difficult year for many people. While levels of anxiety and associated mental health issues on the rise, the ability of many charities to fund raise has been limited. With this in mind the BBCA Council has decided to prioritise its donations this year to focus on where greatest support is needed.
“In close consultation with the leadership of our four main charitable associations we have decided to donate to just two of the charities this year,” explains Glenn Vaughan, Chair of the BBCA Council. “In the light of massively increased calls on their services we will be donating €3,900 to CHS this year. This is by far the largest donation BBCA has been able to make to a single cause for some years and is very appropriate in the circumstances.”
In addition, €600 will be donated to RBL this year to support their local activities including the development of some centenary projects in Belgium.
CHS and COVID
“Even before the pandemic, there was a pressing need to raise awareness about mental health issues,” says Jeremy Jennings, Chair of the CHS Board. “But now, focus on mental health has never been more relevant, more important. CHS is proud to be a community leader shedding light on these issues, encouraging community care and offering vital services. And we thank the BBCA for its continuing, generous support for our work.”
The pandemic has forced CHS to modify and adapt the way in which they work. Pre-COVID, CHS Helpline volunteers would meet, face to face, on a weekly basis to discuss calls under the mentoring supervision of two trained psychologists. During the pandemic, everything has had to move to Zoom. But in anticipation of a return to a new normal, CHS has upgraded the CHS Boardroom with a new large screen (donated by Samsung) and high-quality video conferencing facilities. This facilitates "hybrid" meetings where some volunteers can attend in person (whilst respecting social distancing requirements) and others connect remotely.
CHS has also made a big investment in new communication technology. They have recently moved from their old Proximus system to Destiny Mobile. And whilst this has produced the inevitable teething troubles, CHS now has a much more flexible system where each volunteer has their own CHS smartphone. The new system is much easier to operate and provides the service with incredibly rich statistical data. For example, in the final quarter of 2021 CHS were able to note that roughly 15% of individuals calling the Helpline are from outside Belgium. CHS now has a global reach!
“COVID has inevitably had a huge impact on the people that use our services. The total number of calls to the Helpline in 2021 will be over 6,500, far more than any previous year,” comments Jeremy. “Similarly, the Mental Health Services Centre has seen a 30% increase in people seeking a consultation with a therapist over 2020. And 2020 was also record-breaking year! This increased workload has had a real impact on CHS people. COVID fatigue is a very real phenomenon. But the CHS family - therapists and volunteers alike - are enthusiastic in their desire to support the wider community (not just in Belgium) to manage our way through the pandemic.”
What does CHS do?
In 2021, CHS celebrated its 50th anniversary. Since 1971, the organisation has been supporting the international community in Belgium, regardless of nationality or circumstances . No-one should feel that they are alone – and help from CHS is always only a telephone call away.
CHS operates a Mental Health Services Centre in Brussels, housing an international team of professional therapists who provide support for a comprehensive range of mental health issues. All the CHS therapists speak English and many also work in other languages. The therapists are supported by a team of volunteers who also manage the administrative aspects of CHS, a non-profit organisation.
CHS also operates a 24/7 Helpline in English, for children, adolescents and adults. Calls are free of charge, anonymous and confidential. The Helpline is staffed by a team of volunteers that is recruited, trained, supervised and supported by the mental health professionals working with CHS.
CHS currently has 25 volunteers of whom 20 are active. This is the most volunteers CHS has had for a number of years, but more are always welcome. And you can always donate direct to CHS yourself via this web page.