Thursday 23 December 2010

And where were you when we were all battling the weather?

Firstly I was here for the chaos of the tube strikes.

Secondly I was here for the first snow chaos.

OK – so I was in Cape Town for two weeks until Tuesday. We were watching the UK news and I really, really felt everyone’s pain but somehow no one believed me.

As with many, our flight home on Sunday night was cancelled. However, the rest of our experience was very different. I received a text from BA at about 10pm on Saturday night to say the flight was cancelled. They, very unhelpfully, then gave a number to call which only operated during office hours Monday to Friday and the website was hardly responding. However I managed to find a local BA employee at Cape Town airport who very wisely advised me to rebook on the Monday night flight then and there which we did. We then had a trouble free journey home unlike thousands who were stranded here. Our friends in Cape Town (and everyone here) thought we were mad to come back but, as glorious as Cape Town is and it is very glorious, home is home.

While I was enjoying the sunshine, everyone at Campaign was working flat out. A lot of work was being done analysing the results of October, Breast Cancer Awareness Month (and for some, recovering from working six weekends on the trot!).

A letter organised by Campaign’s Policy team was published in The Times on 16 December; (you have to pay to access the website so I can’t give you their link) but you can read it here on our website. It was signed by 122 leading cancer scientists and clinicians, and demanded that the Government renew its commitment to the Charity Research Support Fund. (The CRSF is the mechanism via which the Government funds the indirect costs of charity research, such as university libraries, allowing charities such as Campaign to fund only the direct costs of research.)

On December 20 the Business Secretary issued the annual grant letter which sets out Government funding for universities for the next four years. This is the first step in deciding the funding for the CRSF. We are therefore really pleased that for the first time ever in this annual process, the Business Secretary has given a clear Government endorsement for protecting charity funded research. The letter said that the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) should plan for “protecting funding leveraged from external sources such as the charitable and business sectors.”

The campaigning that we and others have done on this issue has helped to produce this result.

This is a satisfying way to end the year – lots more to do.

Wednesday 1 December 2010

Charity begins at home

And ‘home’ for the working day is Breast Cancer Campaign. Our staff do things personally to support our charity on top of the day jobs, whether it is raising money through our own wear it pink activity, running marathons or other races or doing sponsored walks – we all do our bit.

I am also always impressed by a willingness to help other charities – and this week was an example. A friend has “adopted” two orphanages in Vilnius in Lithuania and asks for gifts of toys and warm clothes and donations. A friendly truck driver takes the donated goods over just before Christmas and she and her husband also go over and buy lots of fresh fruit and other treats (yes fresh fruit is a treat) for the children and ensure that everyone has a new toy and a big hug.

Colleagues here have rallied round with gifts of toys and warm children’s clothes. We also have quite a number of samples that we are sent and which we can’t use. We have filled five black bin liners which will soon be on their way to Vilnius. Really easy to do but we feel good about it.

On the same theme I was impressed with an initiative in London last week – Mitzvah Day. Mitzvah is Hebrew for a good deed. As I went into my local supermarket I was handed a leaflet and asked to add a few items to my trolley from the list and give them to the collector on the way out. This was to support a local shelter for the homeless. It was practical with things like soap and cleaning materials, shampoo, nappies and tissues, non-perishable foods and perhaps some nice biscuits as a treat. It was no effort and the cost was small but I felt good again – practical and effective and of course very dependent on all the volunteers who made it happen.