My involvement with Sands and the Leicestershire group began 12 years ago after completing the befriender training with my husband, 2 years after the stillbirth of our firstborn, Dhillon. Soon afterwards, we took on the running of the support meetings, phone and email. As well as supporting bereaved families, I spent a lot of time building relationships with local healthcare professionals, collaborating with them to improve care given to bereaved parents. I also was involved in Sands’ Asian Outreach project, which made a number of recommendations some of which we are trying to implement locally and hopefully roll out nationally. I am proud to be a part of Sands and proud to have such an ethnically-diverse group which is also popular with dads.
Rose Abrehart, East Network Coordinator, said: “Roopal, along with her husband, Michael, got involved with Leicestershire Sands 12 years ago and have worked tirelessly to build the group, to seek out and support parents from minority communities, and to support the work of Sands nationally. During those 10 years Roopal has expanded the group so it is now Leicestershire and Rutland Sands, she and Michael continue to support more parents and more volunteers from neighbouring Groups. Roopal was deeply involved in the Sands Asian Outreach Project in 2014-15 and continues to this day to champion Sands work in her local area and beyond to ensure that the work of Sands reaches all of those who need it.”
Q and A with Roopal:
What are your activities and what do they involve?
I have been an active befriender since 2006 after our second son was born. I also took on the running of the local group about a year later. Most of my energy has gone into raising awareness and improving facilities, care, support and proper signposting for bereaved parents.
What motivates you to stay involved?
Being able to make a difference, however small, to the bereavement care received by parents and being able to provide a listening ear for those working with them. It’s incredibly rewarding and I have met some incredible people over the years.
In your opinion, what is the most important work that Sands does?
The most important work we do at Sands is provided by its volunteers who offer that one-to-one listening ear, the group support meetings, which facilitates relationship building and long-term friends with others who understand, and who work tirelessly to influence improvements in local maternity services.
What do you hope Sands will achieve in the near future? In the long term?
We need to do much more to make ourselves accessible to bereaved families from different ethnic heritage. There is still a lot of work to do to break down the stigma surrounding baby death in other cultural groups.
Of what contribution or achievement are you most proud?
Our group in Leicester is full of dads as well as bereaved mums and is wonderfully diverse with people from different ethnicities. I believe this has been achieved over the years by having continuity of our group representatives and through building strong relationships with local healthcare professionals. We have become the "go to" charity.
Does anyone in your life play a role in supporting your involvement? In providing inspiration?
I am privileged to have some very special women in my life. Three of these are Moira McLean who teaches student midwives at De Monfort University; Dr Manjiri Khare a consultant obstetrician in Leicester and Jo Dickens, the bereavement specialist midwife. They are the warmest, kindest people I know and all have supported, guided and worked with me to improve local services. And Julie Bamford, Co-chair of our group, a befriender and an amazing friend who makes sure I remain focused and grounded. They are all as passionate as I am and together we are an incredible team!
Roopal has been nominated as part of 40 volunteers for #Sands40. Join them at Sands 40th Anniversary Conference on 17th November 2018 in Glasgow.
Sands is marking its 40th anniversary this year and we would like to say thank you for the incredible support and contribution that our dedicated volunteers make across the UK to support bereaved parents and anyone affected by the death of a baby.
We will be hosting an awards ceremony during the Sands 40th Anniversary Conference to celebrate the wide range of volunteering involvement in Sands and acknowledge 40 volunteers for their dedication and commitment.