Alongside our partners, supporters and volunteers across the UK, we're a team of caring, highly skilled staff working to support anyone affected by the death of a baby, improve bereavement care and fund research to save babies' lives. In this series of blogs, you can meet members of our team, hear about why they chose to work for Sands, and what inspires them. The charity is divided into different departments, which work closely together to provide a lifeline when a baby dies.
Meet Marc Harder, Sands National Bereavement Care Pathway Programme Lead
What does your day to day job involve?
No day is the same! My main focus is improving bereavement care, and my main tasks at the moment are 1) trying to get as many NHS Trusts in England to sign up to the National Bereavement Care Pathway, so far around 50% have signed up, 45% have expressed an interest and 5% are not at that stage yet; his involves writing, phoning, running workshops, tweeting, nudging… 2) launching the Scotland NBCP in five Early Adopter sites with my colleague Catherine who is based in Scotland, 3) developing an on-line training programme of e-modules with our partners for anyone who knows, or is working with families bereaved of a baby.
How long have you been with Sands? Has your role changed since you started working for the charity?
I started on a short term contract in 2017 and recently celebrated 3 years at the organisation. I absolutely love my job and love Sands. My role has evolved with the project - to start with it was about initiating the project, getting people on board, working with parents and professionals to ‘sell’ the idea and to create a collaboration. Then we moved into pilot phases and my role was to develop resources for the pilot site leads in the hospitals and then to support them.
Then in 2018 we developed the programme further through collaboration with parents and professionals, consolidating our learning and after the evaluation was published in 2019 my role began to focus on how we roll this out more widely, developing a set of bereavement care standards as part of a toolkit for new sites. My role has also now taken on responsibility for overseeing delivery of the Scotland arm of the project and in due course we hope NI and Wales will come on board.
What did you find most rewarding/motivating for you?
Hearing the stories that courageous bereaved parents and families share with us, and using these to help develop the pathway to ensure we fill any gaps. It is all for parents so we have always ensured the parent voice is at the heart of the project.
What is your proudest moment in your career? And, while at Sands?
Wow, what a question. I’ve worked in the private, public and now charity sectors for 20+ years now, predominantly as a project manager. In 2011 I was responsible for managing a project within a local authority which re-insourced the IT department, which was hugely complex with lots of moving parts but taught me the importance of communication and people management skills as the most crucial elements of managing successful projects.
Obviously when the NBCP went live I was enormously proud, as I was when the final evaluation was published, and likewise last week when (despite COVID-19’s best efforts) we were able to launch the Scotland NBCP into a number of Early Adopter sites.
What do you love most about Sands?
So much, but particularly the shared mission throughout the organisation - to save babies’ lives and to improve care and support for those who need it most. I love the variety - I work at home on the laptop but also travel throughout the UK and I also enjoy the opportunity to speak at events and run workshops.
What do you enjoy doing outside of work? Hobbies?
Life predominantly revolves around three circles - family, church and running - we have three children aged 10-15 so it’s a busy and noisy household, and I appreciate every day how fortunate we are. I am a local school governor and also run a few training workshops for other schools for Hampshire Governor Services as an Associate Tutor. We are involved in various leadership elements of church life within our local community and love running - the parkrun community is an incredible source of good for so many people - not just the running bit but the opportunity to gather together regularly and spur each other on.
I am part of the online #nhs1000miles community on Twitter and have upped my game significantly the last couple of years - due in part to their support and encouragement. I am now in the middle of a challenge running 15 marathons in 15 months, raising awareness and funds for Sands for what was Challenge 15 (but is now Challenge 14!) - I’ve done 6 of 15 so far and you can find out more at www.marcathon.blogspot.com and www.justgiving.com/fundraising/marc-harder4
It’s been great to meet many amazing Sands supporters up and down the country as part of the challenge. We’re trying to raise £2,500 and so far we’ve topped £1,700. On top of the nine marathons we have a curry night, music night and final celebration party planned to boost our efforts.
Photo: after marathon 6 of 15: the Deal Marathon on 26.2 with my medal and some of those who’ve cheered me on along the way, including amazing some amazing befrienders at Kent Sands