Actor Rakhee Thakrar today launches the Sands (the stillbirth and neonatal death charity) ‘Star on Our Tree’ Campaign and Christmas appeal.  Rakhee plays Shabnam Masood on EastEnders, whose baby Zaair was stillborn earlier this year.

When a baby dies, it has a devastating impact on parents, their family and friends.  Colleagues and health professionals are also affected by this tragedy.  During festive periods, like Christmas, it can feel especially sad and daunting, especially for those anticipating their first Christmas without their baby or loved one.  And as with so many ‘firsts’, the anticipation of the first Christmas can often be harder than the actual day itself.

The Star on Our Tree campaign is asking bereaved families to share the different ways that they remember their baby during the holiday season by adding their names to a selfie image and sharing them on social media.  This may be a personalised named bauble on their tree or lighting a candle in memory of their baby.

Judith Abela, Acting Chief Executive at Sands, said:

“We know first-hand how difficult this time of year can be. So we are asking bereaved parents, families and friends to share with us the many different ways they remember their babies during this time of year and into the New Year to provide support and ideas of what others might like to do.”

Additionally, Sands is asking people to give what they can to help Sands run its vital support services. This includes the helpline that Sands operates right through the festive period, including Christmas Day, to support parents and others in need of someone to talk to at a time where feelings of grief and isolation can often feel overwhelming.

Giving just a little helps Sands fund not only its helplines and bereavement support services this Christmas but also vital research to reduce the numbers of babies dying. Over 100 babies die in the UK each week. Even a small gift will also help finance the charity’s specialised bereavement care training for health professionals and its campaign to improve maternity care. 

Actor and Sands Ambassador, Rakhee Thakrar, said:

"At festive times, like Christmas, I can only imagine how difficult it must be for families grieving the death of a baby, whether that's recent or 20 years ago. I'm supporting the Sands Christmas campaign this year as I want to do whatever I can to help the situation. There's a lot of work to be done, and Sands is a lifeline to so many, I feel it's vital to help in any way I can."

‘Star on our Tree’ selfie images can be downloaded here: www.uk-sands.org/get-involved/star-on-our-tree

Families can then upload them to our Facebook page (www.facebook.com/sandscharity) or Twitter (@SandsUK) or email them to personal.experiences@uk-sands.org and they will be included in a special “Star on Our Tree” album on the charity’s Facebook page.

Donations can be given via: www.justgiving.com/StarOnOurTree2015

Or: Text STAR31 £5 to 70070

Website: www.uk-sands.org/get-involved/christmas-campaign

Sands’ Christmas Helpline hours

Our helpline will be open over Christmas and New Year as follows and emails will be checked daily:

  • Christmas Eve (Thursday 24th December) 10am to 3pm, 6pm to 10pm
  • Christmas Day (Friday 25th December) 10am to 3pm, 6pm to 10pm
  • Boxing Day (Saturday 26th December) 10am to 3pm, 6 pm to 10pm
  • Sunday 27th December – Wednesday 30th December normal helpline hours
  • New Years Eve (Thursday 31st December) 10am to 3pm, 7pm to 11pm
  • New Years Day (Friday 1st January) 10am to 3pm, 6pm to 10pm

Monday 4th January 2016 normal helpline hours resume.

Normal opening hours are Monday to Friday 9.30am to 5.30pm, and Tuesday and Thursday evenings 6pm to 10pm; closed weekends.