Hey Jude...

LHS - Danny Thomas - founder of St. Judes Children’s Research Hospital  RHS - Saint Jude -The patron Saint of lost causes.

LHS - Danny Thomas - founder of St. Judes Children’s Research Hospital

RHS - Saint Jude -The patron Saint of lost causes.

There are not many things as inspiring as the life and achievements of one, Danny Thomas. 

No, I had never heard of him either but I am glad that I have now. I am pleased that I can share his story briefly on our site and in particular because Danny and I share some parallels

Certainly, his legacy is remarkable. His name should be heralded and held up with other great American icons who we are already familiar with.

Just as an aside and for some context… In conceiving The Brothers Trust – we were most keen to help charities that struggle to be heard and accordingly to raise funds and so this would normally preclude St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, an internationally renowned institution and in fact, America’s largest healthcare charity. 

Hardly struggling for publicity then but I am glad that we can make such an exception and 

if I can explain why…

This pioneering hospital was founded by a struggling comedian (the parallels I mentioned earlier). His name was Danny Thomas. He was expecting his first child and went to mass in Detroit to pray for help with the hospital bills ahead and I imagine also with becoming a father.

Danny prayed to St. Jude, the patron saint of lost causes (more parallels) and the very next day, he was cast in a play that paid him ten times the amount of money than the $7 he had placed in the collection box. 

The years went by. Danny kept gigging, having more children and he kept praying to St.Jude, promising his celestial muse “help me find my way in life, and I will build you a shrine.

Danny’s career flourished as he became a national and international star (here, the parallels end) and attributing his success to St.Jude, Danny never forgot his promise. And for this we should all be thankful.

In the 1950’s, Danny was of sufficient stature and means to go about making good; to found a children’s hospital where no child is denied treatment based on race, religion or a family’s ability to pay; a noble goal and even more prescient for our modern age. 

Based in Memphis, Danny and his wife, Rose Marie set about their task with gusto, putting on benefit shows and calling on major show-biz stars and local businessmen and philanthropists to build the hospital – but once built, Danny faced the even greater challenge of keeping the facility funded and afloat…

To solve this problem, Danny, of Lebanese descent, turned to his fellow Americans of Arabic-speaking heritage. Believing deeply that these Americans should, as a group, thank the United States for the gifts of freedom given their parents, Danny also felt the support of St. Jude would be a noble way of honoring his immigrant forefathers who had come to America.

In 1957, 100 representatives of the Arab-American community met in Chicago to form ALSAC® with a sole purpose of raising funds for the support of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

Since that time, with national headquarters in Memphis and regional offices throughout the United States, ALSAC has assumed full responsibility for all the hospital’s fundraising efforts, raising hundreds of millions annually through benefits and solicitation drives among Americans of all ethnic, religious and racial backgrounds. 

Saint Jude can rightly be proud of the young expectant father who prayed to him that day in a Detroit Church because the hospital that bears his name, has invented treatments that have helped to push the overall childhood cancer survival rate from 20% to more than 80% since the hospital opened more than 50 years ago. What a remarkable feat.

There are many comedians and actors much better known than Danny Thomas but how many of them leave a greater legacy? In the United States and the world over, families with critically ill children place their trust and hopes in the cures that are available because of the energies and noble efforts of a truly great man, Danny Thomas.  

Like I say, his name deserves to be known more broadly because all Americans and indeed us all, owe him a debt of gratitude and should take inspiration from his life and how he applied the fruits of his success.

Danny lived to see his little hospital become an international beacon of hope for the catastrophically ill children of the world. He died on February 6, 1991 and was buried in the grounds of his hospital where he was joined by his wife when she passed on July 12, 2000 and today, their three children carry on their parents’ great and noble work. 

And as for me…

…well, I realise now that all this time, I have been praying to the wrong Saint... but from here-on-in, rest assured that St. Jude has yet another ‘hopeless cause of a comedian’ making all sorts of promises to him…

Story Book Dads

An aim of The Brothers Trust is to help charities who might struggle to attract publicity and the income that comes with this.

This might be due to their size and/or that their cause is not so fashionable.

Which is why we are delighted to be able to support a charity called Storybook Dads – which we did with an initial grant of £10,000.00

If I can briefly explain why we made this grant…

Put in its simplest terms, Storybook Dads allows prisoners to read bedtime stories to their children – via recorded CD’s.

Prison is not an institution many of us are familiar with. Prison is something that happens to other families and to other people but this does not mean that we should ignore the plight of prisoners and their families. 

The charity is underpinned by the importance of family and how vital it is to keep an attachment with the dad (or the mum) while they are incarcerated. 

The recordings of a parent reading to their child can be a lifeline and a vital link between the prisoner and their family. 

Statistics show that prisoners who keep in contact with their families are 6 times less likely to re-offend.

From the prisoners perspective, there is so much to gain. A set of new skills in recording and editing. A sense of achievement and the boost to their self-esteem, knowing that they have made their child happy and proud in their absence.  

And for the child…

Everyone knows that reading stories to a child is the best building bloc and start in life. Something I took for granted as a child and did naturally for our boys. 

Imagine the hurt a child feels at having a parent taken away and the adverse impact this can have on the child’s development and future? Storybook Dads with their simple, but brilliant idea sets to bridge this gap that prison causes.

Is prison a punishment? A deterrent? Or a correctional facility?

An age old question that is never adequately answered.  All of the above I guess. But where we can agree is that families blighted by crime and prison are very often at the bottom of our societies and caught up in a vicious cycle that repeats itself.

Breaking this cycle is an improvement for us all – and connecting incarcerated parent and child is a small step in the right direction. 

As well as the benefits to parent and child of the recorded story, the charity has greater ambitions also and particularly in the field of training and development.

The charity has funded and trained over 600 prisoners to develop editing,  recording, audio and video production skills. 20 UK prisons now have their editing facilities – offering prisoners vital training and a chance to improve their life chances on their release.  

The charity now employs 20 ex-prisoners as editors at its head office – where CD’s from 120 UK prisons are produced by prisoners for their children.  In 2017, over 5000 CD’s were produced, each treasured no doubt, by the children receiving them. 

And finally, literacy skills!

Perhaps the most fundamental learned skill of them all and something we all take for granted.

But a great many prisoners are illiterate which blights their life chances considerably. 

The difficulty this poses to reading a story are obvious but something this brave charity can accommodate. And in involving the parent in the education and literacy of their children, in-turn, the literacy deficiencies of the parent are addressed also 

The charities that attract the most income are the ones with tangible illnesses. Life limiting illnesses and particularly indiscriminate diseases that could visit us. 

 Storybook Dads does not sit in this sector at all. Prisoners are locked away so that the law abiding can get on with our lives.

Any civilised society feels a need to help people who are less advantaged in life.  But not just with handouts. In a fashion that empowers them to help themselves with dignity and pride. 

Storybook Dads does precisely this. And mums, I add again. They are in fact active in 10 women’s prisons in the UK. 

And why The Brothers Trust is proud to be able to support them.

The Empowerment Plan

We are excited to share news of a grant that we made recently to a charity based in Detroit called The Empowerment Plan.

Thankfully, homelessness is relatively rare. It is very unlikely that it will happen to any of us and yet it is something that affects us all. Whether in London or any big city, no matter how wealthy it is, we encounter people living on the streets. Always an arresting site but particularly so during the cold months when we need to hurry home.

Clearly, the problem of homelessness is much more complex than just challenging economics. Mental health, family breakdown, drug abuse… the list goes on and what is often seen as an intractable problem. 

Intractable that is, until The Empowerment Plan was born. 

Its name alone is a clue. Empowering people to help themselves.

This progressive charity was founded to provide coats for homeless people but quickly became much more than this when its inspiring founder, Veronika Scott was confronted by an angry homeless person, complaining that she did not want a coat, she wanted a job.

A light bulb moment for Veronika because The Empowerment Plan became precisely this. It manufactures specialist  coats which convert in to sleeping bags. Specially designed for rough sleepers and also providing training and jobs for homeless and other vulnerable people. 

Coats for homeless people, made by homeless people. A great example of completing a circle and breaking a cycle. 

Since its inception in 2012, The Empowerment Plan has provided employment to 50 homeless people, all of whom have used their new skills and income to secure permanent housing for themselves and their families, not to mention the 25,000 coats that have been provided to people across America and the world. 

This charity is a perfect fit for The Brothers Trust. A small charity in need of help and publicity so that it can continue its great work with very obvious and tangible results. They are supported by individuals, companies and trusts like ours. The model works and why they are ambitious and would like to roll it out across the US and beyond. 

It costs $125 to produce a coat and so our donation (made possible by our supporters) will produce 200 coats – 10 of which are now in the UK and being put to good use.

Thank you for your support without which we couldn’t help great charities like this.

https://www.empowermentplan.org

No one likes waiting for a bus...

No-one likes waiting for a bus.JPG

LunchBowl is a charity that feeds and educates young children in Kibera, Kenya, the largest slum in Africa.

There is much to admire about LunchBowl. That it is run entirely by volunteers and that 97 pence in every pound raised is spent on the ground. Charities efforts in the third world are currently under much scrutiny and rightly so with funds being misappropriated and shameful human rights abuses coming to light also. But this must not mean that help is diverted elsewhere and away from people in dire need. LunchBowl has people working on the ground so that we have complete confidence that all the funds are spent where they should be and in the most effective manner. As fundraising continues, LunchBowl are scheduled to open a new school and kindergarten in Jan ‘19 for up to 300 children. The Brothers Trust have donated £33,000 to purchase a school bus to help transport these children to and fro school each day. As well as feeding children, LunchBowl understands that giving an education is the best route out of poverty. Something we in the 1st world too often take for granted.

A helping hand to Debra

In memory of the inspirational James Dunn we continue to support Debra

In memory of the inspirational James Dunn we continue to support Debra

Debra is the charity founded to help people with the disease called Epidermolysis Bullosa - but better known as EB. It is the disease James Dunn suffered with and died from in April this year. Nurses at the world renown Great Ormond Street Hospital in London are on record as saying that EB is the worst condition a person can be born with. Put simply, EB, in its various forms is when someone’s skin does not function as it should. It tears and rips at the slightest touch and as skin is the largest organ and extends throughout our bodies inside and out, it does not take much to imagine how debilitating it is and the pain that patients continually endure. There is no cure only salving the pain of this life limiting and in some cases, fatal condition.

The Brothers Trust is therefore proud to be able to continue to support Debra here in the UK with a further grant of £40,000 to completely fund a Community Support Manager, responsible for 400 individuals and their families affected by EB in the south of England. To provide them with financial help, emotional needs, housing complexities, accessing help and education support and planning. Living ourselves in this region, we will come to know this manager and will be able to feed back and demonstrate tangible examples of how your funds are reaching people with EB.

Having a baby with EB must come as a terrible shock to parents. It is a condition that will affect their child and their own lives forever. Typically, a parent and usually the mum will need to become the full-time carer of the child and with this comes emotional strains as well as financial pressures.

Helping such patients and their families is a blessing, made possible by the generosity of our supporters. On behalf of the people who will benefit from this grant, thank you very much.

An exciting new grant for the John Foundation

We are delighted to share with our supporters news of a grant that we have made to the John Foundation. We have granted this remarkable charity $30,000 to build a new refuge home in India to house and train young women and children from dreadful circumstances and poverty;  to offer them security, love and most importantly vital training to become self sufficient and independent again.

The John Foundation does remarkable things and if we could just precis their work to give you some context and why we have given them such a substantial grant. 

The John Foundation was founded in 2007 by Saji and Cynthia John. Saji himself, had been one of sixteen children rescued and cared for in the Karnataka State of India by Swedish social workers. Saji owes his life and subsequent success to these good people and their work. Having experienced such hardship himself, Saji and his wife, Cynthia decided that they must offer a similar service to the many children in their region who have a desperate existence and are in desperate need.

This began in 2007 when a stranger approached the couple with two children, abandoned by their family and living on the slum streets of Hyderabad. These children became the first of many children rescued and rehabilitated by the John Foundation.

Most often, these children are rescued from sex traffickers. Children working as prostitutes or the unwanted children of prostitutes, their life circumstances are abject; their prospects are hopeless and bleak. Sadly, children are a resource and traffickers target poor areas, lying to their parents with promises of good jobs, only for the girls to become economic slaves in illicit factories or worse to be used as prostitutes.       

This disastrous reality is combatted by the John Foundation and from their unlikely beginnings, its achievements are tangible and remarkable. 

  • As of 2017, John foundation serves:

    • 202 orphaned and semi-orphaned children live in 17 Children’s Homes

    • 40 girls rescued from Commercial Sex Work and Temple prostitution live in 4 Restoration-Transformation Homes

    • 495 children of single mothers attend the Asha Back to School Program

    • 490 students at risk of school dropout receive tutoring in 17 Asha Tuition (tutoring) Centers

    • Over 4600 single mothers and girls who dropped out of school have attended the employable skills training program. Today, 89% of these students are employed

Of particular interest to The Brothers Trust is the emphasis and energy that the John Foundation invests in training to create independent young adults who can go on to lead successful lives.  Their slogan is - Bringing hope the sustainable way.

Along with other developing economies, India clothes the world. The snazzy and sought-after clothing brands that we all crave; there is a high chance that many of these garments are made in India. Textiles is one of the world industries and its demand for skilled workers is insatiable. The John Foundation recognises this and understands that possessing such skills  provides a pathway to success and independence.

Himself, a doctor, it is no surprise that Saji values the power of education to combat poverty and we are assured that his Foundation is confronting poverty by breaking the cycle with sustainable outcomes for the people it serves.

In the first instance, The John Foundation provides the love and care that traumatised children and young women require but central to its purpose is creating independence and to this end, it has a series of income generating endeavours which equally provide vital training opportunities also.

The Foundation has established two garment factories (ethically run and organised of course).  Similarly, a book shop and beauty parlour, a gift-line as well as the more formal education facilities that we all take for granted. And finally, Saji, with his business mind has founded a very successful series of micro-loans for people to establish businesses and truly become self-sufficient. An impressive 95% of all loans granted by the Foundation are repaid in full from the success of these businesses. 

The Foundation have acquired land for two more homes. Each home is 1450 sq feet and costs $20.55 per sq feet to build. They have applied to our trust for the money ($29,800) to build one of these homes. We have approved this grant in full.

We would like to add that the work of The John Foundation was brought to out attention by a trustee of The Brothers Trust who has visited India on many occasions where he has met  The John Foundation and seen their work and accomplishments. On our site, we will update you with photographs and news of the new building and the work that it can achieve and assure you that if any members of The Brothers Trust should visit Saji, the costs of any trips will not be borne by The Brothers Trust but by us personally.

Thank you for helping us and allowing us to make this grant. We encourage you to visit their site to learn more about their work. www.thejohnfoundation.org

Our tribute to James Dunn

James Dunn 13/07/1993 – 6/04/2018

A life that is lived to its maximum potential is a joy and a success; it is all anyone of us can hope for. Anything less is a shame and even a waste and in this noble quest, James Dunn showed us all the way to go.

I met James through the establishment of The Brothers Trust. Such was his influence on us all, meeting James alone is reason enough for establishing the trust and given the impact that he had on us all, it is remarkable that we knew him for less than less than a year.

We met James for the first time in July 2017, at the launch of our charity; a screening of Spider-Man, Homecoming at a private cinema for raffle winners and auction bidders to see the film and a chance to meet Tom. I was already aware of EB and its charity, Debra. I knew what a pernicious disease that EB is; memorably described by a nurse at Great Ormond Street Hospital as the worst disease that can blight anyone’s life. I was also attracted to its cause because of the lack of awareness of the disease which made it feel like a good fit for our trust. 

 

I viewed a video on-line of James having his wounds dressed by his mum. A heart rending watch, it moved me to tears and we invited James to our first event.

I was anxious on the day. There was much to think about. Winners had travelled from all four corners of the world but no attendees were dealing with the obstacles that James needed to scale. Wheelchair bound, I worried about his access to the cinema and the toilet not to mention our house later in the day for a photo-shoot. I fretted about everything until the family rolled up and I saw James’s beaming smile. James was not worried. He looked so excited, like a kid without a care in the world. Only James was not a kid of course. He was twenty-four when he died, his EB stunting and preventing his growth.

Regulars readers of this blog will know what blossomed between James and Tom from this original meeting. They met several times and in a short but exciting journey that took in TV appearances, dinner at the Langham with the country’s foremost chefs, a portrait campaign using James’ photograph and much else besides.

When people die, very often, clichés are used to depict their bravery and the impact that they had. I make no apologies for making these claims here now for James. He did light up a room. He was a force of energy and he was as brave as a lion.

So much to admire about James but what stood out above all else was his fortitude. We are all dealt different hands in life; with some people so seemingly blessed and others so blighted. James had a tough lot and so he had every reason to be disconsolate and complaining. In the times that I was lucky enough to meet him, he never once showed any anger or complaint and nor did he hanker for any pity. He just got on with his life. He had a verve for life which meant that his life was full, which is what we all strive for.

During our brief time, what we all hope to do is to leave our mark. To be survived by our children and hope that they prosper is such a mark. Other people manage more indelible legacies: Shakespeare, Stan Lee, Steve Jobs, JK Rowling…

James Dunn, too, has left his mark and in so many ways. The funds that he raised for Debra is an obvious place to start. Nikki’s idea to use James’ photograph of Tom now seems particularly inspired because it is a tangible reminder of James and it is fitting that his photo means so much to people and that they hang on walls across the world. We know this because we dispatched them ourselves to China, Australia, Brazil, America… The people who own these images and all the people who participated and contributed to this campaign, your kindness lives on in James’s legacy, so thank you.

But James’ greatest mark is his example of how he lived. Most poignantly for his fellow EB sufferers to note that the disease didn’t limit James in his life and what he was able to achieve. Travelling can be difficult at the best of times: inconvenient and even painful for the able bodied; imagine then the problems it posed for James and yet he travelled and took in the world.

And in a wider context, James is an example to us all. All of us tend to live our lives in bubbles. Of viewing life through our restrictions rather than our blessings and too quickly blaming others feeling sorry for ourselves. James didn’t do this at all and why meeting him was always so humbling. His EB caused him ongoing and constant pain such that daily morphine was part of his daily life. His injuries were on show for all to see and his pain was palpable. Even after his arm was removed and his cancer had returned and the treatment was only containment, James was busy making plans. Posting his videos and continuing his fight and always with that broad smile of his.

Any account of James’s life is incomplete without mention of his remarkable parents, Kenny and Lesley. The success of James’s life is a testament to their love and commitment to their son. They are a stoic couple, both so dignified and admirable. It is no mystery to me why James could thrive. Less loving and strong people could not have coped with a child like James and why Debra (www.debra.org) deserves our support and better awareness of the work that they do.

Meeting and getting to know James has been a privilege for us all. Of all the illustrious people that Tom encounters in his blessed life, in the short time that he has known James, I venture that his impact on Tom will be indelible and as marked as any.

James coined a moto for his himself in how to live his life - #LiveLaughLove

A simple philosophy but one that is perhaps easier said than done. James managed it with aplomb and why he is an example to us all.

Your pain is finally over James. Rest in peace and thank you.   

James Dunn 2.jpg

Happy Easter with a trip to the cinema

Reality check…

Quite a responsibility running a new charity as we are discovering.

Raising funds and then distributing monies to people in need. Making sure that the money is spent well and not wasted. Making a difference is the primary goal and as with all charities, we dream of the seismic changes; like helping along that vital piece of research which eradicates life limiting diseases like EB and all manner of cancers.

But as well as the big stuff – there is much joy and happiness in things that might seem incidental to us.

Going to the cinema is hardly a big deal for most the people reading this short post. When I grew up, going to the cinema was a treat and is perhaps why I can still vividly remember seeing Jaws with my mum and my brother. But nowadays, the cinema is hardly a big deal and if we don’t visit the Cineplex then we can simply stream movies straight in to our homes, no problem.

Last week, The Brothers Trust sent 200 children to the movies. 70 of whom had never been to the cinema before and the remaining going for only their second time.  These are kids who live in Kibera, the largest slum dwelling on earth. Coaches were hired to take the excited kids and staff to see FERDINAND – fill them with popcorn and hot-dogs and give these kids an experience that I venture they will never forget.

Less is more, as the saying goes – and because these kids have so little, it takes not very much to affect their lives.  From the photo montage in this post, it is obvious what this trip meant to these youngsters.

The Brothers Trust has big plans for their union with LunchBowl and their ongoing work in Kibera – but for now and until then, this Easter treat is something we are thrilled to fund.

Thanks to those of you who have made this help possible.

 

Happy Easter to you all.

Momentum Update...

A charity that we have supported is Momentum, a local charity, founded in the hospital where Tom and his brothers were born. Our trust awarded Momentum £6000 which is being used to fund a dedicated family support worker for a year. Momentum works to support young people who have life limiting illnesses which is predominantly cancer.

The support worker is a local mum whose own child is combatting cancer herself and so she is ideally placed to identify the needs and co-ordinate efforts; to develop a programme of communication, support and befriending activities amongst these young people. Empathy and kinship is key for young people anyway but especially so for young people dealing with such trauma. Our support worker has become a vital link between patients of 25 families across a number of hospitals in South West London. Money from our grant has been used to organise events like brunch meets, theatre trips and pamper evenings so that these teenagers and their families can enjoy themselves but also so they can form vital friendships of mutual support.

Teenage cancer is indiscriminate. Fighting it and coping with the disease must be all consuming. To have a charity like Momentum to help with this process must be a great help - which is why The Brothers Trust are delighted to be able to support Momentum and we will continue to do so. 

Thanks to you…

We wanted to give an update to our supporters on what has been done with the some of the funds that you have helped us to raise.

As previously reported, £16,000 was granted to Lunch Bowl – a charity run entirely by volunteers both in London as a fundraising hub and on the ground in Kibera, Kenya.

This money had been earmarked to buy land and to construct a school but the organisation ran in to obstacles with planning authority’s regarding lease charges and so it was decided that the deal was too risky and not a good use of our funds.

We hoped that this might resolve but since the legal concerns persist, we have asked Lunch Bowl to allocate the funds elsewhere rather than monies lying dormant in a bank account where it is no good use to anyone.

This has now been done and we are delighted to be able to report the following…

£8,500 has been allocated to fund the entire Kibera Lunchbowl Saturday dinner programme for a full year – providing a hot meal for over 400 orphans or vulnerable children every Saturday.

Lunch Bowl 2.JPG

 

£150 allocated to pay for and install a single solar panel to create light and power for two classrooms at the Angel Kindergarten that Lunch Bowl runs.

£150 to pay for and install a new shower at the orphanage.

£80  to pay for a wheelchair for a young boy called Jackson. He has cerebral palsy and his plight was recently brought to the attention of Lunch Bowl.

A further £1040 has been put aside to provide Jackson with physiotherapy sessions for the next 12 months.

£6,164 allocated to provide all the food for 200 children at the Angel Kindergarten – breakfast, lunch and fruit for six months.

Thank you for supporting us. In doing so, you are directly helping some of the world's most vulnerable and needy people. 

And because 94p in every pound that Lunch Bowl receives, is spent directly on the children, we consider this to be a great use of the funds that we are able to raise.

Many Thanks