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...

school 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.

A mini update

Firstly, apologies for not reporting back of late and in any great depth either - as busy as things are, this is no excuse and we promise to get better in this area going forward.

As yet, no monies from the recent campaign have been allocated but as and when we do make grants, we will be delighted to share with you how your funds are being spent.

In the meantime, you will know that we are supporting a local charity called Momentum - a charity founded out of the hospital where Tom, Sam, Harry and Paddy were all born. Momentum works with the families who have children with life limiting conditions, most commonly, cancer. Our contribution of £11,000 has provided a family support worker to liaise and support such families with a terminally ill child in the last months and days of their life and where necessary afterwards also. Part of this money was also allocated to provide 10 such families to enjoy a holiday in the New Forest Cabins that Momentum own. It must be a bewildering experience for such families but something that needs to be coped with. The simple things like connecting them with families in a similar situation or organising an evening for children and their families to come together are all important and can confidently report that Momentum are easing the pain for these families and are grateful to you for your support.

Today, Nikki and I met with Debra - the charity caring for people afflicted with EB - many of you will remember James Dunn I am sure? We talked of many ways that The Brothers Trust will continue to support Debra and there is potential for an exciting tie in between Debra shops and the John Foundation who we support in India - with details to follow. We also discussed establishing support for a charity in the USA and Debra might be a great a great place to start.

LunchBowl continue to do staggering work in Kenya. Heidi and Jenny who are integral to success of The Brothers Trust - introduced us to this charity - feeding and educating the world’s poorest kids in the world’s biggest slum dwelling - and our plans are to purchase a school bus for them and much else besides going forward.

The John Foundation is committed to taking women in India out of the sex trade. These women are trained in clothing manufacturing so that they acquire the skills necessary to gain employment and rekindle their lives with a fresh start. Our grant has allowed the John Foundation to build a new hostel to house 12 more victims. To square the circle, we have plans for the clothing factory where the women are trained to start making merchandise for The Brothers Trust which could be sold with the money raised being re-invested in this and other ventures that we support.

This is an excellent idea and so little surprise to anyone who knows us as a family - that it was Nikki’s idea and not mine!

As you can imagine, this grates on me…

And finally to say, thank you because without your support The Brothers Trust cannot help anyone!

Our biggest event to date

Eric with The Brothers Trust  team.

Eric with The Brothers Trust team.

Thanks SO much to everyone who donated and took part in our biggest event to date. The amount raised was completely amazing and we are very grateful; as will be the people that we can now help. 

Keep following our Instagram to see how we spend it.

We were lucky to have a lovely winner - Eric Wyant from Seattle in Washington, USA. Eric flew in on 1st September, on the red-eye and sore-back, landing at 6.30am. A Limo met him at Heathrow and whisked him to the world famous Savoy hotel, in central London. Nikki and a couple of other BT helpers were on-hand to greet Eric. The hotel generously provided Eric with a suite which was very kind of them and very welcome after such a long journey.

Our plan was to let Eric sightsee for the rest of the day (or sleep) and then then to be collected the following day for the set visit and the meeting with Tom...

But then everything changed with a frantic phone call from Tom. His schedule had been changed and he was suddenly no longer filming the next day. Eric’s sleep would need to wait if he wanted to see Tom on set and hear the word ‘action.’

It was all very frantic. A taxi was hailed and we were on our way across town to the Warner Bros film studios. Marvel execs hovered nervously and clutched non-disclosure agreements which we all needed to sign, even Nikki! Eric met with Tom but the filming that was too secret for any of us to see - a wonder that they ever trust Tom!

Because of this, Tom invited Eric back to set two days later when he did get to see some filming and have lunch in his trailer which was probably not as good as The Savoy, but I guess, more exciting?

Eric will have to wait until the movie is released before he's given the pics that were taken of him with Tom on the set... but in the meantime, here are a few snaps of Eric in London.

Eric, you were a delight to host. Thank you for making the trip and once again, to all the people who support The Brothers Trust.

A few words from our competition winner Eric

Eric.jpg

 

“First off, I would like to thank Tom, Nikki, and Harry, as well as the rest of The Brother’s Trust team for a remarkable trip to London! I would also like to thank Harrison, and everyone else at the studio for showing me some of the behind-the-scenes processes involved in film making.

 

When I first found out that I won this trip, a rush of emotions came over me, and that rush didn’t stop until I found myself back at home. From the moment my plane touched down, to meeting everyone at The Brother’s Trust, to hanging out on-set with Tom, to my tour of the Harry Potter studio, to visits at some of the most historic sites in London, to my stay at the fabulous Savoy, I had to constantly pinch myself to confirm that this was all not a dream.

 

I cannot thank everyone enough for making me feel welcome, and for showing me a wonderful time. I also cannot wait to see all the great work The Brother’s Trust is able to do. After meeting everyone involved with The Brother’s Trust, the sky truly is the limit for the great work they will be able to perform.”

Exciting new grant

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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