Spotlight on Local Charity: Momentum

Local charity Momentum are working continuously to support children with cancer and other life-limiting conditions and their families. We spoke with co-founder Bianca Effemey about how the charity came about, what they provide and how you can help out.

TIOT: Hi Bianca! How did Momentum come about?

Bianca: I never planned to start a charity – I was a part-time receptionist at the Kingston Hospital paediatric ward and I was possibly the worst receptionist they’ve ever had! I couldn’t stay at my desk and I’m not very good with a computer. Years ago I trained to be a nurse so it wasn’t unusual for me to want to go and talk to families. I got quite passionate about a family that came in – I started speaking to them and finding out what their needs were and from the outcome of that conversation, Momentum was born. The little girl kept saying how she’d love to be able to have a cold drink in her room. I asked John Lewis if they’d be able to provide a fridge for her. They said if I had a charity number then they’d be able to provide the fridge for this little girl and others too. We got a charity number and so we got the fridges and that’s how Momentum grew.

TIOT: When and where did Momentum start?

Bianca: Momentum started 13 years ago here in Kingston. It started around a kitchen table because we didn’t have any facilities at all. We had it for about five years until we realised we could no longer do it at home. We took on more responsibilities, more families and more ideas. You can’t do all of that around a kitchen table!

TIOT: What do you offer to the families that you take on?

Bianca: We focus on children with cancer and life-limiting illnesses. Every family is different. What one family might need is completely different to what another family may need. We have a support team in place to go and visit families at home – they are responsible for going into the family home and finding out the family’s needs. It could be that a child’s fear of treatment is incredibly intense and in those cases we would get a musical therapist in to work with them through that. We can also put in place to have psychologists for both parents, siblings and the children themselves.

We do trips and treats, we have two cabins in the New Forest, we have a beach hut and we have a boat. The boat has worked out beautifully – families with children who are going through treatment, families with children who have finished treatment or bereaved families can use the boat, for a day or a holiday. We don’t have a cut off point – we would never say we’ll treat you just until you finish treatment, because when does treatment really finish? It doesn’t really ever finish for the family because they will always have that anxiety. They can come to us for as long as they want to come to us. We also have our own real life owl, he’s looked after really well, and he will go into families’ homes and the families will be able to have a session with the owl which is brilliant!

All the time we’re looking to create more services – it never stops. We tailor make it. We’ve done up a lot of rooms in our hospitals to make them child-friendly – a lot of the designs come with input from the children themselves. We have a fairground room and some of the children have got so attached to that room that they’ve wanted it in their own home, so we have done that for them. We got a dog for a family… so we really will do whatever we can. One of the best things for me was doing up the paedriatric A&E in Kingston – it wasn’t very child-friendly so we were given some money from Thomas Cook and we did up the whole of the waiting area in a tropical island theme. It’s beautiful.

TIOT: It sounds like a truly incredible service that you provide. With so many incredible things being done, it must cost quite a lot. How do you raise money?

Bianca: A lot of our families do things to raise money. We do our own events too – we always do a black tie event, we’ve done a comedy night at the Rose Theatre and we’ve got another two booked for next year. We do quite a lot of events – we take the children out too. We have a golden bus that we will hire in and take the children on trips.

TIOT: Local author Jacqueline Wilson is the patron of Momentum, is that correct?

Bianca: Yes, she’s amazing. She’s been with us right from the beginning and she is truly amazing. The Mayor is very much on board too so that has been great. We also rely a lot on support of local people and local businesses.

TIOT: So are there any other upcoming projects or is there something that you’re working towards at the moment that you’re trying to fundraise for?

Bianca: We have something very big coming up but I’m keeping that under wraps until it’s all confirmed. We want to do up more isolation rooms at the hospitals. We are looking at getting everything we can from the wish lists, which are provided by the hospitals after listening to the families’ needs. There’s always something to work on. It’s also our fifteenth anniversary in 2019 so hopefully we can do something special for that.

Please visit http://www.moment-um.org/home/ for more information on the charity and their incredible work.