About us

Our vision is a world in which every bereaved child, and their family, receives the support they need.

Our purpose is to provide bereavement support to promote resilience and provide emotional support to children, young people and their families and carers and assisting them to move positively through the grieving process.

We believe that:

  • Grief is a normal, unavoidable process – not an illness or aberration

  • Every child should have access to appropriate bereavement support

  • With appropriate support, a child can develop resilience and move positively through to adulthood, developing coping strategies for positive mental health in adult life

  • With timely interventions, children and young people are less likely to engage in risky, antisocial and / or offending behaviours

  • Children should be supported to achieve their potential

  • Children should be heard and encouraged to express themselves

  • Children should be given the opportunity to explore feelings and emotions and understand that these change over time

  • Our bereavement services should be free at the point of access

  • We believe in the value of volunteering

  • We believe in treating everybody according to their needs

  • We believe in sound governance and management to the highest professional standards in all our spheres of activity

Our staff

Caroline Ford

Caroline Ford

CEO
Caroline worked for the Charity as a volunteer working directly alongside bereaved children for more than 12 years. She was Programme Manager from 2012 and promoted to CEO at the beginning of 2018. This is a more strategic role and Caroline will be working to further develop the services we provide to children and their families. Caroline, who has a PG Diploma in counselling children, joined our team with a wide experience of working with children, and of charity administration and fundraising.
Debbie McSwinney

Debbie McSwiney

Clinical Lead – Children, Young People & Families

Debbie was a founder member of the charity and served as a volunteer and Operational Trustee for HOLG for 19 years. In 2018 she was appointed full-time Clinical Lead. Debbie will be responsible for running a responsive and efficient service for children and families to help them cope with their bereavements as well as the day-to-day running of the charity. She comes with a background in children’s and adult nursing both in the acute sector and palliative care sector she also has a speciality in counselling.

Caroline Norman

Caroline Norman

Programme Assistant

Caroline is based in our office in Rochester and helps provide smooth day to day running of the office. She works closely with our Clinical Lead to ensure the Charity runs effectively and that all families who contact us are dealt with sensitively and efficiently. Caroline has worked with the Charity since 2011.

Emily Yates

Emily Yates

Children and Families’ Clinical Specialist
Emily joined us in January 2018 as our Children & Families clinical specialist. She is responsible for our telephone assessment calls with families once they have been invited to a support weekend. Emily carries out one-to-one pre and post-bereavement support in person and virtually as well as running activities at our bereavement support weekends too. She works closely with and supports our clinical lead in providing training to our volunteers and external agencies. Emily has a background working in schools and as a bereavement counsellor with two local charities.
Dawn Bradley

Dawn Bradley

Parent/Carer Facilitator

Dawn joined us as Parent/Carer Facilitator in May 2021, but has been involved with HOLG since 2013, working alongside children on our Bereavement Support weekends or helping to facilitate the Parent/Carer group. Dawn’s background was originally in nursing and she has performed many roles including as a health visitor and palliative care specialist nurse. A trained counsellor, Dawn is the ideal person to develop the services we provide for the parents and carers whose children are referred to us, both as part of a group or for more tailored one-to-one support.

Pam Meller

Pam Meller

Fundraising Officer

Pam joined us early in 2020. After starting her working life in the food industry and then working in a primary school when her children were young. She spent 6 years in a fundraising role with The Pilgrims Hospices in Canterbury and Ashford before moving on to work as a funeral arranger which gave her an insight into loss and bereavement. Having lived all her life on the Romney Marsh, Pam has a wealth of business and personal contacts in East Kent which will help to spread awareness of the work of HOLG in the local area.

Kelly Wilkins

Kelly Wilkins

Finance & Office Administrator

Kelly first began working with HOLG in 2020 as a volunteer in the office, before joining as an employee in August 2022. Her role involves assisting the clinical team with all administrative tasks, allowing their time to be freed up to work with children and their families. With a background in finance and administration for local authorities, Kelly brings invaluable experience to the team.

Caroline Mace

Caroline Mace

Fundraising officer

Caroline joined us in September 2022 from her previous role as a leisure centre assistant general manager, where she worked for 20 years. She is hugely experienced in fundraising and events, having organised everything from ‘spinathons’ and ‘danceathons, to corporate meetings and large scale black tie events. She is also a keen supporter of charities outside of work and enjoys organising community fundraisers. When not working with HOLG, Caroline still works part time as operations manager at the leisure centre, which will provide many opportunities for hosting future HOLG events.

Our trustees

Jonathan Bowles

Jonathan Bowles

Trustee

Currently working in a senior role with a charity in London, Jonathan was introduced to our CEO, Caroline Ford by a mutual connection who believed his experience in charity management and finance would be hugely beneficial. Having learnt more about HOLG and the crucial work we carry out, Jonathan says he felt driven to support us by volunteering his skills. In April 2022, we welcomed him as one of our trustees.

Sheena Bolland

Sheena Bolland

Trustee

As Business and Pathway Lead for Childrens’ Services for Medway Community Health, Sheena has been aware of HOLG for many years and is a great believer in the support we offer young people. She brings a huge amount of knowledge and skills to HOLG, having worked in social care with children, specifically around emotional wellbeing since 1991. Sheena has also been a trustee for Stoneham Housing, Homestart Medway and Homestart UK, as well as a governor at Tavistock & Portman NHS Trust. Since becoming a HOLG trustee in November 2021, she says she loves the commitment of the team and our mission.

Anita Turner

Anita Turner

Trustee

Anita first became aware of HOLG from our beginnings back in 2009, when she was working at a children’s hospice. She joined our board in 2019 and brings a wealth of experience in palliative care, gained as Deputy Head of Care with the hospice, plus her work in bereavement support, and as a Lead Professional, Specialist Nurse Adviser within the NHS.

Now retired from the NHS, Anita works independently providing supervision for staff within a hospice environment. As a trustee, she supports the operational side of HOLG, as well as our work with families and on the bereavement weekends. Anita loves the difference we make to the emotional development of the children and young people we help, enabling them to move on to experience a happier world.

Kate Trevelyan

Kate Trevelyan

Trustee

Kate started her Holding On Letting Go journey when she attended a bereavement support weekend at 14 following the death of her mother. Once she was old enough and ready for it, she began volunteering working with children and supporting at our bereavement support weekends. As a trustee, she is hoping to introduce and support new and younger volunteers.

Brian Downton

Brian Downton

Vice-chair and Treasurer

Brian owns and runs Downton & Ali Associates based in Dartford and brings to HOLG, his financial experience and advice but also his amazing fundraising too.

He takes part in regular endurance challenges from running to cycling, organises a huge ball every spring and is a regular at our events too. Brian and his company have raised thousands for us over the years – when he’s not raising money for us, he’s championing us to let others know who we are and what we do.

Margaret Gallagher

Margaret Gallagher

Chair of Trustees

Margaret worked in Medway as an Educational Psychologist. In school meetings, she heard about children who failed to thrive following the bereavement of a person very close to them. Wanting to find out more and improve the care of future children, Margaret attended a HOLG AGM, spoke to our clinical lead Debbie McSwiney and immediately pledged her involvement, signing up as a prospective Trustee that evening.

Since then, Margaret has involved herself in most aspects of volunteering on the weekends – from washing paint brushes to making lunches and working with a child or young person.

Margaret has been the Chair of Trustees since July 2020.

Volunteering

Our small team couldn’t possibly do it all without our wonderful volunteers, who between them, give hundreds of hours of time each year to help us.

They support us at our bereavement support weekends; driving families to and from the venues, setting up the venues, working alongside children and young people or their parents and carers, preparing refreshments and a nurturing lunch, and tidying up.

We also have volunteers who help us with fundraising; running events, helping with collections, taking part in sponsored challenges and doing all sorts to help us generate our income.

HOLG History

1998

Committee formed by Margaret Head, Margaret Izatt, Liz Johnson, Ann McMurray, Debbie McSwiney and Diane Youdale to look at providing bereavement support to children in Kent and Medway. First HOLG bereavement support weekend held at Demelza House Children’s Hospice, Sittingbourne in September 1998.

1999

Three bereavement support weekends held at Demelza House.

2001

Parent/Carers support group – focussing on children’s needs – set up by committee co-founder Ann McMurray

2004

Holding On Letting Go became a registered charity. The committee began looking at developing the service further. Grant received from National Lottery to fund project.

2006

Part–time Programme Manager appointed

2008

10th Anniversary event held at Rochester Grammar School. Part-time Programme Assistant appointed thanks to funding from The Friends of The Wisdom Hospice.

2012

New part-time Programme Manager appointed thanks to funding received from BBC Children In Need. Four weekends held this year including the first specialist weekend for children bereaved through suicide and traumatic death.

2013

Five bereavement support weekends held

2014

New training programme for volunteers developed

2015

Six bereavement support weekends held – first weekend in Thanet. Three years’ further funding for the Programme Manager role received from BBC Children in Need

2016

Seven bereavement support weekends held. Part-time Children and Families’ assessor appointed thanks to funding from The Brook Trust and Amity Fund. Part-time Fundraising Officer appointed.

2017

Nine bereavement support weekends held – two in Thanet. Part-time Parent/Carer group facilitator appointed thanks to funding from St James’ Place Wealth Management. Part-time Finance Officer appointed.

2018

Ten bereavement support weekends held. Two in Thanet and our first in Sevenoaks – thanks to funding from Sevenoaks Round Table. Part-time CEO and full-time Programme Manager appointed. A further three years’ funding for Programme Manager post received from BBC Children in Need.

2019

12 bereavement support programmes. Our first Sheppey support programme and first Baby Loss family workshop – a joint venture with Abigail’s Footsteps.

2020

We held 15 mostly one-day support programmes. Referrals rose to double the number compared with the previous year. HOLG began providing pre-bereavement support thanks to funding received from Global’s Make Some Noise.

2021

17 bereavement support programmes held. We started our online bereavement café providing support for parents and carers. Family Fun Beach Day held. Funding from the Openwork Foundation supports the development of our Parent/Carer services. Referrals remain at the same level as 2020 – 400+ for the year.

2022

For 2022 we began joint working with Bexley & Greenwich Community Hospice supporting bereaved families linked to the hospice with a bespoke bereavement support programme.