#CyclingForStevenage

Dr Simon Galbraith, Software Entrepreneur, co founded Red Gate Software in 1999. For more than 10 years he has supported the work of The Stevenage Community Trust as they bring local businesses and generous individuals together to make a very real difference to the lives of people in need in Stevenage and the surrounding villages. Through the work of the Trust, it's President Ken Follett and Chair Robert Stewart, Simon became aware of a local charity, Home-Start Herts and together they now hope to raise enough money to provide support to every family in Stevenage currently on the waiting list.

Simon's Story

I’m teaming up with author Ken Follett on behalf of the Stevenage Community Trust to raise money for, and awareness for HomeStart.
HomeStart is a volunteering-based charity that helps parents when they’re most at need and improves the lives of their children as a result. It is one of the most impactful and efficient charities I know of and has an incredible success rate (over 90% across their major KPIs).

I will be cycling from Lands End to John O’Groats to raise awareness and sponsorship so that HomeStart can continue to make such a huge difference. Our aim is to completely clear the waiting list for families in need in Hertfordshire. To do that we need to raise £15,000 in sponsorship, which Ken and I will match fund. That means if you donate £1 to help us towards our goal, we will both do the same, turning your £1 into £3 for HomeStart. We’re capping our donation at £15,000 each, which means up to a transformative £45,000 for HomeStart.

Please help us by donating via this website (so Ken and I can match your donation), or consider volunteering some of your time to HomeStart.

HomeStart is a charity that really resonates with me.

When we got the joyful news that my wife was expecting, my own mother and father had both recently received much grimmer news. They were both in their early 50s, and both diagnosed with terminal diseases. On first hearing about the grandchild she was unlikely to know, my mother stiffly walked over to her bookshelf and returned to press a book into my hand. It was about a concept new to me: secure attachment.

Because my mother, a teacher, didn’t have the chance to be the wonderful grandmother she wanted so much to be, she decided to instil in me the most important idea she’d come across in her working life. There is overwhelming evidence to show that children who form a loving bond with an adult as babies and toddlers (a secure attachment) have far better life outcomes than those that don’t. The education you get after the age of 5 counts for little compared to the experience of loving and being loved as a child.

A few months later I was in an operating theatre being handed our baby, who’d just been wiped down and carefully swaddled in a pink blanket, and who was looking at me with what appeared to be a keen sense of curiosity. Feeling her warmth, her weight in my arms and looking at the face of the person my wife had been labouring over gave me the most profound sense of responsibility I’ve ever experienced. I was going to do right by her. I had to do right by her.

We had both the strong intent to be good parents and a beautiful idea about what we were ultimately aiming at.
Up until that point I think it’s fair to say that my wife and I had got used to doing well at things. We’d gone to prestigious educational institutions, had rewarding jobs, made firm friends and been unexpectedly successful financially. We didn’t spend much time thinking about it, but I think we expected parenthood to go the same way.
It didn’t.

We found the reality of being a parent extremely hard.
Before Laura had been born we’d attended various classes. The importance of breast feeding, the ill-advisability of using modern pain-reduction methods and the wisdom of having a birth plan had been drummed into us. However, we knew nothing of any practical use about how to actually look after our baby.

If you can’t produce enough milk naturally, when should you use a bottle? If your baby is waking you up every 45 minutes night and day, what should you do? The nappies leak, their bottom gets nappy rash, they get diseases, you get their diseases, your hands get raw, you can’t sleep even when they do, you get irritable with each other, and it goes on all the time 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You don’t finish a hard day at work with a chat and a glass of wine, you return from work to work even harder at home. Work becomes the place you go to rest.

Our achievements in life outside parenthood counted for nothing in the day to day grind of parenting. One night a couple of months in, after I’d failed to settle Laura in the small hours, Pam took over and let me sleep. I felt like I was cracking up; I was so glad and grateful that someone else was there then. I remember asking her the following morning – “How do single mums cope?” It felt like a rhetorical question, because how could they possibly cope?! We were well resourced: there were two of us, we had a house, a car and could easily afford everything we needed. And yet we were struggling mightily. I couldn’t imagine how people could cope without all of those things, when we were so close to the edge ourselves.

We got through with the help of Pam’s mother, who came over from Singapore for a month, and of Carol Dearne, the head of Laura’s nursery. Friends told us how they’d handled things, we read a book by Gina Ford and we leveraged our networks and wealth in any way we were able. We got through those seemingly never-ending difficulties and were able to create a wonderful secure attachment with both Laura, and then with Audrey. The whole experience was harder than I ever realised it would be, but it was more rewarding too.

HomeStart’s ultimate goal boils down to this same concept: secure attachment. Looking back, I know we’d have been really glad of HomeStart’s support and, judging by their long waiting lists, it’s clear that others are feeling the same now. We’re really lucky to have achieved what my mother wanted for her grandchildren, a secure attachment to their family. Now I would like to extend that legacy by helping others to do the same, to get through those tricky sleepless months and to form real bonds with children that will make for better lives.

Cycling the length of Britain strikes me as a good analogy for creating secure attachment. It will be hard and relentless, and there’ll be big highs and deep lows. The difference is that after 7 days I can get off my bike and hand it back. The parents of young kids have to keep going, no matter how exhausted they are.

I really hope that you can support Ken Follett and I in raising money and awareness for this excellent charity.

Click to donate today or contact the Stevenage Community Trust to donate in another way.

Together we can make a very real change to the lives of 21 families in Stevenage.