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Charity funds haven for bereaved families

Parents who suffer the loss of a pregnancy, baby or child will soon have a special support centre funded by the Zephyr’s fund through Nottingham Hospitals Charity –  thanks to the dedication of a Nottingham couple whose son Zephyr was stillborn at the hospital in 2013.

Carly Williams and Martin Sommerville, from St Ann’s, Nottingham, have started work alongside staff from Nottingham Hospitals NHS Trust and Nottingham Hospitals Charity and volunteers from Carillion and Experian, to transform a former apartment on the City Hospital campus, into ‘Zephyr’s’ – a centre for bereaved families to access counselling and peer support away from the maternity wards.

Carly says: “The care we had when we lost Zephyr was fantastic. Midwives and hospital staff held us with such compassion, doing their best to ease our broken hearts, but the surroundings felt so wrong. When you have just lost a child it is hard to be around the joy of new birth.

“After a pregnancy loss, it’s very common for bereavement services to be offered in the maternity ward setting, alongside expectant couples, surrounded by painful memories. For us, and for many parents we’ve met since, that was the last place we wanted to be. So we began to dream of an alternative.”

Their eventual aim is to build a bespoke centre within the hospital grounds, but until that dream is realised, they are opening Zephyr’s in the refurbished unit at the City Hospital’s Derwent flats.


Staff from Carillion, who provide facilities services at the hospital site, volunteered to remove fixed furniture and fittings from the flat. Carillion encourage all staff to get involved in community projects and allow six days volunteering leave per year. Administration Services Manager, Karen Southam, says: “This will leave an empty, blank canvas for Carly and Martin to create the right environment and ambiance for this amazing and much needed initiative.”

After the flat has been cleared, a team of volunteers from Experian, Nottingham, will be helping Carly and Martin paint the flat, using environmentally friendly paint donated by natural paint producer Auro UK.

Staff at Experian are given three days a year to carry out community work. Tara McCarthy, Policy & Compliance Project Manager from Experian says: “Volunteering for a project like this benefits our staff in many ways. Most of our work is desk-bound, so to have the opportunity to do something physical is good. It’s good for team-building and cross team working and has social benefits. Plus it really feeds the soul.”

The interim centre, set to open in October, will offer counselling, alternative therapies such as massage and reflexology, activities for children and a drop in facility for bereaved parents to come and chat to others who have had similar experiences.

Carly and Martin, along with friends, family, other bereaved families, and other supporters of their cause have held a series of events including sky-dives, runs, and car boot and cake sales to fund the project. The Zephyr’s fund has so far raised £20,000 through Nottingham Hospitals Charity to support the scheme.

Nottingham Hospitals Charity Chief Executive Barbara Cathcart says: “We are delighted to support this innovative and thoughtful project to help ease the heart-break of those suffering child bereavement or stillbirth. Zephyrs promises to be a place of compassion where families can receive much needed support to help them recover from their loss.”

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