There’s an amusing sign in the Wrest Park office of CHUMS Child Bereavement and Trauma and Emotional Wellbeing Service.
It reads ‘You can do it if you’re Dawn Hewitt.’
Staff of the formidable chief executive officer also warn newcomers about being ‘Dawned.’
This is similar to a Maggie Thatcher handbagging and there’s no escape.
Meet Dawn Hewitt in person and the Iron Lady image vanishes - you’re immediately enveloped in her warmth and humour.
But it returns when she talks about the small NHS service she’s turned into a massively successful social enterprise, simply because she and her team are so passionate about what they do.
Dawn, 53, says: “We have 1,500 children referred to us each year – and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
“We try to make a difference to the lives of young people who’ve been bereaved or who may be suffering other emotional wellbeing needs, as well as their parents or carers.”
Its success in achieving its objectives is evident in the number who return to volunteer or work for the organisation that was there for them during the most traumatic time of their lives.
Dawn joined CHUMS as a volunteer in 1997 after losing her job as a district nurse through a back injury sustained in a car crash. She became manager in 2000 when the service comprised one part-time administrator and 16 volunteers.
The mother-of-two took a masters degree in leadership while and believes that has been key to their progress.
“We wouldn’t be where we are today without it,” she admits. “It gave me the courage to delegate and taught me how to empower staff to believe in themselves.
“They’re the real unsung heroes. I’m only as good as the people around me and we’re all dedicated to making a difference.”
Dawn’s only regret as the service expands beyond recognition – there are now 40 employees and 90 volunteers - is she rarely gets to do the hands-on work she loves.
But this remarkable woman refuses to rest on her laurels. She says: “There’s still such a huge unmet need. We will never give up trying to ensure that children and young people have hope for the future.”
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