3:40 PM March 22, 2022
5:47 PM March 22, 2022
By Mica Bale
This month, Pat Laurie is under the spotlight for her incredible work as a community volunteer fundraiser for the NSPCC – a role she has filled for 40 years. Mica Bale chats to Pat about her life and work in the county
Pat explains her Essex roots, ‘I am an Essex girl through and through! My parents came from Dunmow and I was born in Braintree. When I was five, we moved to the Dengie Hundred and I grew up in Bradwell-on-Sea. I was fortunate in having an idyllic, carefree childhood, with parents who gave me the most precious gift of all: their time. It is this foundation that motivates me to help youngsters growing up in less fortunate circumstances.’
Pat’s role at the NSPCC has evolved over her 40 years and she has embraced it every step of the way, even winning an award for her work. ‘My current role as a divisional vice-president for the society’s East of England region involves liaising with fundraising volunteers across Essex, as well as attending forums at regional and national level to share best-practice ideas.’
Public donations are a vital revenue stream for the charity. ‘Almost 90 per cent of the NSPCC’s annual income is derived from donations, legacies, gifts and fundraising activities, and 77 per cent of this revenue is spent on services to children and families.
‘Since I joined the NSPCC, I have seen the organisation continually evolve to meet the challenges it faces in protecting vulnerable children. Preventing abuse and neglect have always been high on the agenda, but the arrival of the internet and social media platforms has presented a whole new swathe of online dangers. The NSPCC’s Wild West Web campaign has been instrumental in pushing through the Online Safety Bill, which is due to be put to parliament for approval this year. This legislation will regulate the social media companies and give children their right to be safe online.
‘Working across the UK and the Channel Islands, the NSPCC has to utilise its limited funds in the most effective way to protect children. The organisation’s Schools Service goes into all primary schools, including special schools, to deliver child-friendly information about different forms of abuse, including bullying, with advice on staying safe and speaking out to a trusted adult if they need help. There are now plans to expand this service to include secondary schools.’
At a time when fundraising activities have been severely hindered due to the pandemic, the demand for the NSPCC’s Childline service and its helpline for adults concerned about children’s welfare has increased significantly. Pat says, ‘Months of home-schooling with parents forced to work from home created inevitable family tensions, and Childline became an invaluable lifeline for troubled youngsters to turn to when they had nobody else to confide in. Sadly, the full extent of the damage the lockdowns have done to children’s lives may never be known.’
After 40 years working with the NSPCC, could Pat pinpoint her proudest moment? ‘I am immensely proud of all I have achieved on behalf of the NSPCC. However, during my nine-year tenure as Chairman of the Essex Branch, I achieved my objective of uniting volunteers from across the county to keep them informed and to recognise their efforts, whether it was for looking after a collection tin at the local corner shop or organising a large-scale event.
‘I am also proud to have been involved with establishing the annual Colchester Book Fair more than 30 years ago. This event has gone from strength to strength and raised hundreds of thousands of pounds for the charity. Sadly, as it attracts a large number of book enthusiasts, this event has not been able to take place for the past two years due to the coronavirus restrictions.
What difficulties does the charity face in 2022? ‘Many long-term volunteers, now in their 80s, have decided to call it a day and in Essex we need to regenerate our fundraising volunteer base. An important part of my current role is to support new volunteers who come forward.’
After all these years of dedicated service, Pat knows it’s important to take time for herself. ‘My greatest pleasure in life is spending time with my family and friends. I have been married to Peter for 52 years and we have one son and three wonderful grandchildren. My son is a GP in a challenging area of Liverpool and my daughter-in-law is a consultant anaesthetist. I am a great believer that in life we should utilise the skills we possess to help those less fortunate than ourselves. I remain as passionate about protecting children from any form of abuse as I was when I joined the Colchester District group in 1982. The NSPCC’s strapline ‘Every childhood is worth fighting for’ sums up my philosophy perfectly.’
For more information on donating or volunteering, visit nspcc.org.uk