The Team at SiMBA would like to invite you to congratulate our Executive Director Sara Fitzsimmons following the announcement that she is being awarded an MBE for services to bereaved families in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours.
Sara trained as a midwife in 1992, and qualified in 1995, going on to work in Simpson’s Centre for Reproductive Health at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary. Through her years as a midwife both her mentors, superiors, colleagues and especially the families she has supported hold her in high regard for her professionalism, empathy and devotion to her career and to the Mums and babies she has cared for.
It was in 2005 that Sara decided that there must be so much more that could be done for the families she supported through miscarriage, stillbirth or neonatal death.
Sara says, “Throughout my career I have always felt it such a privilege to look after and support bereaved families during their time in hospital, yet I always felt they deserved more time and more of an opportunity to gather memories of their baby.
“I thought back to when my son Luke was born in 1998 - I have a Memory Box for him which has grown over the years, the contents a testimony to a lifetime of memories as he grew up. As I looked after bereaved families it came to me that they also deserved a Memory Box, a treasure chest that could hold the memories of their baby and that they too could add to over the years. It was so important to show them that their baby is important too.”
And so, this was the humble beginnings of SiMBA Charity.
Sara continues, “I wanted to challenge and change the system for bereaved families and in 2005 I got some friends together and asked it they wanted to help me fundraise for Memory Boxes which we did. Initially we raised enough to buy 100 Boxes and so SiMBA was created.”
Sara hand picked the precious items for the Memory Boxes and over the years has listened to bereaved families and added items that make the world of difference to them. As colleagues from other units saw the difference the gift of a Memory Box made for bereaved families they asked if they could have them, and so the fundraising began.
In 2003 Sara met Grant Fitzsimmons and they married in 2008.
Sara says, “Grant has watched the charity grow over the years and is fully supportive of the work I do. I certainly couldn’t do all of this without the support and encouragement he and my son Luke both give me.”
Grant and his son now sculpt and install each SiMBA Tree of Tranquility, of which there are currently 5 in the country, with more at project and planning stage. Each Tree brings such comfort to bereaved families, and will often be the only place that marks their baby’s memory. Grant and Sara travel twice a year to attach the copper leaves that near the names of babies gone too soon.
As you may know Sara was also instrumental in the formation of the first support group in 2011, providing a safe haven every month for families to come together to talk about their loss, no matter how long ago it was their baby died. She is so proud that SiMBA volunteers now host 14 groups throughout the country, and we at SiMBA feel these groups are representative of the care and dedication Sara has for each and every family SiMNA touches.
In 2017 Sara was honoured to be granted a scholarship on the William Grant MBA25 in Business Administration. She is determined that this degree will compliment and reinforce her role in the charity.
On 26th November 2017, Sara left her much loved career in midwifery to focus fully on SiMBA. She still retains her registration as a midwife and continues to work hard in hospitals throughout the country to deliver Patient Centred Bereavement Care courses to midwives and health professionals. Through these courses she supports and enables health professionals to ‘get it right’ for every bereaved family they care for.
Talking about the moment the letter about her MBE arrived, Sara says, “The letter was quite a shock and very surreal. But I’ve had time to think about what it means to me. To me one of the most important thing is the recognition of the importance of comprehensive, exceptional Bereavement Support for families experiencing the darkest of times through the death of their baby. This MBE is the recognition of a responsive and empathetic charity that works tirelessly to support bereaved families. Above all it is the recognition that every single baby is important, every single baby matters and that every single baby deserves to be honoured. SiMBA is one big family, a family that no one would ever want to be a member of but one that people say they are glad they found, which means so much to them.”
All of us here at SiMBA are delighted for Sara and so glad that she has been given this recognition - such a deserving award for such a giving, inspirational woman.
Here is what a few of the people whom Sara has supported say -
“Sara found me in the dark and through her support over the phone and sending me a memory box, she brought me back into the light. 💖” Sharron McLean
“Sara means the absolute world to me for everything she has done since beginning the SiMBA charity - a truly generous, caring and loving person; a true angel.” Louise Corson
“Sara was the first person I spoke to at the charity, she gave me space to speak and rabble in about losing Theo. She gave me permission to grieve and permission to make memories that I would never have even dreamed were possible before talking to her. She is a very special lady that I am glad to call my friend.” Jenni Morris
“Sara is kind beyond words. An angel on earth who has given so much for so many more. Her inspiration rubs off on those around her and it's evident every day. Lucky to call her a friend.” Michael McGuire
“I don’t know what our family would have done without Sara, she has such a calm, quiet approach in all that she does. She has enabled us to remember our girls in such a beautiful way and has been a wonderful friend and confidante.” Susan Simpson
“Sara is one of the most dedicated, hardworking, kind and inspirational women I know. She has made a positive difference to the lives of many who have lost a child, and I feel privileged to have her friendship in my life.” Heather Lawrence