Charlotte Brazier is the whirlwind and wonder behind the super successful Sunflowers Mental Health and Well-being CIC, a non-profit, community-based project in Wealden.
In just over a year, Charlotte has put together a team of dynamic volunteers – with medical, professional and all kinds of friendly compassionate skills – who work all hours to support mental health and well-being within their own community.
How did you set-up ‘Sunflowers’?
“It just kind of happened!” said Charlotte.
“We started out as a signposting service which snowballed into counselling, support and basically anything we could do to help fill the gap for those people awaiting NHS appointments or just needing help.”
When Covid-19 hit, Sunflowers naturally had to close, so Charlotte quickly created Hailsham Crisis Support, a mutual aid group to support the elderly and most vulnerable. Charlotte had a massive 500 volunteers offer help! Not only did they help with shopping, prescription pick-ups, errands, dog walking, well-being calls and doorstep checks but, because of the crisis, they also took daily referrals from social and medical organisations. To support this, they started their own mental health team, led by Anne-Marie Rickets, restarted their counselling programme using Zoom and created a weekly online support group. Final year counselling students from local universities also volunteered and Charlotte says each one of them has thanked her as they have loved helping.
Having supported over 400 people during the original lockdown, they adapted yet again in September and set up Sunflowers Supporting Sussex. Led by Jenna Fox, the Sunflowers Well-being team makes a steadily increasing number of ‘well being calls’ to those over 65 suffering with loneliness and isolation.
Why do you do it?
Charlotte, who truly cannot praise her volunteers enough, says: “All of us simply want to give back to the system. We want to prevent people reaching crisis point and we want everyone to know there is support out there for them.”
Helped by Wealden District Council, who Charlotte gratefully says have been amazingly supportive, Sunflowers are now absolutely thrilled to have their own small offices in Hailsham town centre. This means they can do even more to help and support the local community.
However, with many volunteers having returned to work, Charlotte would now love more volunteers to join the team. Ever the optimist, Charlotte adds: “Referrals keep flooding in, so we are also hoping to expand and create new teams covering other areas.” Definitely good news for East Sussex!