Chairman’s Report

CHS has once again been very active throughout 2018, our 47th year in operation. Our Mental Health Services Centre (MHSC) at Avenue des Phalènes/Nachtvlinderslaan 26, 1000 Brussels, had 977 new “intakes” (up 23% on the 794 during 2017), again representing more than 40 nationalities. 44% were men and 56% women, 39% were aged up to 17 and 61% above.

The Centre has an international and multilingual team of professional psychiatrists, psychotherapists and psychologists (18 at the end of 2018, compared with 16 at the end of 2017) offering therapeutic services to deal with a broad range of mental health conditions, as well as psycho-educational assessments for children with learning or behavioural difficulties. There are two teams, one dealing with adults and the other with children, adolescents and families. Details of the therapists, their professional qualifications, therapeutic approach and languages spoken are available on our website.

The construction of the new United Arab Emirates Consulate building neighbouring CHS was completed in December 2018 and the return to relative calm in Avenue des Phalènes has been very welcome for patients, therapists and volunteers alike.

Our 24/7 Helpline in English (02 648 40 14), which is free, anonymous and confidential, and available to children, adolescents and adults, was kept busy during the year, taking more than 4,000 calls. Whatever a caller’s problem, a CHS volunteer (recruited, supervised and supported by mental health professionals) is available to listen sympathetically and provide emotional support or helpful information.

While mental health services and the Helpline are the core CHS activities, another group of professionals referred to as Affiliated Members was created during 2017 and is now well settled into CHS, providing a variety of non-mental health services from the 3rd floor of our premises, specifically art therapy, cranio-sacral therapy and family mediation. Full details are available on our website.

In order to continue increasing awareness about CHS amongst the international community, we participated in many events during the year, those organised for example by ING, BNPPF, The Bulletin, Vlerick Business School, the European Commission, Brussels British Community Association, the British Chamber of Commerce in Belgium, Citywork Brussels, Bright Expats and several international schools. We remain active on social media.

During 2018, CHS was also represented at the international community’s 24-hour “Relay for Life” (raising funds for cancer research), the first “Darkness into Light” event in Brussels (to raise awareness about the global fight against suicide and self-harm) and the 20 km of Brussels.

Financially, CHS fortunately returned to a financial surplus of €8,997 in 2018 after several years of deficits.

Table #1

The €24,608 net increase in total receipts principally relates to higher contributions from Clinical Team therapists and Affiliated Members (€17,673) website sponsorship (€6,800), sponsorship from Cera towards a metro station publicity campaign for the Helpline (€2,000), offset by lower receipts from the CHS calendar (€1,927).

Total expenditure increased by €5,273, mainly reflecting a several-year catch-up for commune taxes (€9,915), some building-related improvements (€2,172), the cost of the metro station publicity campaign referred to above (€3,088) and rent indexation (€1,864). On the positive side, the cost of promotional materials decreased by €5,090 after the major investment in our new range during 2017, Helpline telephone costs decreased by €3,945 thanks to a new tariff from Proximus, and costs for materials required for psycho-educational assessments decreased by €2,259.

The MHSC costs were comfortably covered thanks to the contributions from therapists and Affiliated Members.

The financial situation with the Helpline is more challenging but is definitely improving. While the French, Flemish and German-speaking helplines are all subsidised by their respective regional authorities, CHS receives no subsidies. We therefore have to seek out and rely on other sources of income such as the sale of/advertising in our annual calendar, sponsorship (many thanks again to our sponsors!), fund-raising events (a special thank you again to Brussels New Generation), and donations.

During 2016, the well-respected King Baudouin Foundation (KBF) agreed to establish a "Friends of CHS" fund within both KBF Belgium and KBF United States. These funds permit donors to make tax-efficient donations to support the financing of the CHS Helpline. (Full information on how to donate is included in the “How You Can Help” section of the CHS website.) KBF manages the funds and issues donors with the necessary documentation to obtain their tax deductions. KBF receives a management fee of 5% on these donations.

Up to 31 December 2018, the “Friends of CHS Fund” within KBF Belgium (in €) and “American Friends of CHS in Belgium Fund” within KBF US (in US$) have evolved as follows:

Table #2

€1,140 of the donations to KBF Belgium in 2018 was raised in connection with the 20 km of Brussels, up from €520 in 2017.

While it has taken time to build relationships with the corporate community, we have recently made very encouraging progress and are hopeful that the two funds will become a sustainable source of financing for the Helpline.

A very big thank you to all who have made donations whether directly to CHS or via KBF. These include companies as well as business, community and school associations, churches, sports clubs and individuals.

The 2019 budget foresees an overall surplus of €4,707, with both the Helpline and MHSC covering their costs. At least €12,000 of the funds in the KBF Belgium fund will be transferred to CHS during 2019 to finance the Helpline.

At the Annual General Meeting in May 2018, the following changes took place:

  • Some modifications to the CHS statutes were approved;
  • Geoff Brown and Magda Buyse Kelley were re-elected as Chair and Secretary respectively;
  • Beverley Warner-Keltjens replaced Sue Borger as Office Administrator;
  • Jeremy Jennings and Daniel Pyster were appointed to the Board;
  • There was a change of Helpline representative; and
  • Ola Ajadi resigned from the Board.

In December 2018, Marie-Thérèse Kastl stood down as CHS Clinical Director and was replaced by Lisa Classen. Stuart Gregory also resigned from the Board. Many thanks to Sue, Ola, Marie-Thérèse and Stuart.

Volunteers continue to play a vital role in CHS. Around 20 support the therapists in the Clinical Team and look after the administrative aspects of the organisation. A separate group, ideally of +/- 30 but sometimes considerably less (we are regularly looking for new candidates …) operates the Helpline, and Board members also give their time freely. I would like to thank them all, as well as the Clinical Team and Affiliated Members, for all that they contribute to CHS which enables us to provide our unique package of support services to the Belgian international community.

I would also like to thank our Patron, Alison Rose, Her Majesty’s Ambassador to the Kingdom of Belgium, for her continued support of CHS during 2018. We were delighted when she came to visit our premises in March 2019, meeting with some therapists, affiliated members, office and Helpline volunteers and Board members. We all noted and greatly appreciated her interest in and enthusiasm for our work. We wish her well with her appointment as Principal of Newnham College, Cambridge, which she will take up in September.

Finally, after four years as Chair of CHS, I will be standing down at the AGM in May, continuing as a volunteer. I have thoroughly enjoyed the challenge and experience and thank everybody at CHS and those that I have met and worked with elsewhere in the Belgian and international communities.

I am delighted that Board member Jeremy Jennings, in Belgium since 1990 and well known in the business community, will be taking over as Chair and I wish him well.

Geoff Brown

29 April 2019

Community Help Service (CHS) is a non-profit organisation established in 1971 that provides information, support and mental health services to people in Belgium who need help and prefer to express themselves in English, regardless of nationality and circumstances.