Sandra Brown OBE - Women of Inspiration 2019

Moira Anderson Foundation

Hats off to them too for having faith in me back in 2000 that I would use the business opportunities given to launch a business and not just survive…but thrive!

Sandra set up the Moira Anderson Foundation to tackle child sexual abuse. The Foundation offers therapeutic support across Scotland through a wide pool of highly experienced practitioners, to families and to individuals who are affected. She was a visionary who salvaged a ghastly personal situation, and saw the need to protect Scotland’s most vulnerable, long before #MeToo. An author who has inspired many with her bestselling book about missing schoolgirl Moira Anderson; her persistence was pivotal in Police Scotland establishing a Cold Case Unit. Her determination, drive and sound business acumen has grown the Foundation into a respected, financially robust charity which punches well above its weight, doubling in size since 2012. In 2017 the Foundation won Investors in People Gold Status for its impact and practice; Sandra has been described as ‘beyond unique’ and a truly inspirational woman in every sense. She was also awarded an OBE for services to protect children in Scotland.

Please describe what the company does

The charity supports anyone affected by child sexual abuse- all age groups, all genders.  There are approximately 10 paid staff under a Director, and a similar number of paid professional therapists  who work directly with clients who have been referred to the Foundation or referred themselves.

There is also a dedicated pool of trained volunteers (around 20) who assist with client needs and fundraising activities, plus a further 8 volunteers who give their time free as Trustees.

The main strands of work for MAF are: to provide a wide range of services to help people heal eg, play therapy, CBT, Thoughtfield Therapy, and access to complementary treatments eg Reiki. To promote Early Intervention so that abuse doesn’t happen-this involves high quality child protection training for other agencies,  workshops for schools and colleges, training for clients to help them access better health, peer support groups, and the use of drama in schools and other settings. The charity also has a campaigning role to lobby for legislative change involving vulnerable witnesses, in particular child witnesses involved in the court process and their families

Please describe what your current role within the company is

Over two decades I have been a ‘hands on’ Founder but since becoming a grandmother, I am more likely to be at the Foundation once or twice a week. I am still very active in the training and awareness raising side of the charity’s work, however and the networking side of things, eg, in Jan and February I have delivered 2 days of courses called Safe Hands, and during the current week will deliver an evening workshop and a morning one to Further Education staff and students.

The latter are to spread the word on the model we have developed to support those who are traumatised by abuse, in particularly children and young people where the impact can be very profound. This issue is now being recognised by the Scottish Government with emphasis on the workforce currently  undergoing training being trauma-informed and the need for knowledge and skills to support those who have undergone ACE issues(Adverse Childhood Experiences) in life.

I have very active involvement in the Board of Directors, and have ensured it has a diverse range of skills. It currently has 8 people, 5 female and 3 male, with 2 of these being former client users.

I have a definite role in finding and inspiring those who come on board, and to help identify and appoint special advisers who have particular skills the Board can tap into when required.

I have always placed real emphasis on our MAF Board showing commitment to helping staff develop over the years, whether to augment skills, gain a qualification or acquire accreditation. A series of individuals have achieved great success, and our faith has been repaid consistently.

This has also been the same for several clients. Two females, through mentoring and confidence-building have followed my path to writing bestselling books. One male, the remarkable actor and playwright Matthew McVarish, also decided to give something back to MAF for supporting him and his family through a court case. He is now our International Ambassador, and has spread the word about what we do on a global stage, speaking at the UN in Geneva, the Council of Europe, and being presented last year with membership of the UN in New York.

Matty’s TED talk can be seen on our website.

Please tell us about what inspires you, and what this award means to you

I was inspired when I saw a young individual like Matthew emerge from a horrible court case, and decide that the best way to spread the word about the impact of child abuse and how we have tackled it head on at the charity, was to walk no less than 10,000 miles…round every EU country to engage attention, and to meet the Pope and every dignitary he could reach to see change in the way children are heard when they disclose abuse.

It meant a great deal to me to hear Matthew tell leaders across Europe that, while he and his brothers were unlucky to be abused by a predatory uncle who was a school teacher, they were lucky that it happened in Scotland and they were pointed to the Moira Anderson Foundation.

This award also means a great deal because it is an accolade quite unlike any other. Too many people still have poor understanding of the business acumen which is necessary to establish a charity then, not just maintain its infrastructure, but grow that agency into a thriving and well-respected organisation in the third sector. In the early days of MAF I received huge support from West Lothian Women in Business, and indeed am still a member. Hats off to them too for having faith in me back in 2000 that I would use the business opportunities we were given to launch a business and not just survive…but thrive!