Trustee talk: Staying afloat with royal recognition

Elizabeth Murphy, chair and founder of Beacon of Hope, talks about getting her MBE.

I set up Beacon of Hope in 2000 because we recognised a gap in services for people with terminal illnesses in south-west Wales. At first, we gave people support only by paying their bills. I did all the case visits with one other volunteer. Then we branched out into a voluntary sitting service, so carers could have breaks of a couple of hours to go to the bank with complete ease.

A medical arm was also needed, so two years ago we set up our Hospice at Home programme, which enables people to die with dignity at home. That has been the most exciting and dynamic part of the charity. We started with two nurses; now we have 15. But we've bitten off more than we can chew because it has been a nightmare to find funding. If it hadn't been for local support, we'd have gone under. We are waiting to hear from Edwina Hart, the Welsh Assembly Government's minister for health and social services. She seems nice, but we just want to know whether she's going to persuade the Welsh Assembly to give us any money.

I do all the fundraising with my husband, Roger. We are both retired, but we work unpaid for the charity 10am to 4pm, seven days a week. The other three trustees also pop in day to day, and we meet very regularly. One is the treasurer, and another has lots of business experience. We also have a focus group of about 20 people who help to organise fundraising events in the community.

The beauty of this charity is that we don't have enormous overheads. But we'll have to employ people eventually because we are expanding and my husband and I are getting on a bit - I am 76. The nurses and caseworkers, of course, are employed. And if you want good people, you have to pay them good salaries - that's the nightmare of the voluntary sector.

I got the MBE in the Queen's birthday honours in June, but it's really for the charity and the people we work with. I had no idea it was going to happen. I thought the official letter was a request to do jury duty. I was nominated by the Lord Lieutenant of the county, and some people in the charity were also working in the background. I am awaiting the ceremony with fear and trepidation - I hope it's the Queen who presents it to me. I also hope it will give us a fundraising boost. So far we've had lots of lovely letters from the great and the good, but no cheques.

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