Suzy Fund breaks through £1m barrier and it has pledged to raise even more for humanitarian projects

A humanitarian charity inspired by the harrowing sight of a starving child in Ethiopia has reached a million pound milestone.

Tuesday, 22nd September 2020, 3:30 pm
Suzy Fund founder Brian Hazell, left, with Paul and Monica Haley who is holding up an appeal poster for the humanitarian charity.

The Suzy Fund was set up in 1975 after churchgoers in Wakefield saw a picture of an emaciated little girl who had been left to die on a rubbish tip.

Parishioners from St Peter’s & St Paul’s Church, Sandal were stirred into action after reading a newspaper story about how a donation of just 10p would have saved her life.

Fund founder Brian Hazell, who christened the unknown girl as ‘Suzy’, established a scheme where people could contribute small sums regularly to third world projects.

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A tablecloth featuring autographs of some of Wakefield’s most famous figures raised £1,000 for the Suzy Fund in 2011.

Now, 45 years on those pennies have added up to a million pounds. Brian said: “I think it’s an interesting story. If you persevere long enough you can get to a million. A giant ‘thank you’ to everyone who has contributed to that million.”

Over the years the charity has helped fund a food station for street kids in Addis Ababa and a fistula hospital in Ethiopia. It has also supported Medecins sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) in places like Syria, Sudan and Somalia. The team also worked with Mother Teresa in India.

The donation that nudged it over the £1m line was for a marquee for Save The Children events, which is thought to have saved the charity in excess of £50,000 in event hire costs.

But Brian, who will be 87 shortly, has no plans to stop at a million. He sees parallels with the early days of the fund when parish priest Father Daley asked him if the Suzy Fund would stop when it raised £1,000.

Princess Anne greeting Brian Hazell and his wife Lynne at a Save The Children presentation party.

Brian told him: “We will stop when there are no starving children.”

His view remains the same now.

Brian visited Ethiopia in 2000 to see the situation for himself. He said: “When I was in Ethiopia I saw children’s bodies on the pavements where they had just been left. I feel I can’t stop raising the money as long as there is the need.”

His fact-finding mission to East Africa also left Brian with a new definition of hunger. During the trip, an old man stopped him in the street, saying ‘Hungry, Mister’. Brian, who had just eaten in a restaurant, guiltily gave him a five dollar bill. The next day Brian saw the man lying down with the money still in his hand. He joked that the old man mustn’t have been very hungry but was then told he was dead. Brian later spoke to his wife about it, saying: “Don’t ever let me ever say ‘I’m hungry’ again. All I mean is it is three or four hours since I’ve had a meal.”

Over the years Brian has received several honours for his charity work. He got the Benemerenti medal from the Pope in 1987 and an MBE in the 2011 New Year’s honours. But he is keen to stress that the Suzy Fund is a team effort done by trustees and volunteers. He believes it is the fund’s work that is being honoured and he is just the man at the front.

He is proud of the Suzy Fund’s achievements and thinks it is testament to team work, adding: “There is so much you can do and so many people that will help if someone makes a point. By us telling people we have just spread the net. More and more people send us money and it comes from all over the country. We don’t just get money from Wakefield and from our church.

“If we are an island of affluence in a sea of poverty then we should be grateful for that and show some sort of gratitude to people who haven’t got any food. It is the people who literally die of hunger.”

Anyone who wishes to donate to the Suzy Fund should send a cheque to it via St Peter’s & St Paul’s Church, Standbridge Lane, Wakefield, WF2 7NR.

FACT FILE:

The Suzy Fund was established 45-years-ago by parishioners at St Peter’s & St Paul’s Church in Sandal.

The team set up the charity after being touched by a national newspaper story about a starving girl in Ethiopia.

Founder Brian Hazell said: “There was a photo in the Daily Telegraph of a little girl on a rubbish dump in Ethiopia, and it said her parents had put her there not because they didn’t love her, but because they couldn’t feed her, or give her any medicine or drugs.

“The point was made that ten pence would have saved her life. I thought If I could get 1,000 people to give me ten pence then we could save a lot of starving children.”

In the early days Brian collected donations in a Quality Street tin outside church. He refers to himself as ‘the beggar at the door’. The Suzy team then reached out across the Wakefield District. Musician Tony Costello and his band, The Wakefield Arms Jazz Men, played concerts for the charity every Thursday and raised lots of money. And thousands were raised too by local band Heppy & the Kalahari Bushmen.

The charity then spread beyond Wakefield as ex residents took the story of the Suzy Fund to their new communities in the North East and Scotland. A family in Durham is calculated to have raised £60,000 for it over 20 years. Famous names like cricketers Geoff Boycott & David Bairstow have also supported it. For more see: www.suzyfund.org.