“Caring for children with a severe illness or disability is a 24-hour job,” says Danielle Huse, director of charitable home Villa Rozerood. “Parents can never ‘switch off’ and brothers and sisters inevitably have to cope with being given less indulgence than most children would get, because so much attention is devoted to the sick child. So the idea of Villa Rozerood is to give everyone the breathing space they need, even if just for a few days.”
Villa Rozerood is a respite home for the families of children with severe illnesses and disabilities. For anything from an overnight stay to a week’s care, the child is attended to by experienced nurses and carers; the parents get a well-deserved break and receive professional counseling and support; and the child’s siblings are placed in the spotlight, with organized activities around Villa Rozerood’s grounds and trips away with enthusiastic volunteers. Villa Rozerood also provides solitary care for individual children with severe or terminal illnesses. “We’re absolutely driven to provide a unique and amazing ‘home-from-home’ for everyone; something really special, and to make sure everyone gets the peace and care they need,” says Huse.
The IBM Service Grants
As a small and young NGO, Villa Rozerood is understandably cash-hungry. Despite a maximum capacity of only eight families, over the last three years Villa Rozerood has received over 900 stays. The national health authority provides medical staff, but the costs of hospital equipment, logistics, administration, management and support must be raised through voluntary donations. For NGOs like Villa Rozerood, this places distinct limitations on their ability to survive and grow.
In August 2013, therefore, Huse was invited to a free project management seminar at IBM’s Client Center along with 15 attendees from other NGOs. The seminar was part of IBM’s Services Grant program, introduced in 2010 to help educational and not-for-profit organizations enhance their leadership and technology skills and infrastructures through free consultations with IBM experts.
“Our margins are so tight that any money we raise must go to the basic costs of running the house and providing care,” says Huse. “So having the opportunity to be part of this workshop was a great boost, not only for the chance to talk to a professional about our challenges, but in particular because the IBM experts reaffirmed my belief that project management is about having passion, inspiring your team, keeping your scope and watching over your project as if it were your own baby.”
The format of the day saw two IBM consultants offering structured insight around project management and fundraising. During interactive sessions, attendees were walked through a ‘roadmap’, which included an overview of project management concepts; tools to help them organize work more effectively; ideas for managing and increasing funding; and group sessions to allow attendees to road-test the principles being taught against their own real-world challenges.
But perhaps the greatest benefit of the day was to receive what she spends her life giving to others: space to think. “It allowed me to reflect critically on myself. At Villa Rozerood, we work night and day to ensure that it is not just a medical facility, but a hotel, a care home and a relaxation resort. It’s very time- and energy-intensive for all the staff, and we’re constantly stretching our abilities. And, amongst that, we’re also working non-stop to raise funds.
“So, the workshop helped reaffirm that the current structure for managing Villa Rozerood perhaps isn’t sustainable long-term: By breaking down all the roles required in good project management, I realized that I’m involved in all of them myself! As the director of the home and also its psychologist, I’m responsible for everything from the care content to the day-to-day administration; amidst which there is also financial management to drive further fundraising. So we probably have to think about how we can re-shape roles. It also made me realize that I have to focus more on communication with my board, and give more visibility to the growth in our intern program and other evolutions. So it’s given me lots of food for thought.”