Lancaster law firm’s humanitarian work recognised with national award

James Urquhart and Julie Dowd with other volunteers and local children during the 2015 Phoenix convoy.
James Urquhart and Julie Dowd with other volunteers and local children during the 2015 Phoenix convoy.
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Lancaster-based Simpson Millar has been awarded Best Corporate Social Responsibility Initiative at the HR in Law awards for helping to transform the lives of hundreds of orphaned, disabled and impoverished children in Eastern Europe.

The judging panel sought initiatives that had profoundly benefited communities and touched the lives of people inside the business.

They were impressed by the scale of Simpson Millar’s commitment to charity, which sees two members of staff given paid leave for two weeks each year to personally deliver essential equipment and aid to some of Eastern Europe’s poorest and most vulnerable children.

Moldova is one of the poorest countries in Europe, and many families with disabled children can’t afford to access the care and support they need to thrive. So in 2015, James Urquhart from Simpson Millar’s office and Julie Dowd from the HQ of the firm’s owners, Fairpoint, embarked on a fundraising journey to help purchase and deliver physiotherapy and sensory equipment to disabled children in Moldova.

For the past two decades, staff from Simpson Millar have joined the Communication Workers Union Humanitarian Aid (CWUHA) annual humanitarian convoy – delivering aid, equipment and joy to some of Eastern Europe’s poorest children.

In September 2015, after months of fundraising, the seven-vehicle CWUHA convoy began its 1,800 mile trip from Hull to Balti in northern Moldova.

The aim was to help transform a rundown school in Moldova into an activity centre for children and teenagers with disabilities. The Phoenix Centre would offer physiotherapy rooms, massage therapy, sensory experiences and language therapy to around 400 children each year.

The convoy was a success. On September 19, the Moldavian Prime Minister and the British Ambassador formally opened the Phoenix Centre.

Peter Watson is a long-term supporter of the CWUHA. As Simpson Millar’s managing director, he has joined the convoy on more than one occasion and seen first-hand the difference the project makes.

Peter said: “Although I am delighted that our support for the CWUHA has been recognised with an award, the more important recognition is in helping to make a profound and real impact on the lives of children and their families.

“The difference this convoy makes to some of Europe’s most impoverished and vulnerable children is one that spurs on great fundraising efforts and generosity from my colleagues across the firm each year. I am not surprised that the judges were gripped by the Phoenix project and huge credit to James and Julie for giving their time, effort and compassion to both the fundraising and as part of the convoy. Being part of a humanitarian convoy is a very humbling experience. It is safe to say that this project has absolutely both benefited communities and touched the lives of people within the firm.”