Hilda Campbell, CEO COPE Scotland
Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE)
Earlier this year QNIS Fellow and CEO of COPE Scotland Hilda Campbell was awarded the MBE for services to Mental Health and Wellbeing in the community in Scotland during COVID. We asked Hilda to write a piece for us detailing her journey to the MBE and telling us how it felt to receive such a prestigious award.
This is my job, it is something I am paid to do and while yes, I often work way over what I am paid for, nevertheless it’s my job so being awarded an MBE for doing my job, to be honest, was quite overwhelming as I don’t do what I do for awards but because genuinely I want to make a difference in the world and seeing some positive change no matter how small has always been enough award for me.
I received an email saying a letter had been sent to COPE Scotland asking if I would accept the MBE and they hadn’t heard back from me. This was sent to our address when we were at Drumchapel Rd which we moved from as we knew the space could be used by new emerging community groups, which it now is and is occupied now by a Men’s health charity Men Matter Scotland. Since then, we moved to Garscadden House which we gave up during the pandemic and now have a registered mailing address so the email directly to me was how I found out and there was a timeline on accepting it! It is very secret when you are told about this, but I couldn’t help making a noise of surprise, and as working from home this was heard by my husband who wanted to know if everything was okay, I know it was a secret, but I invited him to read what was on my screen. His response was ‘you are accepting this’ as he knows me well and my initial reaction was, this isn’t about me, it’s about what we are trying to do together. However, I knew what it meant for those who cared about me so said yes, I would accept the nomination.
Due to the pandemic only one guest can attend with you which is hard as it’s something you want to share with family. My husband had attended the awards ceremony with QNIS when I was made an Honorary Fellow so we agreed my brother would accompany me to Holyrood as he has been a firm supporter of COPE since it began in 1991.
On the day my husband, brother his wife and myself set off to the Palace of Holyroodhouse and while only the two of us could go in, they allowed the rest of our group to remain in the car, where they enjoyed watching a changing of the guard! My brother and I entered the palace ground where we were welcomed and enjoyed listening to The Countess of Wessex’s String Orchestra, under the direction of Captain Sarah Marinescu, Royal Corps of Army Music who were playing in the courtyard. They later were playing in the room where the Investitures were taking place, the music was lovely to listen to and again put you at your ease as it is a wee bit overwhelming! We were then escorted to the morning drawing room with the other people who were receiving an award and we were walked through how the Investiture would take place. Everyone was really kind and put everyone at their ease.
We then made our way through to meet Princess Anne who was leading the Investiture ceremony. The music being played when I received my award was Stings ‘Fields of Gold’, by coincidence 10 Summoner’s Tales is an album I really enjoy. The Queen was in Holyrood that day but the investitures I attended were by Princess Anne, which I was delighted about as I have always admired her dedication to duty and how hard she has worked in her role as a member of the Royal family.
When my turn came, Princess Anne engaged me in conversation about COPE Scotland and its origins and how hard it must have been to build it up. I shared this wasn’t just by me but by so many people who worked together to make it happen. This is something I really need to emphasise, receiving an MBE is an honour, however, it matters we remember we received this recognition because we had others working with us and supporting us, we didn’t do it alone. From community members who serve on our Board to the voices of lived experience helping with co design and production, to funders who offered us resources to do what we do, to the people over the years who have worked for COPE Scotland, to the people behind the scenes who do the books, payroll, independent examination, maintain the website. To colleagues and partners who help take forward ideas and share their learning, and so many more, we did it together. There are many amazing people doing great work just sometimes they don’t get a chance to share. We were fortunate that the profile of what we do was shared, and we also want to thank Clare for that as it was her suggestion of including the work, we do in the RCN nursing on the edge piece which helped raised the profile of what we were doing: RCN Nursing at the Edge: Rebel with a Cause. Princess Anne asked if we were glad to have volunteers back now restrictions were eased, I shared our activities were not about recruiting volunteers to do work for our charity but working with communities so people had the confidence to find their own solutions to life challenges and have hope tomorrow can be better than today. We discussed hope and both agreed, hope matters. If I am honest, I felt quite overwhelmed emotionally the whole experience was a bit surreal! Then my brother and I left the room and went and had our photos taken then the 4 of us reunited and went for a meal. My sister who is down in England was having a running commentary of what was happening too with photo updates as we could share them.
Since I can remember I have recognised that there is a lot of suffering in the world, and while we cannot take all the suffering away no matter how much we may want to, we can do things where we learn to suffer less. My career has been around finding ways to help people suffer less and experience improved wellbeing no matter what life is throwing. I left the NHS as I didn’t feel I could be the nurse I wanted to be in that environment so went and worked in Drumchapel, where with local people COPE Scotland was born. There is a wee publication on our website: Past Present and Future which shares that journey. For us, success is we are no longer needed as people and communities have the tools and insights themselves which can help overcome the life challenges which can be overcome and mitigate the impact of those with no immediate solution and those tools and insights like a baton are passed on to others to adapt and adopt in their journey towards making a difference in the world. Like the MBE no one gets it for what they alone did, similarly no one person, group or organisation has all the answers, we can only find ways to work together and learn to let go of ideas as others take them forwards. I don’t think we own what we do, even if it was ourselves created it, we are custodians to look after an idea, or systems change to nurture it bring it into the world and then let it go for others to become the new custodians.
Working with communities is core to how we work and during the pandemic it was amazing how quickly local people and groups mobilised to be there for each other, from practical things like helping people get shopping or prescriptions to emotional support be it wee chats on the phone, linking to services, letting people know they were not alone. The pandemic, lockdown and everything people experienced around that time was strange and unsettling for everyone. We worked with communities and local people to help maintain a sense of hope, connection, belief in the future. We are still facing external challenges to wellbeing for people and communities, hardly recovered from the pandemic and into a cost-of-living crisis. The work we are doing now is going beyond resilience to explore how we endure and nurture our stamina to maintain hope in what remain challenging times. This piece may be of interest: Survival Needs More Than Resilience. We also made hard copies of the poster to share and they have been very popular including with nursing colleagues who have asked for copies to be shared from waiting rooms in maternity services, for activities with people they are working with, for team wellbeing, GP waiting rooms and more. There are many communities which we need to engage with to make a difference including communities of practice.
I keep myself going by finding pleasure in the simple things and making a point of finding things to appreciate, I remind myself there is a difference between an inconvenience and a problem and am mindful of where I put my energy. I attended Capacitar training and find the 5 finger holds very helpful, this wee video explains more: Finger Holds to Manage Emotions. We are all only human and at times can feel overwhelmed, this wee exercise I have found to be very useful,
I am working just now with colleagues including June Holley who wrote the original Network Weavers Handbook to update and review those materials. We are looking at how we nurture networks and ourselves. Mandy Andrews and Kristin Johnstad are also working with me through a piece of work funded via the Q Community. Clare is also part of the network weaving community. What next for me short to middle term is finding ways to support healthier networks where ideas can thrive which help reduce suffering and promote wellbeing. Longer term, well, I have always wanted to be an author, so I will begin to write…steampunk science fiction/fantasy with a message! I have a book I started just need to make time to get back to finishing it!
I want to make specific mention to my husband, bother and his wife, sister and her husband and an old school friend and their partner as it’s not been easy on them as I do work long hours, with few holidays, often not able to attend something I planned as something came up at work. While I am out there caring about others, they are there caring about me and I could not do what I do without them.