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Q&A with Annie Belasco - PANDAS Foundation

Posted: by Jo Monday, 22 February 2021 @ 10:15

Inspired to be their best selves

Over the last 4 years, we have been running our #mybestself campaign, to learn from different women about what makes them step up to be their best self in any given situation.

In 2021, we decided to focus on a particular audience, to understand what drives them: the women and men who set up or work in the charities which we support through our ‘Mantra Changes Lives’ initiative. Does it take a particular kind of person to devote their working life to helping people? Is it a calling? Or did an event occur in their lives which drew them to this work?

I’m sure we will get 12 different answers from 12 different people, and I am fascinated to find out what those answers are. Stay with me through the year as I interview some remarkable people who work in the charitable or not-for-profit sector, who are changing lives every day. They are people who have truly stepped up to be their best selves.

One of our much-loved charity partners is PANDAS Foundation.

I was excited to find out more about what drew Annie Belasco to work for PANDAS Foundation charity; what drives her day-to-day through the inevitable difficulties and challenges; and what her greatest desire is for the charity in 2021 and beyond.

 PANDAS Foundation

Jo: Tell me a little about the aims of PANDAS Foundation?  

Annie: Our charity is the leading perinatal mental health peer-to-peer support service, aiming to reach every parent, network, neighbour or colleague who wants to discuss the full spectrum of perinatal mental health. We aim to help through our experience - lived, worked and studied; and offer hope, empathy and signposting, so no parent feels alone, from conception through to birth and beyond.

Jo: And tell me – what was it that prompted you to join PANDAS Foundation?

Annie: I worked previously in corporate retail in a sales environment. My interest was always people - how we work, and our mental health. After a break after suffering with breast cancer when I was 25, I wrote a book as a therapeutic experience for my own recovery, and to help and inspire other women who may be going through trauma at a young age. I then reflected on my career and wanted to work in an environment which was heart-led, which led me to PANDAS Foundation. I had horrendous perinatal anxiety with both my babies, and used the free helpline - and to this day am so grateful for all the help and support I was offered in my darkest hour.

Jo: What does the charity hope to achieve 2021, and longer term?

Annie: We have had to adapt, as every charity, business and home has had to with Covid19, and change our models. Traditionally, the heart of PANDAS support were our incredible group support teams dotted around England, Scotland and Wales. Due to government legislation, we have had to change this model to an online one. You cannot replicate face-to-face support and comfort, but we can still do what we do best - which is to listen, understand and bring empathy. We aim to expand our charity to meet the increasing demands of parents and their networks, during and beyond this pandemic, to fully ensure our services are as present, available and fully inclusive to all.

Jo: There must be innumerable challenges – logistical, political, financial, emotional – to delivering on the charity’s aims, especially now with the impact of Covid. How do you stay motivated and focused, through all of that?

Annie: We haven't used gimmicks or big promotions - our true heroes are our parents, who so bravely sit up and take notice of their feelings and want to recover for their own mental health. We continue to commit and take responsibility to enhance our own knowledge, so we are armed ready for every possibility. Although we are viewed as a small charity, our work is imperative and we are the leading perinatal mental health support charity within the UK. We are now at the stage where demand is such that we want to be recognised financially by the government, as we act as an early intervention service for the NHS, lessening the pressure within perinatal mental health.

Jo: Did you plan, when you set out in your career, that this is what you would be doing?

Annie: I didn’t ever have a plan. I wanted to match my skill set in my early twenties to what, on paper, I was qualified in. Moving into my thirties, I realised that I could only produce the best results by following a career that I truly believed in, to help and support vulnerable people.

Jo: Do you have a mantra, or positive phrase, that you live your life by?

Annie: 'Every challenge is an opportunity for growth'.

Our Mantra Collaboration

We are helping to support PANDAS vital work, by donating 25% of the sales of our Third Eye Chakra Necklace to support them.

25% of the sales go directly to the charity, so you can offer your support by choosing one of our Third Eye necklaces, knowing that you are helping someone to get through a challenging time. The mantra, ‘I trust my intuition. I call upon my inner strength’, reminds us that, deep down inside us all is a well of strength that has got us this far in life, and that we just need to re-discover. 

mantra PANDAS charity necklace

March Competition

This month, there is a chance to win one of our ‘Third Eye Chakra' necklaces. Visit our Competition page page to see how to enter, or follow us on our social media.

Competition opens on 1st March and closes midnight Wednesday 31st March 2021.

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