Our partnership with CRASH

Creating better spaces for vulnerable people goes way beyond the fabric of the building. Our collective contribution influences lives at a critical time” - Mike Chaldecott, Chief Executive of Saint-Gobain UK and Ireland.

In 1994 we became a patron of the construction charity CRASH. Over the last 26 years it has supported hundreds of construction projects across the UK that improve the lives of homeless people.

In 2016 the work of CRASH extended to supporting hospices, giving people a more comfortable environment at the end of their lives.

Mike Chaldecott, Chief Executive of Saint-Gobain UK and Ireland, was instrumental in the development of the relationship between British Gypsum and CRASH. Here he talks about the history of our relationship and why CRASH remains so relevant to our company today.

“My own experience of the issue of homelessness started before my career began. As a student I spent some time in Leeds and became involved in the work of St George’s Crypt. My role as a student was to simply hand out food, but even at that point my brief exposure to the hard-hitting realities of homelessness really stayed with me. Fast forward a few years to 1994, and as a young plant manager at British Gypsum I was incredibly motivated to learn of the work of CRASH and was eager to support the fundraising efforts as the managing director at that time established British Gypsum as a CRASH patron.

During my ten years as a CRASH trustee I’ve enjoyed an incredible opportunity to see the real impact of the work of CRASH and get personally involved in a number of projects, including work at St George’s Crypt, taking me back to my student days. As a trustee I was directly involved in the decision to support hospice projects as well as homelessness charities. A decision that allows CRASH to support even more people and their families at the most vulnerable moment in their lives.

From my early experience of handing out soup at St George’s in Leeds to my role today, the difference somebody’s surroundings make to the quality of their life remains central to our decision to support CRASH. Whether that’s a homeless person receiving a key to the first room they can call home, or a family creating lasting memories in a hospice, having the opportunity to enjoy those moments in beautiful, practical surroundings has a significant impact. From the perspective of the charities CRASH supports, having access to better facilities makes the job of giving care so much easier, a fact we must not overlook. While our collective effort often goes towards the building or refurbishment of essential buildings providing immediate care or comfort, it’s the wider infrastructure work that can make all the difference. For example, for a family member visiting a hospice, being able to park with ease reduces stress at what is naturally a very challenging time. While these projects feel less critical, the impact is far-reaching.

In many ways CRASH is even more relevant to British Gypsum today than perhaps back in 1994. Our entire business is centred around creating spaces that improve the lives and wellbeing of those occupying the buildings incorporating our products, yet our understanding of the relationship between surroundings and comfort has never been greater than now. It’s with this knowledge and expertise that we are better able to contribute to projects in a way that will bring long-term and short term benefits to its users.

Recently CRASH has begun helping charities assess the suitability of new premises and assisting with pre-construction advice. This service is often a critical part of our total contribution – being able to consult with a charity about space usage, building running costs and so forth enables us to really steer charities towards building efficiency and performance, considerations that few charities are able to practically implement without our support.

Today, the biggest challenge we face as patrons is supporting CRASH through what is arguably the most difficult time for any charity. We mustn’t forget that COVID-19 has brought about its own set of unique challenges directly affecting the fundraising efforts of the CRASH team. And we mustn’t lose sight of the pressure homelessness charities face as many more people this year will become homeless as a direct consequence of recession and poverty. And for those families nursing a loved one through their final days, against the backdrop of uncertain times – now more than ever we have a collective duty to consider how we can better serve those people most vulnerable in our communities. This was the vision of CRASH in 1991 and today, it’s more relevant than ever.”