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Stepping down - a personal message from our outgoing CEO

By Sarah de Malplaquet, CEO & Founder

I am sharing the news that I have decided to step down from Kit Tarka Foundation at the end of the year. It has been a difficult decision but one that I am confident is right for me, my family and the charity. With the help of our wonderful supporters, trustees, staff and volunteers, we have achieved so much since we first registered with the Charity Commission nearly five years ago but now feels the right time for me to step away and, hopefully, let someone else take the reins. James will also be stepping down as Chair of the Trustees.

Founding Kit Tarka Foundation was something I felt I had to do to fund much-lacking research and to raise awareness to prevent other babies dying from neonatal herpes. I personally couldn't get on with my life knowing I had information inside me which I knew could save other babies. Within a few months of launching we had raised, with the help of amazing friends and family, enough money to fund a national surveillance study into HSV in babies. This study was extended due to Covid and is finally due to be published later this year. As a result of the research process and with the hard work of our trustee Dr Julia Dudley and colleague Dr Katy Fidler, awareness amongst medical staff has increased significantly. Doctors across the country, and internationally, are now considering an HSV diagnosis and treating with preventative antivirals when it may have never crossed their minds before.

At Kit Tarka Foundation we have continued to raise awareness amongst the general public with our events, social media, networking with larger charities and most recently our successful THANKS (Think Hands And No Kisses) campaign. THANKS resources are now in over 60 healthcare settings across the UK which hugely exceeds our expectations and we know will be saving lives not just from HSV but from other postnatally acquired infections.

Our website which now gets thousands of visitors every month contains what we are confident is the world's number one info site for neonatal herpes. We have also pushed for inclusion of education of HSV in babies in the NICE (National Institute of Clinical Excellence) guidelines and as a result seen it included in the Antenatal Care guideline published last year. This means ALL pregnant women and people should be educated about neonatal herpes and how to prevent infection. I have also spoken about Kit publicly to groups of healthcare professionals and expectant and new parents.

Although I am proud of what we have achieved over the last 5 years, I have to admit it has come at a personal cost. This year has been particularly challenging where, against a backdrop of economic uncertainty, cost of living crisis and the war in Ukraine, I feel like we have to fight for every penny of income. We have always relied on friends and family to support our work which was never our intention and sits particularly uncomfortably in the current climate. This added stress combined with being immersed in the baby loss world and regularly recounting the trauma of my son's death has led me to the conclusion that it would be best for me and my family to step away and attempt to find a calmer way of living.

We are going to try and recruit another CEO and we really hope we find a dedicated, enthusiastic, passionate person (with lots of fundraising ideas!) to take the solid foundations we have laid and make the charity stronger and louder. If we do not find the right person then we will seek other ways to ensure the education and awareness continues. Our wonderful Board of Trustees have been very supportive of my decision and are keen to stay on to see in this new chapter.

In the meantime we will continue our charitable work and fundraising as passionately as ever and are so grateful for your help with that.

Do get in touch if you have any questions or concerns at all.

With very best wishes, Sarah


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