4 October 2022
Sarah sells cosmetics to fundraise for St Christopher's in memory of her grandfather.
Four and a half years after selling her first item of make-up to help send some young adult patients at St Christopher’s to a festival, Sarah Harman’s Cosmetics for Charity fundraising campaign has just topped £100,000. She’s now pledged to double the sum for the hospice she’s known all her life and feels so passionately about.
Sarah says she’s been aware of St Christopher’s for as long as she can remember, first visiting as a young child when she went with her mother to push a family friend around the garden in a wheelchair. “I just recall a nice feeling about the place, feeling comfortable there,” she adds.
Then, 17 years ago, Sarah had her most significant interaction with St Christopher’s. Her grandfather, retired police officer, George Pomfret, had bowel cancer. For some time he was a regular at the day hospice. He then had a couple of admissions before being admitted for the last time.
“The care he was given was just wonderful. He developed such a fantastic relationship with the staff there that I clearly remember when he died, my father was consoling one of the nurses who had become so fond of my grandad, rather than the other way around. That’s a memory that I will keep forever, along with my last visit there when we sat and watched a Chelsea match together on the telly and then when I left, I waved goodbye to him through the window.
“We were all made to feel so welcome and were allowed to have as many family members as we wanted there, it was so lovely.”
Sarah remembers how initially George had been anxious about visiting the hospice. “He thought that was it, and he would never come out. But then after a few visits he was enjoying it so much. He loved it, as much as you can, and he couldn’t speak highly enough of everyone, always saying how friendly they were. And it was true, everyone was so welcoming and made you feel really comfortable.”
Following George’s death, Sarah immediately started raising money for St Christopher’s organising events at the golf club where she worked and, with the help of family and friends raised over £30,000 in George’s name.
That though was just the start of her fundraising exploits.
After a 14-month spell working in the St Christopher’s fundraising team, Sarah decided to use an opportunity that had landed in her lap to go solo as a volunteer fundraiser.
“I really enjoyed that job, but I started being sent cosmetics to sell to raise money for St Christopher’s. I saw the potential but didn’t think I could juggle a full-time job, my family and running events at the weekend so decided to go it alone. I’m a natural doer and once I’ve got something in my head, I just want to run with it.
“At the beginning I wanted to raise £10,000 to pay for a group of young adult patients at the hospice to go to a festival. It felt like young adults and cosmetics was a good fit. With the help of my incredible team of volunteers, we raised that money in just four months.”
This was in 2017 and for the first two and half years Sarah, with some help from her husband Steve, parents Lin and Jeff and volunteer helpers Dawn and Penny, prospered, selling the cosmetics at fairs, events and in a friend’s shop. After funding the festival trip, Sarah then turned her attention to raising money to support St Christopher’s Compassionate Neighbours project.
Then in March 2020 came the first lockdown. “Everything stopped and I was worried that was it, it was over.”
Quickly though some of Sarah’s regular customers started contacting her via Facebook, where she’d always advertised the sales. “People had more time on their hands to think about their skin, I guess, and the shops were shut. They were asking me if they could order stuff and pick it up from my house. Within a couple of months I’d gone from a standstill to selling £20,000 worth.”
Sarah reckons her business model has found a sweet spot. “With the cost of living crisis, people are struggling to pay full price for cosmetics and giving to charity is low on their list of priorities too.”
On average she charges 25-50% of the recommended retail price and her customers pay via Just Giving with all the money going to St Christopher’s. As well as saving her customers money and helping the hospice make it, Sarah’s also delighted that she introduced a whole new audience to St Christopher’s.
“The cosmetics have introduced a whole new and younger audience to the hospice. Most of my customers are teenagers up to women in their sixties. Many of them knew nothing about St Christopher’s, even though they’d lived in the area all their lives and those that did know it thought it was just for the old and the dying. Now, more and more people are finding out that there’s far more to it than that, through buying cosmetics.”
Sarah now has more than 1,000 customers, all of them living locally. “Some are very regular customers and will buy loads, while others might just buy some perfume as a gift at Christmas. I’ve got to know all of them and I can genuinely say they’ve all become friends.”
Joanna, a member of Sarah’s team, at the
St Christopher’s Christmas market
Sarah’s also keen to stress that it’s not all down to her. She has a small team of people supporting her, hence why one of her catchphrases is ‘It’s not me, it’s we’. That ‘we’ includes the customers too and explains her second catchphrase ‘You save, we raise’, stressing that even if someone only buys one half-price lipstick, it makes a difference.
A new consignment of cosmetics arrives about four times a year and Sarah will then work away to photograph every item, price it and put up on her Facebook page.
As well as her husband, Sarah’s involved her parents too and when she told her father she’d give up when she’d raised £100,000, she never really thought she’d reach those heady heights.
“Grandad would think I was completely mad,” Sarah joked. “But I know he’d also be extremely proud of me and everyone who’s helped to make it a reality. I’d like to think he is raising a very large glass of red wine to me, the family, to all the volunteers, my supporters and to everyone in the hospice that this money is helping.
“I haven’t set a new target as such but I’m just going to keep going and I’m looking forward to the next £100,000.”
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