More than £7500 from the Sunderland City Council’s West Area Committee, matched with the same amount of money raised by the ‘Friends of Bishopwearmouth Baby Grave Section’ has funded the work.
Sunderland City Council’s Street Scene has brought together officers from Bereavement Services, Responsive Local Services and the Highways Department to combine resources and expertise to create a new gravel surface, provide a perimeter a path, and resurface the grave surrounds to improve both access to and the appearance of this section of the cemetery.
All the environmental improvements have been made in consultation with the Friends Group, set up by families who have loved ones interred in the Baby Graves section who have raised more than £22,000 since the group began.
The fundraising group was set up in May 2013 by parents and relatives who approached local ward councillors with their suggestions on how they would like this part of the cemetery improved.
Chair of Sunderland City Council’s West Area Committee, Councillor Peter Gibson, said: “Working together with the Friends Group we’ve improved both the accessibility and appearance of the site.
“This section of the cemetery was created in the 1980s and the design reflected this, with a bark chipping path which regularly became damp and prone to weeds.
“That has been completely replaced with a gravel path, which extends to gravel surrounds around each grave which helps stop weeds growing and makes individual graves easier for families to maintain.”
Cllr Gibson added: “The Area Committee funded the basic environmental improvements, and we’ll continue to work with Friends Group on any additional features their fundraising makes possible to reflect the very special nature of this part of the cemetery.”
The Baby Grave section in Bishopwearmouth Cemetery opened in October 1984 and provides the last resting place for 532 internments, with similar sections at each of the city’s ten cemeteries.
Spokesperson for the Friends of Bishopwearmouth Baby Grave Section, Kati Bohill, 43, from High Barnes said: “Every baby buried here has parents, and we came together as a group to give those parents and families a voice on how the cemetery where their babies are buried should look and be maintained.
“Our core team of around ten families receives support from around the world, with many more people across the city getting involved in fundraising and helping to raise the profile of those suffering the loss of still-born babies and infants.
“Or long term aim is to potentially play an advisory role, not only in the future plans for the cemetery which will inevitably need to expand, but also for those parents who need all the help and support available at such a tragic time in their lives. Who better placed to provide that, than people who have tragically been through this kind of heartbreak.”
Kati added: ”The group would like to thank everyone who has supported us over the years, and all the families involved for their dedication in setting up and keeping our group going . We have a Facebook page ‘Sunderland Baby Garden’ which people can visit for more information, with Angela Beck available on 0774878406 with advice on how to get involved and support future fundraising events.”