By Steve Chilton
Succeeding against the odds is a familiar road travelled by Peter Jarvis.
He left Coventry’s Woodlands School at 16 to take-up an engineering apprenticeship in Southampton, 125 miles from his family home in Eastern Green.
Today, at 53, he heads up Contechs, a leading engineering, design and recruitment company in Warwick employing 1000 whose customers include motoring giants McLaren, Ford and Jaguar Land Rover.
But now he faces what may be his greatest challenge: helping children who may not live to start their first day at school, some will not even reach their first birthday.
Mr Jarvis, a father of two daughters in their twenties, has been appointed the first national patron of the charity Zoe’s Place, a baby’s hospice which opened its Exhall unit in 2011.
His new role is both recognition of his “energy and passion” as chairman of the Coventry Zoe’s business group, the engine room of fund-raising, and the urgent need for his talents to be spread across the group to ensure survival.
For, sadly, this most deserving of causes is struggling to attract the £4.2million a year it needs to run its hospices in Coventry, Liverpool and Middlesbrough and recently announced it had reached “crisis point”.
Already the shortfall has resulted in the number of “cots” being reduced in Liverpool from six to four and Middlesbrough closing two nights a week.
That’s a devastating blow to those facing a family’s worst nightmare who want and deserve every second of care and compassion available in their darkest hour.
“Some of those parents will not be aware of having to need our help yet,” he said, reflecting on the overwhelming effect news of a life-limiting diagnosis can have.
His natural compassion, he believes, was fostered by a working class upbringing and an empathy for those who don’t get a share of life’s lucky cards.
“Everything I have done in my life has been hard. It’s giving me an old-fashioned view that I should now be helping others. To give something back.”
It’s a philosophy he puts into practice at Contechs which has a work-experience programme for budding engineers and the offer of a job for those who prove themselves.
He finds it sad that worthy charities compete with each other to gain the nation’s donations, but is a realist and accepts that a charity has to have a business ethos or else it will simply fold.
His immediate task is to turbo-charge the networking across the three regions, and nothing is off limits.
Business support is a major target. Sports clubs, especially football, can expect a knock on the door. Proven favourites like golf days, sponsored hikes up mountains, and individual donations from well-wishers are vital too.
“I will be involved in a lot of meeting and greeting and raising awareness of Zoe’s, particularly within the business sector,” he said.
“We need far more people. It’s all about commitment and dedication to the cause. But I’m going to be beating the drum.”
Find out more about Zoe’s Baby Hospice and how you can help.