“17 March 2020, a day I’ll never forget…”

17 March, 2021

Today marks one year since the Colostomy UK team began remote working due to Covid-19.

A message from Libby Herbert, General Manager
It might be a cliché to say you never know what’s round the corner, but as I think back to this day last year, the wisdom of this tired old saying is never more apparent. The mood in the office was subdued, but also expectant.

After the Prime Minster’s address the evening before, everyone knew things were serious. When I announced we were closing the office with immediate effect, there was a shocked silence. A sense of unreality then descended as we loaded computers and in-trays into our cars. As I drove home, my mind raced with questions: How will we be able to go on supporting people with stomas? How will the team cope? How will I cope? Will Colostomy UK survive?

The 12 months that followed cannot be described as easy. Instead, adjectives such as ‘challenging’, ‘demanding’ and ‘fraught’ come to mind. But 2020 also revealed to me the inner strength and resilience of the Colostomy UK team and our volunteers and a togetherness that I hadn’t fully appreciated before. No nudging or cajoling was necessary. People stepped up to the mark, embracing new technologies and willingly committing their time and energy to the cause. The shared determination to carry on with the charity’s work galvanised us in the face of Covid-19.

As general manager, I am proud of everyone connected with Colostomy UK and what we achieved in 2020. Although forced to suspend things like hospital visiting and open days, our 24-hour Stoma Helpline (0800 328 4257) remained in operation without interruption. Indeed, recognising that the helpline might become a lifeline for some ostomates, we quickly doubled the number of telephone lines during office hours and later launched our Telephone Befriending service.

We enhanced our support in other ways too, including giving visitors to our website the option to ‘Live Chat’ with one of the team. Periodic visits to the office have allowed us to fulfil orders for Radar keys, ID cards and requests for hard-copies of our support literature. It is impossible to mention support literature without also saying something about Tidings, our award-winning quarterly magazine. Each edition in 2020 went out on time and I know from all the feedback we received just how welcome that thud on the doormat was that signalled its arrival.

Finally, we kept going with our advocacy work, campaigns and projects. Perhaps the best example of this is how Active Ostomates morphed to Active Ostomates: at Home, delivering (and still delivering!) everything from Yoga and Art sessions to ‘Pop to the ‘80s dance’. This was vital, knowing as we do, just how important exercise (mental and physical) is to a person’s wellbeing.

Of course, none of this would have been possible without donations. Your generosity, along with the dedication and hard work of the Colostomy UK team and volunteers, proved a winning combination! With your help we can continue to support our stoma community. Together we can make that difference. If you would like to support us to continue our support of ostomates you can make a donation, or fundraise.

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