Colostomy UK: A year in review

06 January, 2020

2019 was a great year for Colostomy UK and I wanted to take a moment to reflect on where we’ve got to, and to say a massive thank you to everyone – employees and volunteers – for everything they’ve done in the name of people with stomas and hidden conditions more generally.

The heart of our charity

We couldn’t offer support and advice to people with stomas (or their families, carers and friends) without our volunteers. We now have nearly 100 volunteers, with another 40 in the process of joining Team Colostomy UK. We also recruited Emma Howell this year to look after them. On both Emma’s and the charity’s behalf, I’d like to thank all our volunteers for their time, commitment and support. Your expertise, your care and the quality of your advice, is invaluable. Whether speaking to ostomates who call the helpline, supporting at an open day, being part of the Facebook private group, a member of the Tidings editorial team, or ensuring the governance of our charity: you are the heart of Colostomy UK. We are extraordinarily fortunate to have each and every one of you as part of our team!

Partnering effectively

A huge part of what we do is trying to ensure that people with stomas are treated with respect as they go about their daily lives. We call this our campaign for a ‘stoma-friendly’ society. There have been many highlights this year. Regular readers of Tidings will know that we have further developed our active ostomates initiatives (you can read how on page 30). We have continued to champion accessible travel (see below). We have also worked with more organisations than ever before, acting as their ‘critical’ friends by helping them to ensure they become more inclusive. We have also been collaborating with healthcare professionals and other charities to see where we can complement one another’s work.

Indeed, we are engaging more than ever before with healthcare professionals all over the UK. The Windsor, Ascot, Maidenhead and Slough Stoma Support Group (WAMS) is an excellent example. At the end of 2018 we approached Liz Harris, who is a stoma care nurse at Wexham Park Hospital, asking her what we as a charity could do to support ostomates in her community. She said they needed a support group and so WAMS was born. Thanks to the hard work of Liz and Colostomy UK’s Giovanni, the first meeting of this volunteer–run group took place in the spring of 2019.

In 2019 we also began working with a number of NHS trusts to set up ostomate–to–ostomate buddy systems for their stoma care departments. Watch this space!

Power to all

Through support groups, individuals, stoma care nurses, stoma care companies, and care homes across the UK – from Derry in Ireland, Glasgow in Scotland, right down to Devon in England – we have organised in excess of 116 sessions, games, challenges and workshops from our active ostomates initiatives, reaching more than 4,000 people directly. As a whole, the initiatives have empowered ostomates to return to sports, hobbies and other interests, and given them the confidence to take up new challenges. Once again, I’m extremely grateful to all who took part and made this happen.

Getting the message out there

We have continued to campaign and be the ostomate voice on the bigger issues, raising awareness and encouraging organisations to make their facilities more inclusive. One area where we have been especially active in 2019 is championing accessible travel at UK airports. As well as being active members of the accessibility forums at Edinburgh, Manchester, Luton, Stansted, Birmingham, Bournemouth, Cardiff, Heathrow and Gatwick airports, we are now influencing the training of airport staff. Equally, we have worked with a number of organisations to make their accessible toilets stoma–friendly. This year we have also been much more proactive on social media, helping to spread the word that stomas have the capacity to improve the quality of people’s lives.

Going forward

We will always run our helpline, produce informative literature, manage our Facebook private group, publish Tidings and attend open days to give face–to–face support. And we will continue – with the support of our volunteers – to work hard to partner, influence, and empower in the name of all ostomates. However, we are keenly aware of the need to keep evolving as a charity, so that we can reach more ostomates to offer them support and advice in new and effective ways. The coming year promises to be just as exciting as 2019…again, watch this space.

Some new faces

2019 also saw some changes to our board of trustees. We said a big thank you to Ernie Hulme, Ian Jackson, Sarah Squire and Peter Martin, for all their efforts over the years and wished them well for the future. In autumn we welcomed David Buchan and Steve Scoffield, both of whom you can read about here.

Libby Herbert

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