Kids Like Us, a beacon of support for young people and families affected by Juvenile Arthritis in the West Midlands, holds a special place in my heart. Having been diagnosed with Juvenile Arthritis at the age of 8, the charity stepped in when information about the condition was scarce. Fast forward to today, I find myself not just benefiting from their work but a dedicated volunteer, currently serving as the outreach lead.
A Personal Journey
For the past 23 years, Kids Like Us has been intertwined with my life and my family's life. During the physical and emotional challenges posed by Juvenile Arthritis, the support provided by the charity and its volunteers was a lifeline. Their understanding and empathy made a profound impact on my family and me. After completing university, I returned to Birmingham wanting to contribute to the community that had supported me during those challenging years. The opportunity to volunteer alongside my mom, who shares an intimate understanding of the worries associated with Juvenile Arthritis, adds a layer of connection and understanding. Whether celebrating small wins or navigating significant challenges, our volunteers with shared experiences create a unique bond within our community.
Organising Outreach Events: A Balancing Act
As the outreach lead, a significant part of my responsibilities revolves around planning and organizing outreach events throughout the year. It is a delicate balance between seeking input from our families, scouting diverse locations across the West Midlands, and coordinating with venues to ensure they can accommodate our numbers and volunteers. It often feels like a chicken-and-egg situation – should we announce the date first or secure the venue? However, these calculated risks are all part of the job, with the goal of making the events a huge success.
Balancing the responsibilities of an outreach lead with a busy life can be challenging. Living with Arthritis means that bad days can sneak up unexpectedly, serving as a stark reminder of the condition's realities. Yet, if anything, being diagnosed with Arthritis as a child has instilled in me determination, resilience, and a commitment to doing my best. Giving back through volunteering is the least I can do in light of the support I've received.
Team Collaboration: Ideas Flowing, Initiatives Growing
Collaboration is at the heart of our outreach team. Through regular meetings and a bustling WhatsApp group, ideas are exchanged, and opportunities are spotted. The team is continually seeking ways to enhance our events and plan for future initiatives. It's a dynamic process fuelled by passion and a shared commitment to making a positive impact on the lives of those affected by Juvenile Arthritis. We actively engage with and support local businesses across the West Midlands and this approach not only benefits the community but also adds a personal touch to our events. It's a win-win scenario, strengthening our ties with the local community while furthering the impact of our outreach initiatives.
Impactful Moments: Real Stories, Real Solutions
Part of our outreach events lies in the opportunity to listen to the real-life scenarios faced by our young warriors and their families. The exchange of everyday tips and tricks among families, facilitated by our volunteers who often have personal experiences with Juvenile Arthritis, creates a powerful network of support. The practical advice shared during these events compliments medical treatment and resonates deeply with our families.
The journey from being a recipient of Kids Like Us' support to actively contributing as a volunteer has been transformative. The
outreach lead role has not only allowed me to give back to a community that means so much to me but has also provided a platform to create meaningful connections, share valuable insights, and make a lasting impact on the lives of those affected by Juvenile Arthritis in the West Midlands. Kids Like Us is not just a charity; it's a community, a support system, and a testament to the power of individuals and our families coming together to make a difference.