Founded in 2002, The Sickle Cell and Thalassaemia Support Group of Barking, Dagenham and Havering struggled to keep up with overheads and saw funds for its projects and services diminish as the year wore on.
The arrival of the £200,647 grant to cover three years will now enable the charity to continue its work in providing welfare services for sufferers, assist research projects and raise awareness of the condition.
Founder member and Support Group Project Coordinator, Cecilia Shoetan, 62, said: “The grant couldn’t have come at a better time as we had been forced to reduce our activities more and more. It’s not something we wanted to do but had little choice.
“When the letter arrived from the Big Lottery Fund I was absolutely delighted, and so were all our members, as the advice and services we provide could help save someone’s life.
“It will now allow us to further develop our Family Support Project and expand our educational programme to help people in the area have a better understanding of the illness, and also fulfil the needs of families living with the conditions.”
Sickle cell disorder is a genetic blood condition resulting from an abnormality in haemoglobin – a substance in red blood cells which gives blood its colour and carries oxygen around the body. And in thalassaemia sufferers there is less production of haemoglobin.
The effects of these conditions can be severe, including anaemia, intense and prolonged episodes of pain, organ damage and infections.
Collier Row resident Mrs Shoetan, who set up the support group with her husband following the death of daughter Lorraine due to medical complications brought on as a result of the incurable illness, is proud of the progress the Support Group has made over the years but says there’s still a lot of hard work to be done.
“We have over 200 members in all and at least 60 of those are service users,” adds Mrs Shoetan who works from the group’s head office at Community House, Romford.
“Unfortunately there is not a lot of wider public knowledge about the conditions so the funding will go a long way to dealing with that issue. But we urge all sufferers out there to register with us.”
For information on the disorder and the support group, including its monthly meetings, call 01708 769 864 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.