Tag Archives: NIRDP

ice buckets and forgotten people

Are you bored by the ice bucket thing yet? There’s such a lot of it about. Celebs and randomers getting wet just to make a video and announce to the world that they’re making a donation to charity. Needless, tasteless and narcissistic.

Except… it’s not any of those things.

It’s fantastic.

Until a few weeks ago, how many people were chatting about Motor Neurone Disease (ALS)? How many people were interested in rare disease? Or neuromuscular conditions? How many people were struggling to raise awareness, interest and funds for research, treatments and support?

Often compared to the #nomakeupselfie as a social media notion that went mainstream and raised  much money for cancer charities, the impact of #icebucketchallenge could be much greater. It’s an opportunity for money to go to charities and conditions that are not so well known, and not generally funded. Today the ALS Association announced that they’ve received $68 MILLION more this month than in the whole of last year. Incredible stuff, impacting on often forgotten people.

One in 17 people in Europe is affected by a rare disease. You know more than 17 people.

In Northern Ireland, over 100, 000 people are affected, roughly equivalent to a population the size of Derry/ Londonderry. Because there are over 5,000 rare diseases, numbers affected by any particular condition are small, but collectively rare disease is common. We need to take opportunities, we need to work together. That’s why we created the Northern Ireland Rare Disease Partnership (NIRDP). That’s why we volunteer hours to build relationships, to raise awareness, to support each other.

Tomorrow evening, Belfast Lord Mayor Nichola Mallon will be helping medal winning boxer Michael Conlon complete #icebucketchallenge for the Motor Neurone Disease Association. We’ll be there, cheering them on.

We know what’s it’s like. Girl1 and Girl2 stuck their feet in a basin of iced water. They were drenched by iced water. They know why the water was iced- it’s not about the fun, but the loss of sensation. They know that the shock and helplessness they experienced was temporary and therefore fun. They know it wasn’t like that for their grandmother, Herself. They know the impact of a rare neurological condition. They remember how a vibrant, busy, fiercely independent woman became bedbound, unable to do anything for herself and barely able to communicate. We all remember. So a bit of cold water is nothing to us.

Girl2

Girl1 ice bucket challenge, NIRDP, PSPAJake

No ice for Jake – we’re not that mean!

trumpets blowing

We had our first Annual General Meeting this week. Like a real grown up company.

We are a real company. A real charity. Doing things. Having influence.

Amongst the exhaustion and the chaos, it’s good to reflect.

RDWB patient input

We are good at building relationships. We are good at influencing. We are good at going the extra mile. We are committed and hardworking volunteers.

dublin wine & whine

Mind you, we need to get good at gathering resources, before we implode.

the day before

We didn’t even make it to the hotel without some minor crises: Ditzy D spilled coffee all over herself before we got on the train, Treasurer nearly lost a leg when the taxi pulled off as she was getting in, and Chairperson was so heavily laden with posters, leaflets and tshirts that we feared she may drop some of the sparkly stuff.

Probably because Chairperson and I had been supremely annoying in the build up to the conference, our offers of help for the afternoon set up were politely declined. This provided an excellent opportunity for window shopping or a pre party bath and snooze. (I’d hoped for the former, but enjoyed the latter.)

We had our charity first birthday party- cake, sparkles and giggling- a happy half hour of silliness before we went downstairs for grown up mingling.

ready

steady

go!

Downstairs, it felt a bit like being at a family wedding- I knew some people but wanted to get to know the others; we have the same issues and concerns and will maybe know each other for years after this.

I met Jamie, featured in this video, who lives with Ehlers- Danlos Syndrome. The film is informative, but I learned much more about him, his world, and the impact of his condition, as we blathered in the bar for a bit.

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Doesn’t the valuable stuff often happen round the edges? Away from the pomp and formality, where we’re relaxed and informal.

Luckily, unlike some weddings, nobody lost the run of themselves and all went to bed at a reasonable hour.

We volunteers are professional after all.