• Anaïs Richmond

Kidscan | Voices of Change

Here at What Can We Do? (WCWD) we strive to promote a better and fairer world through civic engagement, and that is why we launched the Voices of Change guest blog series.

We want to amplify the voices of a variety of different charities, community groups and individuals from home and abroad. While highlighting how COVID-19 has impacted them, how kindness plays a role in what they do, how people can get involved to support them and what the ideal future looks like.

Our special guest today is Alison England, the Community Fundraising Manger, from Kidscan Children's Cancer Research, discussing their work supporting children with cancer and their vital research into safer and less toxic treatments.




Tell us about yourself - Where do you work and what is your role? What do you like and what are you passionate about?


My Name is Alison England and I am the Community Fundraising Manager here at Kidscan Children’s Cancer Research, one of the only UK charities dedicated to solely funding children’s cancer research. I have been with Kidscan for 18 months and I love it!


The best thing about my job is every day, I am overwhelmed by the kindness of the general public. People of all walks of life amaze me with their generosity, kind words and fabulous support for our charity. From the little old lady giving us a few pennies from her purse to the incredible people who run marathons and do crazy challenges just for us. It always blows me away how amazing people are!


How has COVID-19 affected the work that Kidscan does?


It’s been quite a year but we are seeing signs of slowly getting back to normal. The team at Kidscan have ploughed on through the pandemic, ensuring our charity continues with the research into safer and less toxic treatments.


As you can imagine, charities have taken quite a hit and Kidscan is no exception. Because of COVID-19 we have lost over half of our income. With social distancing and the cancellation of mass participation events, we have seen a significant drop in our donations. We sadly don't qualify for any emergency funding as we are not a front-line charity, but cancer is still happening and we must continue with our vital research.


Childhood Cancer Research is a hugely underfunded area of research and sadly the side effects from cancer treatment for a child can be far longer lasting and life-altering than the side effects that adults experience. Childhood cancer has a lasting impact on children who are diagnosed and their families. From delayed diagnosis & aftercare for survivors to difficult decisions around treatments, COVID-19 is making this impact worse. So we need to keep doing our research and raise awareness to support and help survivors and ensure that needs are being met.


It isn't just treatment & support that is being affected. It is estimated that there will be a £310 million shortfall in medical research, and because only 3.5% of cancer research in the UK is dedicated to childhood cancer, we fear that without charities like Kidscan, childhood cancer research will be significantly impacted for years to come.


Since March, we have seen an overwhelming increase in funding applications, but it costs between £2000-£65,000 to fund a single research project. But sadly, unless we can increase the amount of donations we get in, we simply won't be able to fund this vital research.



What activities have Kidscan been undertaking since the start of COVID-19?


Immediately the team started working from home and then most of our staff were put on furlough apart from 3. Having lost our major events and fundraising we quickly had to look at alternative ways to generate income.


We moved a lot of our fundraising to online/virtual events and called upon our wonderful supporters and ambassadors to work their magic! Our ambassadors are all children who are either cancer survivors or currently in treatment. These kids (and their families) are incredible and go out of their way to support us.


They all took on the national 2.6 Challenge in April where they were asked to do a challenge that involved the number 2.6. Isla ran around a park 26 times, Theo did an obstacle course in his garden for 26 minutes and Charlotte climbed 26 steps. This might not sound like a lot but Charlotte suffers from major side effect due to the chemotherapy which cured her of cancer. She is now in a wheel chair so climbing stairs is like running a marathon for her.


We also ran online quizzes, launched an emergency appeal and pretty much did everything we could. As every other charity in the country is in the same situation, we have struggled to capture new supporters but are very grateful to those that have donated and done what they can to support us.


Tell us about the role of kindness in your work.


Kindness is everything! It never ceases to amaze me how kind people are, even in such a terrible time like this pandemic. I speak to people every day who are so kind and want to do what they can to help. When I explain Kidscan's work, many people are shocked as many are not aware of the terrible side effects that children can suffer from due to the harsh treatments they receive. They realise it simply is not acceptable for children to be having treatment that damages their little bodies for years afterwards. I am often left speechless and emotional by the sheer kindness of people and I often need to remember not to hug random people in Tesco whilst doing a bucket collection! (during more normal times)



How can people help/get involved with what Kidscan is doing during COVID-19?


We love to have people support us in any way they can. This can be by organising a fundraiser at work/home, take on our running/walking Challenge, sign up to Sustainably where you can donate to us every time you shop by rounding up to the nearest pound. You can also get involved with our GOLDFOR Campaign in September for Childhood Cancer Awareness month. All details and ideas of how you can get involved is on our website www.kidscan.org.ouk or www.goldfor.org.uk.


I can send out a fundraising pack which also has some great ideas for fundraisers too! Or you can donate straight to Kidscan.


What is the most amazing act of kindness you have seen during the COVID-19 crisis?


Our Ambassadors – they are aged from just 5 to 18 and throughout this pandemic have gone out of their way to support us. Sadly 2 of them have relapsed and currently in treatment but this hasn’t stopped them! We have asked them to video themselves clapping for the NHS, draw pictures and fundraise, with some even doing it from their hospital beds. They all got involved in the 2.6 challenge and raised over £5k between them which was incredible.


To me, these children are superheroes and deal with unthinkable problems on a daily basis, that most people aren't even aware of, yet they still do what they can, and the team at Kidscan will be forever grateful to them. I think their efforts are above kindness – they’re outstanding! You can read more about our ambassadors' stories on our website.



What does the ideal future look like for you? What positives would Kidscan like to see come out of this crisis?


I feel that the way in which we function as a charity will change but that's not a bad thing – many things will continue to be online and virtual and I think most people are embracing this now – it’s the new world. I think COVID-19 has also highlighted the amount of support that all charities need and sadly some won’t make it through this pandemic. But our team at Kidscan are confident we can, and we will rise to the challenge.


Cancer isn’t going away, and neither are we. We need to think differently and move with the ever-changing times. We, as a team are already embracing the new way of working from home but still maintain a strong family/team bond. We all have one focus and that is the children who are fighting a bigger battle than we can imagine and that keeps us all going every single day. We hope that we can build new relationships with businesses, communities and volunteers and build up our lost income into 2021.


Is there anything else you’d like to add?


Kidscan is a small charity but has a big job! We really want to ensure we continue with our vital research into finding new and safer treatments for children with cancer. Children are suffering right now and 70% of children who do survive, many will go on to have life-changing, life altering side effects that will affect them for the rest of their lives. These can be anything from learning difficulties, hearing loss, stunted bone growth, secondary cancer, infertility and much more. This is devastating to the lives of so many children and we need to change this. Kidscan are one of the only UK charities dedicated to solely funding children’s cancer research.



Alison England

Community Fundraising Manger

kidscan.org.uk

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Do you want to be our next guest blogger for our Voices of Change blog series or want to write for our Spotlight series? Please get in touch.


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