Joining forces with a colleague, Pat Kilpatrick, who was also made redundant, Martine, 51, decided to launch her own charity. “I knew I couldn’t just walk away,” said Martine, “There are families I worship and I just wasn’t prepared to turn my back on the people who needed help.”
“We knew pretty much from the beginning what we were going to do. Our last day was 5 December and by January, the application had gone into the Charity Commission to set up a new charity.”
And so, in August, shortly after her charity registration came through, Martine officially launched Cystic Fibrosis Care, to raise money for people with cystic fibrosis and the families to pay for vital physiotherapy, medical equipment, counselling and travel grants for hospital appointments.
The cause is particularly close to Martine’s heart – her daughter, Lisa, and Pat’s daughter, were both born with the genetic disorder that affects the lungs, and also the pancreas, liver, kidney and intestines. Long-term issues include breathing difficulties and frequent lung infections, which require daily medication and regular hospital admissions for intravenous antibiotics. Lisa was diagnosed at 16 months, having been continuously ill, including with pneumonia, since birth.
Martine, from Birmingham, now pours the same dedication and passion she once gave to her former employer into raising funds for her charity Cystic Fibrosis Care. And she credits the Government’s New Enterprise Allowance, for helping her get the charity of the ground.
Launched in 2011 to provide support and mentoring for unemployed budding entrepreneurs, the New Enterprise Allowance (NEA) is available to claimants of Jobseekers Allowance and Employment and Support Allowance (or their partners) and lone parents or sick on Income Support. Some jobseekers may also be eligible if they get Universal Credit.
Our enterprise coach, Naz Hassain, was very supportive. To be honest, he made the process of starting up quite easy. What I found particularly helpful was that whenever we got stuck with anything, we always knew that we could call Naz and he’d know what to do. When you are going into something new, it’s important to have someone like that on your side.
When Martine organised Cystic Fibrosis Care’s first big fund-raising event, the annual Rourkies Cat and Fiddle 55-mile bicycle challenge earlier this month (11 October 2015), one of her first calls was to Naz, who got stuck in and emailed his contacts and helped advertise the event.
Not surprisingly, given Martine and Pat’s experience and determination, the bike challenge was a huge success, drawing 782 cyclists to Stoke-on-Trent, where it was set, and attracting the support of Guy Martin, Britain’s fastest cyclist and star of the TV series Speed, Irish cycling legend and Eurosport commentator Sean Kelly and a team of volunteers eager to help the new charity. The event is expected to raise up to £25k for people with cystic fibrosis – and Martine has already signed up to organise the next year’s challenge.
The mum already knows what a difference the money will make to patients and their families. She said: “It is a continuous battle for people with cystic fibrosis to keep chest infections at bay. Their lungs get damaged from all the infections and, unlike some other organs, they cannot rejuvenate themselves. Many people cannot work and, like my daughter, need regular intravenous antibiotics, and so our money goes to helping them pay for travel to specialist units like that at the Heartlands Hospital in Birmingham.”
She added: “We are also looking at providing physiotherapy and medical equipment to patients to help give them relief from some of the physical symptoms of cystic fibrosis. Life expectancy is around 40 years of age, and while hospitals provide counselling psychologists to help people at the end of their life, it might only be for half an hour a week. We’re looking to secure as much professional counselling as a patient needs to help them come to terms with everything they have to go through.”
Cystic Fibrosis Care is still only six months old, but is looking at a strong future with Martine and Pat at the helm, delivering much-needed support to patients. It has also transformed Martine’s life. “I was upset when I was told I was being made redundant. It felt like I was being thrown to one side, that my dedication and passion didn’t mean anything,” she said,
“Now I know that it was probably the best thing that could have happened, because I now have less stress and more freedom to concentrate on Cystic Fibrosis Care. And I’m still doing something I love and feel passionate about.”
To support Cystic Fibrosis Care, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.