Working together

Last week, I was invited to attend a meeting where some work had been done with some ethnic groups to help understand why there are problems in their communities regarding cancer awareness. The fact that awareness is not as good as it could be, means that people get diagnosed much later than may have been possible, therefore their survival rates are that much worse.So it is important to find out why this is happening.

It was well attended, with a really broad cross section of people. There were charity people, health professionals,senior people from the locality, senior politicians, and many people affected by cancer. A very broad selection of cultures, colours and backgrounds were represented.

There were two pieces of research done. One with the Afro Caribbean community and one with the Asian Community. Put simply, the findings were that more had to be done to engage with the communities, at grass roots level, and to try and find ways that would reach into their social networks. Currently there are support groups being run for these communities, but a lot more needs to be done.

At the end of the meeting, there was an opportunity to ‘network’, which was a great idea for members of different groups to chat about the problems that they are facing, with other groups. There was a buzz of communication in the room and a lot of smiles!
This was my ‘Nirvanha’! To get people from different ethnic backgrounds to sit and talk to each other about the same subject, cancer! As most of you know by now, I am involved in numerous different areas of work, and in most areas, I can say that support group membership, never truly reflects the diversity of the community it is there  to represent. Despite the open nature of all the groups around, it is extremely difficult to get groups to work together.

Therefore in a very small area, you may have 6/7 groups, all talking about similar issues. Some for women, some for men, some for Asian people some for, Afro Caribbean. Now if I add in every other nationality in London, you can see how many groups there could be?  I understand that certain cancers are sex specific, that is fine. I also understand where there are language problems, but in general cancer doesn’t discriminate, in age, colour or religion.

There are several problems with so many splinter groups, including financial, membership numbers, venues, facilitators and more. The biggest one for me though, is that the bigger picture, is never seen.I appreciate that there needs to be a place to start, but we need to look longer term as well. If each community is only looking at what is good for it, is that inclusive or exclusive?

My personal view, ( and it is only my personal view!!) is that we need to work harder at integrating the cancer community. If we are not careful, we will end up covering the same ground that others have already covered, spending money running similar groups to other people.There are always going to be cultural differences in the society that we live in. We need to embrace that and work together, not in our own little silos.

An example of this happening was that meeting. Everyone was generally interested in what the other groups were doing and saying. Most groups are run by a small hardcore, and struggle for regular membership. Surely, if we can work together, our communities will get stronger, and we will be more effective in the work that we do. If we can learn from each others issues it will help us solve our own.

Let’s start getting the different groups working together, maybe merging but becoming stronger for the process.

I have seen this sort of process happen in the charity sector. Small charities start, with a wave of enthusiasm and donations, but slowly, reality bites, interest wanes and it either folds, or gets swallowed up by a larger one. This process is not about egos or names etc, or who has done what. It is about helping people affected by cancer! In days of austerity, money is tough to find, and shouldn’t be wasted on work that has already been done by another organisation.

We are all trying to solve the same puzzle!!

Do you agree with my views, or have another idea? It would be great to hear from you.

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