The start of a new year is often a time to reflect. When Pippa acquired a long-term condition at university she felt really isolated, so she set up Spoonie Survival Kits to reach out to other people with chronic illnesses. It has been a huge success and in this blog, she reflects on how the incredible kindness of others has changed her life.
If there’s one thing the past year has taught me, it’s that even the smallest acts of kindness can make the biggest difference.
I became chronically ill halfway through my time at university and it was a bizarre experience. Being surrounded by mostly non-disabled peers had me questioning not only what my future would hold, but my self-worth too.
While I tried to adapt, I couldn’t help but notice what a lack of support there was for people like me. There are hundreds of wonderful programmes and schemes for young people in hospitals, but what about the thousands of people at home, who are too unwell to leave the house?
Living with a chronic illness can be incredibly lonely. You quickly realise just how significant the small things can be. Even on the more difficult days, a small gesture can remind you that you can do this. With this in mind, I set up ‘Spoonie Survival Kits’.
I wanted people to know they weren’t alone
‘Spoonie’ is the slang term for someone living with chronic illness. The kits contain treats and surprises aimed at brightening someone’s day and reminding them that they are not alone, that they haven’t been forgotten.
The kits are sold online and half of the sales money is donated to charities, with the other half being put back into sustaining and growing the enterprise. In the last two years alone, we’ve sent over 700 kits to recipients all over the world, and raised over £3,500 for various charities. And the demand just keeps growing!
Creating a community of kindness
Spoonie Survival Kits has taught me a humbling amount about the value of selflessness and generosity too. Since the very beginning of the project, countless people, many of whom are severely unwell themselves, have come forward to ask what they can do to help.
If it wasn’t for the support and encouragement that I’ve received, I’m not sure if Spoonie Survival Kits would be what it is now. The kindness of others is quite possibly the best source of motivation a person could wish for, and something that I will never take for granted.
We’ve found that the people who receive the kits often want to support our work, creating a cycle of ‘paying it forward’ – when the kindness shown toward you, makes you want to show kindness towards somebody else.
What keeps me going
Spoonie Survival Kits has been a game-changer for me personally. It gave me back my sense of purpose at a time when my physical health made me feel pretty useless.
The most rewarding aspect of the project in my eyes, has been developing accessible and remote volunteering opportunities, inclusive of chronically ill people. Everybody who works on the project has a long-term condition, and we pride ourselves on offering volunteer agreements specifically tailored around people’s individual circumstances. Many of the items within our kits are handmade by talented crafters living with chronic illnesses.
Having such a talented and dedicated team of volunteers is just one of the reasons why I love being involved with Spoonie Survival Kits, and our kit recipients often benefit all the more from knowing that those behind the enterprise are in similar positions to themselves.
When I’m having a tough symptom day and feeling sorry for myself (and believe me, there are plenty of those days), it sometimes takes just a simple nudge to encourage me to keep going. My new year’s resolution is to continue ‘paying it forward’, and I wholeheartedly encourage you to do the same!
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