Supporting adults and children who have a life-limiting or chronic illness
Keira's Kingdom is a group that supports adults and children living in the Stockport area who have a life-limiting or chronic illness. Michelle Conway set up the group in May 2018, after noticing a gap in support during her training to be a counsellor. “The name Keira is in honour of my niece who passed away at 5 years old, due to having a rare life-limiting illness,” she explained. “Kingdom means we are inclusive of all health conditions and disabilities.”
Recipient of a Keira's Kingdom wellbeing pack
I’ve just had a smashing visit from the very lovely Michelle with a fabulous wellbeing pack! I’m so grateful and thrilled to be considered for this. Thank you isn’t enough, Keiras Kingdom are amazing, they have been there for me on more than one occasion and you really don’t know how grateful I am. Thank you Michelle.
They are a true community group and offer their users a massive amount of support, especially around benefit assessments, GP appointments, health and wellbeing, and emotional support. The team also help people re-integrate back into their communities by encouraging their users to attend groups run by other charities and organisations, and they organise 3 free family fun days per year, where they bring together all the people and families that they support. They raise funds by carrying out weekly online raffles of new donated goods, and by selling second hand donated goods online.
However, coronavirus has impacted their work and future plans significantly. “COVID-19 has been extremely difficult for us all,” Michelle said. “Prior to COVID-19, Keira's Kingdom had plans to open a charity shop, but obviously those plans are on hold for a while.” Since the coronavirus pandemic, they have also had to cancel get-togethers such as their Easter Event, and are continuing the support work they do solely via telephone calls. Most of their work since the lockdown “is based around giving emotional, practical and wellbeing support”, and they continue to offer help with benefit forms and other practical necessities, because “a lot of the people who we support are very isolated and struggling financially”.
Michelle explained that Keira’s Kingdom have had to stop their fundraising efforts during the lockdown, in order to focus more time on providing support to their clients – on average, one phone call to Keira’s Kingdom will take 2-3 hours. They applied for and received money from Stockport Local Fund: Community Support, which is being used to continue the support work that Michelle and co-worker Judith McGarty are doing. Michelle explained, “The local fund has helped me to pay small expenses costs to Judith and myself. We are both operating our support services at present, and the money will continue to be used to cover these costs because we are unable to fundraise at present.”
During the pandemic, Michelle has also been distributing mental wellbeing packs to clients that include colouring books and pencils, chocolate, tools for positive mental health and pampering products such as face masks. These have been a great success, with one person saying, “You have made so many people happy and I really appreciate your never-ending kindness.”
Another recipient of a mental wellbeing pack said: “I’ve just had a smashing visit from the very lovely Michelle with a fabulous wellbeing pack! I’m so grateful and thrilled to be considered for this.” They went on to say, “Thank you isn’t enough, Keiras Kingdom are amazing, they have been there for me on more than one occasion and you really don’t know how grateful I am. Thank you Michelle.”
Keira’s Kingdom have made an outstanding effort to reach out and collaborate with other community groups in Stockport in order to provide a better service for the people they support. Stockport User Friendly Fellowship are now taking referrals from Keira’s Kingdom and helping them with shopping, gas and electric bills and other essential supplies. “Together we can offer a much more all-rounded support,” Michelle explained. “Stockport User Friendly Fellowship have been amazing with the people who we support.”
Michelle is keen to continue the collaboration between Keira’s Kingdom and Stockport User Friendly Fellowship after the lockdown is over. “I have always reached out and tried to work collaboratively with other groups and organisations since setting up Keira's Kingdom and I am finding working collaboratively with Stockport User Friendly Fellowship is having a real positive impact on the people who we support. In the future post-Covid we plan to keep working together.”
“It's hard work but I feel certain charities and community groups have really stepped up to the mark with the outbreak of COVID-19. It has shown that Stockport does have a very strong VCSE sector and how connected to their communities they are.”