For anyone who reads Alopecia UK’s newsletters, you may be familiar with the introductions where I ask ‘How is it June already?’ or ‘Can you believe we’ve reached November so quickly?!’ It never fails to surprise me how quickly the weeks and months go by working for Alopecia UK.

So, imagine my surprise when I realised that this week, on 17th November 2022, it is exactly 10 years since I attended my first Trustee meeting. To say that a lot has happened during that time would be an underestimation. For me personally, and for the charity that I am so proud to work for, it has been an eventful decade.

In my personal life, I had some big life events. A marriage, a divorce, a house sale, a house purchase, a career change, and welcoming the best dog in the world into my life (Buddy is now a grey-bearded 8-year-old who still acts like a puppy!).

For the charity, the events have been even bigger, with so many firsts in the past decade – first Alton Towers event, first Big Weekend event, first staff members, first office. Not to mention moving to a new website, introducing our charity branding, beginning to invest in research, merging with two other charities – too much to list. My ‘partner in crime’ for most of this decade was Jen Chambers, who left Alopecia UK earlier this year to start a new adventure. For my tribute blog to Jen, I covered a lot of key moments in Alopecia UK’s history and gave a summary of the early years, and I do not wish to repeat all I said in the Summer. 

But I do want to reflect on how proud I feel of all Alopecia UK has achieved in the past 10 years. The charity has transformed from the volunteer-led group I first met in 2012. We now have a team of 6 staff members, all working hard towards the charity’s aims of Support, Awareness and Research. Whilst we remain a small charity, we are doing so much more than we were able to do 10 years ago and this is with thanks to everyone who donates and fundraises for Alopecia UK. The alopecia community is incredible, and we are so grateful!

The aims I have always found myself working more closely within are the ‘Support’ and ‘Awareness’ aims. It was at the first meeting in November 2012 that I was given the responsibility of Alopecia UK’s social media channels. As well as assisting with the public platforms which have been so helpful in reaching new people and raising awareness with the public, I have also been an Admin of our private Facebook groups for the same time too. I think, from memory, our main Facebook group had around 750(ish) members when I became an Admin. We have now just surpassed 12,000 members and the peer support that is provided in that group remains just as valuable as it was 10 years ago.

Whilst the ‘Research’ aim remains the one that I am the most ‘hands-off’ with, I think it might be the one that I am proudest of when I think of the past 10 years. I remember when I first got involved thinking ‘How on earth will we ever be able to play a meaningful role in alopecia research when we do not have a sufficient income to pay staff members, let alone fund research projects?’ And yet, 10 years on, we are actively engaged with leading alopecia researchers, we are at the table talking to Big Pharma about potential new treatments and, once we have paid out our 2022 Research Pots Grants, we will have invested over £215,000 in alopecia research projects since we first started to directly invest in research in 2017. In addition, we are hugely excited that we will soon be announcing our first PhD project that we will be funding. All this activity seemed almost unthinkable a decade ago.

I am also proud of myself. Not thinking about my own contributions to Alopecia UK but rather how far I have come with my own journey with alopecia. When I got involved with Alopecia UK ten years ago, I was still struggling with my feelings around my hair loss. It had only been two years since my hair made its drastic departure. It still hurt. Truth be told, my reason for getting involved with Alopecia UK was a purely selfish one. I wanted to do something that would make me feel more positive about this condition that had come into my life, uninvitedly, and showed no signs of leaving as quickly as it had arrived. Helping others, by sharing my own experiences to support others, has helped me more than anything I’ve got from anywhere else. I am a champion of peer support because I feel that, for some of us, it is this that allows us to live with confidence and happiness. Alopecia UK provided that peer support to me.

It’s why I believe it is so important that the alopecia community has a charity working on its behalf. A charity that can be there in someone’s time of distress. A charity that can be a voice for people that don’t feel confident enough to speak up themselves. And a charity that will invest in finding answers to give hope for future treatments.

And it’s why I have just set up a new monthly donation of £10 a month to Alopecia UK. I was a regular donor a few years ago and then I stopped when my financial circumstances changed, and I needed to strip everything back. I totally understand the squeeze that many are feeling right now. But if I am to continue to appeal to our community for more regular donors, something that would really help Alopecia UK’s future financial stability, I wanted to put my money where my mouth is!

I’ve chosen £10 a month to represent my 10 years with Alopecia UK, but Alopecia UK would appreciate monthly donations of any value, no amount too big or small.

Whether you have followed the progress of the charity for a while, or just found us, please consider joining me in starting a monthly gift to a charity that many affected by alopecia would be lost without.

Set up a monthly gift to Alopecia UK