“At Chai we do not wait for the light at the end of the tunnel… we light the tunnel ourselves and support our clients every step of the way.
Chai chairman Louise Hager recollects, “Thirty years ago, the word cancer was rarely referred to by its name, but through euphemisms such as ‘The Big C’. Chai’s co-founders, my mother Frances Winegarten z”l and Susan Shipman changed that narrative when they founded Chai, providing the community with the support that wasn’t available to them through their experiences of cancer.
Today Chai is facing the immense challenge of what health professionals are referring to as ‘The Forgotten C.’ The pandemic has resulted in a downgrade of cancer care services resulting in tens of thousands of surgeries and treatments being put on hold and screening and diagnoses delayed.
At Chai there is no ‘Forgotten C’ and the organisation is vigilant in their clients lives when everything else as they knew it has been turned upside down. Individual support and care for each person who turns to Chai is the focus and what it stands for. “In fact, in December 2019 the organisation then
reclaimed ‘The Big C’ to be ‘Chai’s big C of Care’ – encompassing many other words beginning with C such as ‘comfort’, ‘confidentiality, ‘compassion and community’, adds Louise.
Yet, organisationally Chai was presented with its own set of challenges when income dropped by 40% as many fundraising activities had to be cancelled just at the time when the gap was widening as the demand for services was going up. A solution needed to be found urgently as the annual dinner which was a major source of Chai’s income could not take place. They chose an alternative, a matched online crowd funding campaign called ‘The Big Campaign’ to answer the big need in the community, supporting and underpinning what Chai sands for, ‘The big Care’.
“It was like nothing we have ever done before; it was definitely out of our comfort zone and we had no idea what the response would be. But once people starting hearing about what we were doing we were so touched that so many people wanted to get involved, including our clients,” commented Chai Chief Executive Lisa Steele.
Chai doesn’t charge for any of its services, realising the impact that cancer has on people’s finances and this was the first time ever that our clients were involved in the fundraising and were eager to be a part of it. “The only way I can describe it is feeling like one big communal hug when in just over 36 hours we saw the true democratisation of giving. There was such a buzz and energy and for any reason and none, the community was galvanised and supported us in droves. To date almost 14,000 individual donations have come in raising £3.1million to go towards our £3.5 million annual running costs. Only five were for more than £10,000. The rest was everything from £2 upwards, raised from bake sales, pocket money, Bar/Bat Mitzvah gifts, in memory of loved ones, in thanks for the good health of others.” Adds Louise Hager.
What the community gave Chai felt like the greatest gift of all, the gift of security.
Ultimately given that our clients are experienced an extra layer of uncertainty through Covid, the purpose of The Big Campaign was to raise sufficient funds to ensure that Chai can continue to provide their specialised support, comfort and care which makes such a tangible impact that is felt now more than ever before.”
Through unprecedented community solidarity this aim was achieved. Hearing heartfelt words from a client,
“I can now sleep at night knowing that Chai will be there for me and my family.”