We don’t necessarily think about caring full-time for someone we love who is sick or disabled — until it happens to us.
But as Wendy Maxwell, the award-winning founder of Chill4usCarers and Computers4Carers points out, any one of us can suddenly find ourselves doing this challenging task with the everyday struggles it brings.
Wendy also publishes The Carers newspaper to give practical help and a listening ear to carers in the UK. You or your company can help too by donating a used, working laptop. Contact Wendy (details below).
What difficulties do carers face?
One of the biggest things is a sense of isolation and social exclusion. When people are hit by the shock of a loved one’s illness, and the practical need to find treatment or help, they can forget about their own well-being.
Finance can be an issue. If someone has to give up work to care for a loved one, it’s a struggle to sort out benefits. Carers Allowance in the UK is only £55.55 (around USD 89) a week, but not every carer receives it and others don’t realise they can claim it.
How are you raising awareness of the plight of carers?
We find Paper.li, Twitter and Facebook are great tools. I’ve also campaigned at Westminster (the UK Government) several times for more help for carers and to try to stop them being forgotten. I have met Members of Parliament and Ministers, and appeared on radio and in newspapers. I’m determined to make the public more aware of what being a carer entails.
Being online and connected must help. Is that why you need used laptops?
We provide free computers or laptops to carers across the UK — more than 130 in total so far. They tell us how this has changed their lives, but we always need more donations of used laptops so we can help more carers.
We ask for laptops that are no longer wanted but still work and we have them professionally refurbished. This effort led to me winning a Digital Heroes Award in 2010.
How does your Paper.li help?
I started The Carers newspaper out of curiosity, but now it’s become a part of my day. I thoroughly enjoy each edition. Carers tell us they like it and they look forward to it. I pick items which I think will interest them, such as health, government changes, the latest news about medicines, and stories about other brave carers going about their daily unpaid work.
I do think Paper.li can be a very useful tool for social causes to raise awareness and connect people together. Followers can take part, or just read what interests them — it provides something to think about.
People can add stories to The Carers newspaper by tweeting to #Chill4usCarers or using #carers.
Who helps you connect with carers? Are you all volunteers?
We’re an independent nonprofit voluntary organisation set up in 2002. Our site is run for carers by carers and we work on a voluntary basis. It’s about information, humour, fantasy and fun, but most of all support and concern for one another. We started with two people and now we have more than 800 members, and they call it their family.
We do what we do for free because we care. Our members have experience in all aspects of care. If they can’t answer your questions or solve your problems, they’ll know someone who can. Our chat room is open 24/7.
It’s the support and encouragement from each other that keeps us all going.
Do you have a Paper.li like Wendy’s that is helping you do social good? Tell us about it in the comments section below and we’ll add it to our list of Paper.lis for a good cause.
Photo: John Sandall for Yours magazine