Former Tower Hamlets teacher launches ‘Grant a Smile’ to help families affected by illness

Joyce Obaseki with a family she has worked with
credit: Grant a Smile

A former Tower Hamlets teacher and local mother of three has launched an initiative to help support families who are affected by life-threatening or chronic illnesses.

The social enterprise, Grant a Smile, was started by Joyce Obaseki, who was a teacher in Tower Hamlets for five years. She says she was inspired to start the company after noticing that children whose parents suffer from illness often experienced things such as having a dirty uniform, poor personal hygiene, and being picked on by other students.

Grant a Smile cleans the homes of families who are dealing with severe illness for free, helping reduce stress and manage day to day tasks. They also have a Grant a Wish program for children aged two – 18 to help improve their quality of life.

Obaseki noticed that these children were in a unique position, telling EastLondonLines: “From my experience working with these kids and families, children whose parents have chronic illness either becomes strong or weak mentally, emotionally and physically. They experience mood and anger swings, some have poor behavioural problems because they feel the world is cruel and no one cares. They are often anxious and overwhelmed by everything and everyone around them. They live a life of fear – fear of the unknown. They have low self-confidence/esteem, they get bullied by their peers.

“As a result of their parents’ chronic conditions, they feel their childhood memories and dreams has been taken from them, bluntly they will say the conditions shattered their dreams. These parents face a complicated, draining, challenging, frightening, and consuming task. They must raise the child or children they have whilst letting go of the parenthood or family life they dreamt of.

“Some parents seem to pull their lives together around their own impairment, others go to pieces. So at Grant a Smile, we are an intervention support service, we are there to hold their hands and prevent them from falling into pieces.”

Obaseki was unable to find an organisation or charity that could help these struggling families, so decided to start one herself. She found many charities who work to help sick children, but none that help children who have sick parents.

Joyce Obaseki, founder of Grant a Smile.
credit: Grant a Smile

Obaseki told ELL: “A typical example of a current family we support is a mother of one. Her daughter is five years old. The main benefactor has some perception of light, but nothing in terms of useful vision. She has ME which stands for Myalgic Encephalomyelitis and chronic fatigue syndrome, in addition to fibromyalgia. She lives with her mother who is elderly and who has quite severe rheumatoid arthritis.

“The first time we went there she couldn’t believe this service exists and wondered why we were unknown.

“She saw the post on a Facebook page and couldn’t believe we were not a national service. Usually, after helping, most will cry and sometimes can’t express their gratitude in words. The services we offer improves their quality of life, helps them breath healthy, reduces the daily stress or struggle associated with being ill and looking after the home. We promote positive mental and emotional health. They are less depressed, more thankful and optimistic about the future.

“The other arm of our services is that we grant the wishes of their children. As a result, these children experience instant energy boost, have something positive to look forward to, something to share with their parents, siblings and friends. Overall, it creates special childhood memories they will treasure for the rest of their lives.”

In order to qualify to receive support from Grant a Smile, parents must be battling a life-threatening or chronic illness and have children living with them. Families can refer themselves for support online, or can be referred by a number of other people, including friends, family, schools, and GPs.

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One Response

  1. Janet Smith October 27, 2017

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