Purple Wings: supporting ostomates and promoting ostomy awareness
Thursday, October 1, 2020
Lauren Henderson recalls how the Purple Wings charity began helping people with a stoma regain confidence and self-esteem
When I started Purple Wings, I had a simple goal: to help ostomates feel more confident. I had the passion and the drive inside me. However, I had no clue how charities were run and, honestly, all the work it would entail, as well as how much I would learn along the way.
Contact Purple Wings to donate, organise a fundraising event or arrange to be sponsored for an activity—the team can send you a sponsor form and any fundraising gear that you may need, as well as advertise your event.
Getting our wings
I remember, when we had our first donation, the bank called me to inform me that we needed to set up a bank account. The woman on the other end of the phone asked me ‘What is the name of your organisation?’.
I paused. I knew what I wanted my new venture to do—to help people—but at the time I had no clue what to call it. I needed an answer, and quick, so I blurted out the first words to come to me: ‘Purple Wings!’
‘Oh, how wonderful!,’ she replied, ‘Why did you decide to call it that? It’s lovely!’.
Once again, I was in panic mode. Why did that name suddenly pop into my head? Frankly, I was blagging it when I answered that the purple represented the colour of the condition I had been living with, inflammatory bowel disease. The wings—they represented the wings of a butterfly, someone transforming in confidence and inner beauty as they come to accept life with a stoma pouch.
Miniature grant packs have allowed Purple Wings to reach people in the pandemic
Still, this voice inside me had got it right, accurately describing what this little seed was to grow into. Full marks for thinking on the spot. Even now, it only seems more true the more I think about it. At each of the balls and calendar shoots that Purple Wings runs every year, over time we get to watch one another blossom into our more confident selves. It’s amazing to see—and exactly why I started it.
The biggest part of our work has been organising and funding ‘Time For Me’ grants, where we pay for people to go on confidence-boosting experiences.
The Purple Wings pin-up calendars are all about boosting body confidence with a stoma
The coronavirus lockdown made it impossible to arrange grants in the way we used to. Everywhere we would usually book was closed, and many of the people who we’d give the grants to were self-isolating or shielding. However, many of these people were in more desperate need of help than ever.
We had the smart idea to send out miniature grant packs instead. These are smaller packages that can fit through letter boxes, containing vouchers usable in a huge variety of shops, hotels and online services, alongside some extra goodies, such as sleep spray. We always like to include a Purple Wings journal for people to write down their thoughts. These are a small gesture, but at a time people can feel especially lonely, those small gestures really can make a huge impact.
The Purple Wings ball is a celebration of people with a stoma
Flight to the future
At the time of writing, we hope our ball and calendar can go ahead as planned. We also have our Hadrian’s wall expedition coming up, walking 84 miles over 6 days, with nine of every ten people signed up having a stoma.
Despite the setbacks of the pandemic, we have plans to expand. Our younger following has grown, so we hope to run a children’s event in 2021, and we are starting to support parents and carers of young people more and more.
This year has given us all time to reflect, and I hope it has helped many other people with a stoma to accept their bodies and feel thankful for being here. For people who don’t feel that way, we are always here to help.
Lauren Henderson is the founder of Purple Wings