A social enterprise has launched to provide practical support to families in Essex dealing with life-threatening and life-limiting illnesses.
Grant a Smile, founded by Essex woman Joyce Obaseki, offers to clean the homes of families diagnosed with a serious illness, free of charge.
The organisation also helps to grant wishes to children whose parents are battling illnesses that reduce life expectancy and the quality of life.
Joyce, 42, from Loughton, said: “Grant a Smile is the only social enterprise providing such practical support for families with life-limiting conditions. We support families who are drained by the emotional, physical and mental struggle of being ill. We go into their family homes to clean, declutter, iron, do the gardening – all for free.
“Often social services are the only option for many families and we want to create a safe place where parents and children can turn to without the fear of being separated.”
The mum of three, who was a secondary school teacher for 16 years, set up the social enterprise after coming into contact with students whose parents were fighting severe illnesses.
She said: “I was sad to see them often arriving at school in dirty uniform, lice infestation and poor personal hygiene. As a result, many of them were isolated from other pupils and bullied.
“I knew these pupils weren’t at risk, nor were they unhappy. They were very supportive of their parents and had simply found themselves in a tough place. I wanted to offer practical support but as a teacher, I was restricted by the type of help I could offer.
“I searched the internet to find a charity or organisation that could step in and help these families in their time of need. Sadly, my efforts were fruitless. Such an organisation simply did not exist. I decided to take action to help the families I knew, and the thousands of others in their position.”
Joyce cleaned several homes for free herself before officially launching Grant a Smile.
To qualify for support, parents fighting life-threatening conditions must have children living with them. Eligible families can refer themselves for support or can be referred by family, friends, GPs, schools, hospitals or social services.
She said, “Our biggest challenge is to find self-employed cleaners and cleaning companies to partner with us to offer free cleaning services to these families.
“Poor health can strike anyone at anytime and it’s great to know that you are not alone when this happens. We need more love, compassion and kindness in the world.
“As an organisation, we need as much support as we can get. Refer families, donate, join the team and partner with us.”
To find out more visit www.grantasmile.org.uk