Twitter has given us a voice in the cancer community – Frank Fletcher Ellen Macarthur Cancer Trust

Being part of the extremely active teenage and young adult cancer (#TYAC #teenagecancer #TYACancer) Twitter community has helped us to reach people we never could have otherwise.

We’re a small national charity that works with young people aged 8-24 to rebuild confidence after cancer through sailing.

When we launched in 2003, Twitter wasn’t a thing. That year we worked with 10 young people in recovery, this year we will work with over 660. Being part of the online #TYAC community has absolutely played a part in our growth, both in terms of the numbers we now take sailing, but also the funding partners we work with and the voice we have in much wider post-cancer care conversations.

We can engage with partners much larger than us

The big organisations in our sphere, such as the Teenage Cancer Trust and CLIC Sargent, do what they do really well. We do something different yet complementary.

The services they deliver, the issues they campaign for and the research they undertake make a life-changing difference to young people with cancer. We are there to help support those young people after treatment.

Nurturing Twitter relationships with key people within these organisations – both decision makers and frontline service providers – enables more young people to hear about what we do through their networks but also helps us stay abreast of the major issues in young people’s cancer care so we can shape our approach accordingly.

The heightened profile being part of this network provides has also put the Trust on the radar of funding bodies we might otherwise have struggled to access.

Greater care for our young people

Young people that sail with us face a multitude of challenges to re-engage with education, employment, relationships and society after cancer.

Our trips are proven in helping young people rediscover the confidence to face these challenges, but there are certain practicalities we can’t provide. Being able to Tweet something like “We’ve got a young person who needs support with X, they live in Y, can any of our #TYAC friends help?”, knowing that they will, is of huge benefit.

Power of peer support

Feeling isolated is a massive issue for young people with cancer.

For so many Trust trips are the first time they get to talk, and I mean really share their most personal feelings, experience, fears and hopes, with other young people who have been through similar experiences to them. This is a key part of the recovery process and why making new friends is such a valued part of our trips.

But our trips last four or five days. How do they sustain these friendships when they leave? Where can they continue to explore the cathartic benefits of talking about their experiences? How do they help other young people realise they aren’t alone?

Through social media. This is why Twitter is so valuable to them as well as us.

A human face

Being human and credible is essential for charities especially smaller ones like ours, so it’s really important people can see who we are and what we stand for. I enjoy Twitter and being part of the genuine social collaboration and kindness of the #TYAC community. Even if the occasional football tweet does sneak through 😉

Today is the last day you can nominate someone for a Social CEO award. You have until midnight on the 28th September to nominate. Nominate here