Why I volunteer: Local group volunteers

Claire Tulloch and Jacqui Smith volunteer at Coeliac UK’s local groups in East Lancashire and Croydon.
They tell us how local groups have helped them to meet likeminded people.

Claire Tulloch

claire local group volunteer

“When I was diagnosed in 2004, there wasn't the online coeliac community that we have today, so I reached out to my local group for advice and support. It really was invaluable to meet other people who understood what I was going through.

“Working in communications and PR, I realised that I had something to offer, and have been volunteering with the East Lancs group for about 15 years. I look after our social media channels, write our newsletters, and promote our events.

“Our annual gluten free food fair is a highlight and takes a lot of team work, but it's worth it to bring local coeliacs face to face with smaller, independent producers of gluten free foods. Unfortunately, we had to cancel this year's event due to the coronavirus pandemic, but we hope to be back next spring.”

“I don't let my coeliac disease define me, but it is a large part of who I am and has led to some really positive parts of my life, not least the friendships I have with other coeliacs.”

Jacqui Smith volunteerJacqui Smith

“I was diagnosed with coeliac disease around 25 years ago, after some 15 years of misdiagnosis and being very poorly.

“Following my diagnosis, I was left very much to just go and live my life – there was no follow up and no referral to a dietitian. 

“I went to see my GP, who was absolutely brilliant, and sorted out a trial of gluten free foods on prescription to try. He also referred me to the local NHS Hospital to see a dietitian.

“I found out at my appointment that she too was a coeliac and we became good friends. We then proceeded to set up the then North Surrey Group, as there weren’t any groups local to both of us at the time.

“I realised that there was more to this diet than I’d been led to believe. I began to see that there might be others like me who felt fobbed off, who had been told that it was either nothing, all in the mind, or nothing serious! For us, it was more like a complete new way of life.

“I helped set up the Croydon Group some 15 years ago, and am very passionate about Coeliac UK. I had a very rough start in my coeliac lifestyle and just don’t want others to go through what I have.

“The Croydon Group has gone from strength to strength, and we currently meet at 10.30am every Saturday for a virtual 'Cuppa and Chat' to support each other through these very unprecedented days.”

Looking for ways to connect with your local gluten free community? If you’d like to know more about volunteering at your Coeliac UK local group, or even setting up your own, click on the button below.

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