Hi, my name is Janet Eboh-Sampson, I am an event manager based in Birmingham and on Saturday 4th November 2017, my sister Paulinah and I will be putting on a charity fashion show in aid of the African Caribbean Leukaemia Trust and the Rik Basra Leukaemia Campaign at the Canalside Birmingham. My story is probably not what you would expect to hear from an event planner but I wanted to share a message of hope and upliftment.
Sometimes, in life we may be faced with a challenge that we are not always ready for or best equipped at the time to deal with. For me this is one of those times and as you read my story I hope that you will be encouraged to never give up because you will see how I have channelled fear and anxiety into achieving something positive to help my community.
On the 27th October 2017, my sister and I had the honour of meeting Beverley De-Gale OBE and Orin Lewis OBE- the founders of the African Caribbean Leukaemia Trust. The ACLT (African Caribbean Leukaemia Trust) was set up in 1996 after the couple received news that their 6-year-old son, Daniel De-Gale, had been diagnosed with leukaemia. Stem cells have racially specific characteristics therefore Daniel’s donor could only be found from the black or mixed race population, of which only 550 were registered- this translated into a 1 in 250,000 chance of finding a matching donor for Daniel. After a lengthy campaign to find a matching donor, Daniel became the first black person in the UK (aged 12), to receive a lifesaving bone marrow transplant from an unrelated donor. Unfortunately, on the 8th October 2008 following a lengthy battle Daniel De-Gale, died due to further health complications.
We have been working with the ACLT charity for the last 12 months. Beverley and Orin, travelled from London to Birmingham to attend an award ceremony being held at the ICC and wanted to meet us in person. So when my sister and I finally got the chance to meet the couple, who have campaigned tirelessly to raise awareness about the dire shortage of registered donors from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic Community. The question that I asked myself is how is it that someone so ordinary like me has been given this incredible opportunity to meet such an inspirational couple, who despite the loss of their child have worked relentlessly over the years to galvanise their community and draw attention to an issue that is affecting so many people in our community? Their selfless drive to bring their story to the forefront and increase the number of registered donors from Minority Ethnic Communities has saved a lot of lives. It’s a story that has inspired me. I began to think back and reflect on my own personal story.
“How did I get here?” I thought back to my childhood, I grew up in inner city Birmingham, in a single parent household as the eldest of five children. We were raised by our mother in Lozells but the first place we called home was a small two bedroom house in Winson Green. I think back to the days when we went to school with an empty lunchbox, usually we had bread and butter sandwiches because there was no filling to put into our sandwiches, we also got an apple and if we were lucky we got a packet of crisps on those rare occasions when my mom had extra cash. I remember going to charity shops to buy clothes with my mom. As the eldest I got first choice of what I wanted to wear, then my sister Paulinah would inherit my “hand me downs”. By the time it got down to my baby sister who was the youngest of five, she made do with whatever we had outgrown. Despite the poverty and hardship of my childhood, I was 10 years old when I organised my first event. It was a “Blue Peter- Bring and Buy” Sale. At the age of 10, I sat in the playground with two of my best friends Nadine and Kamaljit. We talked about the Bosnian children we had seen on the news the night before living in orphanages with no clothes, very little to eat and nobody to care for them. So we decided to raise money to help those children.
I realise now that growing up as a child even though I didn’t grow up with a lot I have always wanted to do something positive to help other people. I have always had a desire to bring a little hope to someone else. Last year, my sister Paulinah came and told me about our childhood friend Charlene Nelson, who had undergone a kidney transplant in August 2015. Charlene spoke about the challenges she had faced in finding a donor match from within the black community and we discovered that on average patients from Black and Asian backgrounds can sometimes wait up to 5 years for a life-saving transplant. We felt compelled to set up our own community project here in Birmingham because we wanted to share Charlene’s story and bring the message home to our local community. We set up the DoNation UK Project and those who have been following us on social media will have heard about our #Fashion4ACause Midland Fashion Showcase.
As an adult my passion for events has given me a skill and a platform. I have gone on to set up my own event management company (Lotus Event Management). My sister is a successful fashion designer and has her own fashion label (Dolls of Decadence). She no longer needs to wear my “hand me downs” in fact now she makes her own clothes. We learnt from our mother the power of inner strength, grit and self-determination. By God’s grace and kindness, we have managed to turn our circumstances around and we are here today in a position to give something back to our local community. Organising, this event has not been easy. I know of many event planners, who will resort to using crowd funding sites to raise money in order to put on an event. Personally, I didn’t feel this was the right thing to do so I have self-financed our 4th of November event. Putting this event together has taken everything I’ve got not just financially, but mentally, physically and emotionally. Many of my friends and family don’t know that I have been battling with a stress and anxiety disorder as well as insomnia for the last three years, it’s something I’ve kept hidden from everyone and it is only now that I have decided to speak about it. For anyone who suffers from anxiety, taking on a huge project and organising a large scale event is probably not the wisest thing to do but I chose to do it because I have an important message that I want to bring home.
“We live in a world where there isn’t a day that goes by without there being a news story of hunger, poverty, war, natural disasters, disease- the list goes on. We may look at the world outside our window and despair with a feeling that there is no hope or that there is nothing we can do to change things or make a significant difference. We may look at our own personal circumstances and for many of us it’s a challenge just to get from one day to the next. Some of us right now are going through some really testing and difficult experiences that are threatening to consume us or bring us down. We are so worn out from the daily fight that we don’t have the energy or courage to look at the pain and suffering of those around us. But what if you could potentially save a life? What if you could do something no matter how small to make a difference in the life of someone else? Sometimes, we keep waiting for the right time; waiting for the right moment to come along but what if the right moment is Right Now?
Putting on this event came at the wrong time for me and my sister, we were both going through our own personal challenges faced with our own personal storms but here we are today and who knows maybe one day we may inspire somebody who has thought about becoming a donor to come forward and potentially save a life. That person could be me; it could be you right now reading my story.”
Please support our campaign and help us to make a difference. If you would like to come out to our event on the 4th November then tickets are available from Ticketlist (Click here).
I would also be most grateful if you could please donate whatever you can via our Virgin Money page and money raised will be given to our chosen charities the African Caribbean Leukaemia Trust and the Rik Basra Leukaemia Campaign.