One Croydon local has taken the pain of a parent’s cancer diagnosis and channelled it into helping others – through the power of the poetry.
After caring for his mum Cheryl during her treatment for neuroendocrine tumours, Darren Randon set out to empower other people impacted by cancer, through a community organisation he’d co-founded: ‘Well Versed Ink’.
With a grant of over £9,900 from Macmillan Cancer Support, Darren launched a series of free workshops, enabling people to share their cancer experiences using poetry. The group welcomes all and hopes to harness the stories of those whose cancer care may have been adversely affected due to their ethnicity or postcode; particularly during the pandemic.
Darren (35) from Thornton Heath said:
“This project is really special to me, on both a personal and professional level. As a carer for my mum, I had witnessed both exceptional and shocking care and would be a participant if I wasn’t facilitating the sessions. I feel a personal responsibility to ensure the stories shared with us are heard and positive change is made, with the support of Macmillan.
“Too often, listening exercises become tick-box drills and the actual voices get lost amongst the noise. So, to help create a project with patients and carers at the very centre of it, throughout the process, is both refreshing and encouraging. I commend Macmillan for being bold in their approach and hope others look at the model of this project and help people from seldom-heard communities feel seen and supported.”
Darren’s mum Cheryl has long been an active volunteer and advocate within her community and with Macmillan too.
“Once well enough, she began a new job in her local community in Croydon and volunteering with organisations such as Macmillan. I attended one of the sessions Cheryl helped put together and got talking about Well Versed Ink, where we use poetry and storytelling to improve confidence and wellbeing.
“This sparked an idea for a collaboration between Macmillan and Well Versed Ink, which started with us dedicating one of our monthly spoken word nights to the topic of cancer.
“Despite the weight of the subject matter and the stories shared, the night had an almost indescribable warmth.
“Fast forward six months later – the impacts of COVID 19 were really setting in and reports of Black and minority ethnic communities being most affected came to the fore. Now was the time to revisit our ideas of collaborating in workshops and help in any way we could.
“The ‘Storytelling, Poetry and Campaigning’ project was born, aiming to capture the stories of seldom-heard voices who felt they had been underserved in their cancer care journey due to their ethnicity or postcode, in an effort to effect change in healthcare services.”
Lourdes Colclough, Macmillan Engagement Manager for London said:
“Darren and his fellow poets from Well Versed Ink remind us all of the power of the spoken word.
“His Macmillan-funded workshops have captured the voices of people with cancer; from which we’ve been able to co-create a community campaigning toolkit that we hope will address some of the health inequalities that have been exacerbated by the pandemic.
“It’s a brave project about shifting power and I’m proud that Macmillan has been able to play an integral part.”