Derbyshire asbestos project launched to raise awareness of mesothelioma

Campaigners who help families with asbestos-related diseases are launching a new craft project to raise awareness of the problem.

Volunteers at Derbyshire Asbestos Support Team are going to make a patchwork banner that tells the stories of mesothelioma sufferers and encourages people to be aware of the dangers of asbestos.

The charity helps and works with victims who have suffered because of exposure to the deadly dust. The banner will be launched at the charity’s conference in Derby later this month and will then be displayed at its information and support events.

Joanne Gordon, who is a manager and co-ordinator at the charity in Chesterfield, said that its work was needed more than ever because of an increase in people coming forward with the disease. Mrs Gordon said:

“Derbyshire is a real hotspot for the disease and that’s why we’ve really got our work cut out in trying to help people with it. We’re seeing an increase in new cases coming forward which means we have to be finding new ways of raising awareness and money.

People are still coming forward and that’s mainly down to awareness and creating the awareness in interesting ways. It’s worrying that the number is going ahead and, at the same time, it means we’ve got more work to do.”

The patchwork launch will take place at the charity’s conference, to be held in Derby on November 20.

It coincides with the launch of a new bereavement support project, which will be encouraging anyone who has relatives who have died from the disease to meet and talk about what they have been through.

The charity was formed in 2002 and covers the whole of the East Midlands. It provided advice on financial entitlements and enable sufferers to come together and give mutual support.

In 2015 it assisted 59 families in Derbyshire, with 18 of those living in Derby. Mrs Gordon said:

“It’s the first time we’ve ever done anything creative like this which involves arts and crafts. We’ve projected the names of people who have died from the disease on the side of Derby Cathedral.

But this is very different for us. We hope it spreads the message that asbestos was very widely used in the past and a lot of people who might not know they were exposed to it but have the disease.”

The charity’s ambassador Margaret Bailey said the patchwork will be a “poignant reminder” of the impacts the disease. She said:

“Mesothelioma is a terrible form of cancer which affects many people in Derbyshire and the East Midlands. It is only caused by asbestos and while this deadly substance is still all around us, we need to remain vigilant.

I think that this is a wonderfully creative way of encouraging those affected by mesothelioma to tell others about their experience. The growing patchwork will serve as a poignant reminder of all the families that have been devastated by asbestos exposure.”

Learn more about the work of the Derbyshire Asbestos Support Team here.