Dec 15, 2015
As technology changes, people search out new ways to find support. To answer the growing demand for online support, in 2009 the Colostomy Association launched its Facebook Support Group. At the beginning of 2012 the group had less than 250 members, today it is a vital service for over 3,700 people.
Monitoring and managing the Group is the Colostomy Association’s team of Facebook administrators. It is thanks to the hard work of just five volunteers that the Facebook group remains welcoming, accessible and safe.
Steve Clark joined the CA Facebook Group after surgery looking for help and assistance in 2012. He found the group so welcoming and helpful that he soon became adept at providing support and advising other members.
Steve’s skills did not go unnoticed and in January 2014 he awoke to a message from CA trustee, Sarah Squire, asking whether he’d like to become a volunteer admin of the group.
Much like our helpline, the CA Facebook Group operates 24/7 with members active on the group at all hours of the day, 365 days of the year. As a result, the work of a volunteer administrator begins from the moment they wake up.
Steve logs into the Facebook Group before work in the morning to see what has happened overnight and to catch up on messages from other members of the admin team. He then checks the group occasionally while out working as a taxi driver: “I will probably be on the group for a fair bit of the day, depending upon how busy I am” said Steve “If you see me on the group at those times, it is too quiet!”
After work, Steve logs into the group during the evening and sometimes he works overnight which he says is “an advantage to offering advice and support to some of our overseas members in different time zones”.
Helping manage a group of over 3,000 people brings its own challenges. According to Steve, the most difficult task is enforcing the group guidelines. “People join the group in various states of emotional and psychological distress.” says Steve “The guidelines have been formulated to avoid adding to that anguish as a result of reading what's been posted on the group.
“The most contentious guideline is prohibiting the inclusion of photographs of stomas. By not permitting the pictures, an issue that could upset a new member who is already very fragile mentally been avoided. While most other groups allow stoma pictures, we are the one that doesn't and I believe that is a real benefit to our members.”
However, for Steve the most enjoyable aspect of being a Facebook Administrator is building connections with people all across the world. Most recently, during a trip to Spain Steve was able to assist a fellow Facebook group member who had run out of stoma bags on a holiday in Benidorm. Steve was able to meet up with them and share some of his spare supplies before he flew back to the UK.
The Colostomy Association’s Facebook group continues to grow and develop as a safe space for thousands of people across the world. It is thanks to the incredible unseen work of our team of volunteer admins that so many people are able to find support on the Facebook group.
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