Starting a new PWS Association
Organising a new PWS association can seem daunting, but there is great strength in a group of parents and it is a vital tool to getting things done. You can create a strong support group with professionals and parents together; you can educate schools, other families, workplaces, other medical groups and put forward your views at the highest political level. Associations all around the world have done this and achieved great things for the PWS population.
So how do you go about doing this?
If you don’t know anyone else in your area with a child with PWS, ask your doctor if they know of anyone, and let them connect you. But, let’s suppose you already know a few other families where there is a child or adult with PWS. So, the first thing is to get together and talk. Talk about what you want, what you need, talk about your ‘wish list’, talk about things that work, things that don’t work, talk about people you need in your Association (physiotherapists, dieticians, medics, teachers). Make lots of lists!
If you are just a small group to start with, decide from the list what is most important to you and tackle that first.
STEP 1 – TALK!
You want to collect up as many families in your country or region as you can. How do you do this?
TELL YOUR STORY - One of the best ways is to invite a journalist to meet you and write your stories. Tell your stories honestly – the bad with the good – make sure the magazine you choose to tell your stories to is one that has a large circulation; one that also sits in doctors’ waiting rooms. Make sure you have an email contact address.
Write a blog, share your story on Facebook (remembering where and who might be reading it, and being careful what you share)
STEP 2 – LIST TASKS
Organise your parents and give them tasks to do. You may choose to put this on a more formal basis (Chairperson, Secretary, Administrator etc) if you have a large group.
There are many tasks to begin with. Make a list – this might include:
A person responsible for internet searches – information in your own language (contact IPWSO email@example.com for further help with translations)
A person responsible for answering all the emails you will receive from the magazine article
A person responsible for making a mailing list – and keeping it updated
A person responsible for linking all the new members into a Facebook group, or a WhatsApp group, or just an email group.
A person responsible for designing a questionnaire for all new members:
How old is your child?
Do you have a son or daughter?
Do you have a medical diagnosis for your son/daughter, and if so, do you know what subtype they have (deletion, maternal disomy, or mosaic imprinting)
What help do you already receive?
What help do you want?
Is your son/daughter at school?
What help do you need?
Is your family supportive?
What do you need to help them understand?
Is your son/daughter in residential care, or at home?
Does your son/daughter have a job?
Are you willing to be put in contact with other families?
Include any questions that might help your Association understand the needs of its members and thus, the direction it might take.
Make one of your members responsible for collating all the information you have received.Make sure it is kept confidential and check your own country’s Privacy Laws to make sure you are doing it right.
From this list you can now group your parents into their child’s age-appropriate group.This will make it easier to find appropriate information to distribute.
You may decide to put out a newsletter to everyone on your mailing list.You can do this easily with apps such as Mailchimp which will also give you detailed feedback on who has opened and read your newsletter.
Facebook & website
Make one of your members responsible for your new Facebook page, and organise a chat page. This will build strength and confidence among your members and, if you are a large country, will bring people together. If you have someone who can design a website, then make a start on this. There are plenty of ‘drop and drag’ website providers, too, for example try Wix.com.
If you can – start to fundraise. This is often the most difficult part of running an association. Get your group to contribute ideas; if you have a large membership, form a fundraising subcommittee.
Don’t forget, fundraising is not just having a ‘sausage sizzle’ outside a store, it is also…
going to talk to your Member of Parliament and making them aware of you. Ask for help, ask for funding and specify what it is needed for.
Google all the charities in your area; approach them individually, tell them what you need and how much it will cost
Approach groups such as Rotary, Lions, Lionesses. If they want, you can talk to them; tell them your stories, make Powerpoint presentations
Ask your members and those on your mailing list to make a donation for a specific cause (like supporting someone to attend an overseas conference)
Ask your local church – talk to the congregation
Start going to conferences – this is a major focus for your fundraising. You will be greatly surprised by the support you will receive at your first PWS conference! Make contacts, network, stand up and talk! Be brave!
Join up with other PWS Associations – form links on your website. Become an Associate Member of IPWSO. You are starting to become an important part of your community – join in, make yourself known!
Look at what it means to register your Association, what the costs are, what the benefits are (the major benefit is for fundraising). Become a full member of IPWSO!
Develop Policies & Procedures
With your registration will come a need to develop your own policies and procedures. You will need to decide if your membership has a fee, and whether that fee applies across the board, or will be different for families or professionals.
You’ve done it!
You may even decide to host your own conferences – or one day host an international PWS conference. It can be done! Advertise your meetings, fundraise for international speakers, get on a medical email list, make as many contacts as you can. Keep going!