Friendship websites and apps have been touted as the modern cure to loneliness, and with an abundance of options on the market, it’s easy to see how popular they are. What’s more, ‘mum’ friendship apps and communities are springing up everywhere – helping parents around the globe share tips and tricks from topics like reusable nappies right through to vaccinations and fashion.
But despite this upsurge in friend finding and the popularity of online parenting communities, there is still a huge part of society that still feels they’ve got nowhere to go to find friends who understand their situation, and who can’t always relate to traditional friendship or parenting portals. And many of those people find it difficult to manage their own health and wellbeing, meaning they often don’t give themselves the attention they deserve and need.
Who Are They?
That group is parents and carers of children with complex needs, a disability and/or a learning disability – a demographic who, through their caring role, make a huge contribution to the UK’s economy.
Parenting a child with additional needs can be one of the most rewarding experiences filled with joy. It can also be one of the most challenging, bringing isolation, loneliness, low self-esteem and associated health problems. Old friendships might change, and many carers report that friends with a ‘normal’ family life ‘just don’t understand.’ Finding the time to go out and do the things they used to, along with feeling alienated from society, means parents and carers are left tired, burnt out and neglecting themselves.
And a staggering 61% of carers do not know where to go to find help to manage their own health and wellbeing, and 90% feel isolated and lonely. A quick glance at the figures below is enough to prove that more needs to be done to help.
Our Project: Friendili
Friendili is set to be the first of its kind – a friend finding, parenting portal which is exclusively for parents and carers of babies, children and young adults with complex needs, a disability and/or a learning disability. Our mission has a social purpose to combat loneliness and isolation and to empower our members to prioritise their own self-care, which through the busy demands of life as a carer, is so often overlooked.
How It Works
Friendili members can steer away from the clinical aspect of their child’s condition, and instead focus on their own wants, needs and emotions. Part of this is through finding friends who are like them, and we encourage members to think about their own hobbies and interests too, an area that often gets neglected when someone becomes a carer.
Secondly, if they wish to, Friendili members can also include information about their family. This means that we’re not just helping combat the loneliness of the parents, but also the loneliness that can be so commonly experienced by the children themselves.
The great thing about the Friendili community, is that everyone will have some level of understanding when it comes to caring for a child with complex needs. With everyone having this backdrop, friendships can be easier and less pressured.
Whether members use our service to meet friends who live close to them, or even on the other side of the world, our community is set to provide an invaluable service that provides parents and carers the support they need with their own self-development and wellbeing.
Friendili provides the perfect platform for time-poor individuals who may find it difficult to get out and about to meet people in traditional ways – and members are free to use the site to meet online and/or offline friends as they wish.
An Online Parenting Community
All Friendili members have the ability to talk about the things that matter to them in our online community. From psychology and confidence, to books, music and more, the Friendili community can dip into or out of discussions as they wish, at their leisure, in a place where everyone ‘understands.’ We will provide members with a platform specifically for them, a place where they can relate, understand and discuss.
The Friendili Digihub is a space that focuses on self-care and offers expert advice through professionally written articles and resources. By listening closely to our community, we can tailor the content specifically for their needs, working collaboratively with industry leaders.
The Friendili Partner Programme
There are some fantastic not for profit groups and charities who share our mission and deal with the issues that matter to our members, which is why we will be running a Partner Programme that will enable these organisations to get in front of their target audience. We will be offering free of charge coverage to some of these organisations and also help our members to find some fantastic resources and support networks to complement our own.
At the core of Friendili's existence is a social purpose to help end the loneliness of parents and carers of babies, children and young adults with complex needs and disabilities, by connecting them with new friends and making them part of an understanding, supportive community.
Friendili offers a collaborative space where members can make new friends both online and offline, talk about the things that matter to them, and learn the tools to feel empowered and care for themselves effectively.
The Story Behind Friendili
The greatest driving force for the development of Friendili, and the inspiration for everything we do, is my beautiful daughter Maisie. Maisie has a life-limiting condition called Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome, also known as ‘half a heart’.
Maisie was postnatally diagnosed with her condition, and from the moment she was born was in hospital for six long months, during which time she was very unwell and spend extensive periods in intensive care. We were told Maisie probably wouldn’t make it out of hospital, but after nearly 24 weeks, we finally got our car seat moment.
Maisie came home on permanent oxygen, fed through an NG tube and on a wide cocktail of around the clock medicines, but somehow, throughout it all, she continued smiling her cheeky little grin. We had to be particularly careful about her catching infections, which meant we spent a lot of time indoors, and while all my antenatal group were out doing ‘normal’ baby things, I was housebound, feeling frazzled, lonely and isolated.
During this time, I fell out of contact with many of my friends who either didn’t know what to say, or lost interest because I couldn’t participate in things like I used to. I had support from some amazing charities such as Little Hearts Matter, who were an invaluable lifeline. I was also a member of certain disability related Facebook groups, but I realised that always reading about medical things and having discussions revolving around Maisie’s health or ‘red tape’ matters meant that it made my state of mind even worse. What's more, I was reluctant to use Facebook groups due to issues surrounding privacy.
At that point in time, I just wanted to talk about something outside of my new role – something like photography, music or books – I needed to feel like myself again, to regain my confidence and make new friends, but didn’t know how. My confidence had deteriorated, my anxiety was sky high and I almost felt guilty for thinking about my own needs. What’s more, I found it very difficult to identify with traditional parenting communities, which only fuelled my isolation.
After reading group messages, speaking to people while we were in hospital and doing extensive research, it became clear that there were thousands of parents feeling the same way as me - lonely, isolated, and in need of support. And so began the Friendili journey – the seeds were planted, and I began to think about how I could create the community I (and so many others) craved.
And here we are today. We would LOVE you to come along for this important and exciting journey.
We have and will continue to invest heavily in Friendili to make sure we can provide a support service to as many people as possible. But as we all know, starting a business can be a costly exercise and expenses quickly tot up.
We are looking to raise £10,000 to allow us to continue the build of our niche online community, so that we can help more people who feel lonely and in need of friendship and support.
With your valued support we can:
- Build and streamline our website and online community where people in need can find friends and support
- Develop our digihub of expert resources, articles, podcasts, videos and printouts
- Launch our organisation with the appropriate marketing, helping us reach more people in need
- Help cover our legal and data costs, which are key in running a community-based organisation
So what can you do to help make Friendili a reality?
It’s simple! Please help us by making a pledge, however great or small, and help us change the world – one friend at a time!
From Friendili badges to branded Friendili Chilly’s bottles, we’ve got a great collection of exclusive rewards for you to love and enjoy, as outlined below.
£50 or more
Thank you so much! Your name will go on our supporter wall and you’ll receive one of our beautiful Friendili enamel pin badges.
£120 or more
Thank you so much! Your name will go on our supporter wall, you’ll receive one of our enamel pin badges and a Friendili Chilly’s water bottle.
£260 or more
You’re amazing, thank you! You’ll get one of our enamel pin badges and your name or company name will go in our first member newsletter. You’ll also receive a Friendili Chilly’s water bottle, making sure you’re always hydrated!
£400 or more
Wow, thank you so much! We’ll send you a Friendili goodies box, filled with treats, including our enamel pin badge and Chilly’s water bottle, along with a few more surprises too! Your name or company name will also feature in our first member newsletter.
£1,200 or more
Thank you so much for supporting our mission! You'll receive a box of Friendili goodies as well as the chance to have dinner with Friendili and friends at a central UK location.
Thank you for taking the time to watch/read about Friendili. We hope you'll come along for this exciting journey and help change the world, one friend at a time.
To sign up to our prelaunch list, please visit: www.friendili.com.
- Scope, Disability Facts & Figures, www.scope.org.uk/media/disability-facts-figures
- Together For Short Lives, How Many Children and Young People are Affected by a Life-Limiting or Life-Threatening Condition Factsheet: www.togetherforshortlives.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/ProRes-How-Many-Children-Young-People-Affected-By-A-Life-Limiting-or-Life-Threatening-Condition-Factsheet.pdf
- Foundation for People with Learning Disabilities, Learning Disability Statistics: https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/learning-disabilities/help-information/learning-disability-statistics-
- Mental Health of Children and Young People in England, Summary of Key Findings, November 2018: https://digital.nhs.uk/data-and-information/publications/statistical/mental-health-of-children-and-young-people-in-england/2017/2017
- Carers UK, Carer Loneliness Report, 2017: https://www.carersuk.org/images/News__campaigns/The_world_Shrinks_Final.pdf
- Good Things Foundation, The Health and Wellbeing of Unpaid Carers: Where Can Digital Skills and Community Support Add Value? https://www.goodthingsfoundation.org/sites/default/files/research-publications/unpaid_carers_report_final_sml.pdf
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