Network MESH (West London)
Network MESH is a thriving ME self-help group covering West London, currently with 140 members. We were established in the late 1980s and have grown significantly over the last ten years.
We are an independent self-help group, which means we are not directly affiliated to either of the national associations, namely The M.E. Association or Action for M.E., but members of these organisations are welcome to join our group, and vice versa.
In 2014, we were proud to appoint the highly-respected media personality, Valerie Singleton OBE, as our first Patron. Valerie, has been most helpful in helping gain media coverage for the group's activities, and she very kindly attends our functions, whenever her schedule allows. All members who have met Val are thrilled by her warmth and enthusiasm, and her extensive knowledge of ME issues. We are delighted to have her as part of our team!
We hold regular monthly meetings, which are friendly and informal, where members can meet in a relaxed, non-judgmental atmosphere with other members to discuss any aspect of the illness or approaches to coping with the illness. Occasionally we also have outside guest speakers. We also send out a newsletter to our members 4 times a year, covering various aspects of the illness and local issues relating to it. We feel this is a service for everyone but it is especially important for the many members who are too ill to come to our meetings. Whenever we have sufficient able-bodied people, we organise fund raising events such as stalls and bring and buy sales, which supplement group funds, and helps us increase the level of services available to our members.
Over recent years, we have expanded the range of services on offer. Firstly, we created a fund, which can assist members who are facing particular hardship, which relies on donations, and members can then apply to the fund for a grant, to help with a few of lifes necessities. We also have our own library, which consists of a wide range of health-related books and audiotapes, which are posted to members on request. We also run a series of classes, such as in art and music, which are very popular as a diversion from the day-to-day limitations placed on us by the illness.
Every two months we hold an Ideas Forum, where members are welcome to attend, to discuss ways of expanding our profile, and ways in which we can offer greater support to our members, particularly those who are severely affected.
We aim to be a positive, uplifting and informative group, providing ongoing support to sufferers and their carers alike. As a result, many of us have made new friends through joining the group and find support and understanding of such a group to be of great help in coping with this most isolating of illnesses.
We ask our members for a nominal subscription fee of £6 a year, but they may pay more, less, or nothing at all, depending on their circumstances. Our membership fees are spent on the production and distribution of the newsletter, our moderate group expenses and providing services to members.
We are conscious we are known to only a small number of sufferers in our area and we are exploring ways of getting in touch with people who might need us but do not know of our existence. We are currently investigating a number of means to raise our profile in the locality, as we recognise that our 140 members are only a very small proportion of the true number of sufferers in our large geographical area. Then we are also seeking to raise awareness of our group, and the suffering M.E. causes, in the local community, amongst health professionals, care workers, and local decision members, with the aim of improving the level of services available to sufferers, and to provide more support to their carers. In the near future, we hope we will be able to expand the range of services we are able to offer our members, by undertaking a number of grant applications.