With just a few weeks of 2021 left, it feels like a good moment to look back on my first seven months at this fantastic organisation and reflect on what the team, together with you, our supporters, funders and volunteers, have achieved.
It’s no understatement to say that 2021 has been a time of continued uncertainty and challenge for everyone!
I’m writing this blog against a backdrop of political discussions about what restrictions and measures may be needed to help the nation manage this next phase of the COVID-19 pandemic.
I know a return to working from home and continued wearing of face coverings can offer challenges for many people with a visible difference. For those people in our community who have been shielding, this may be a time of heightened worry and concern.
Please do take a look at our COVID-19 resources, and I can assure you that we will continue to do all we can to support anyone who needs us.
Adapting and responding to new challenges isn’t always easy, but I have been so impressed by the Changing Faces team. During 2021 we re-opened our skin camouflage services across England and Scotland. We’ve rolled out new safety measures, better processes for managing appointments, introduced online consultations, started clinics in new locations and inducted new practitioners.
I’ve had the pleasure of visiting some of our clinics, watching our wonderful practitioners in action and seeing for myself the difference they make for our clients. I know that all of you will be just as pleased as I am that this vital service is once again available.
Our wellbeing and counselling service has also expanded, and we are now offering even more opportunities for people to receive the right support when they need it. More children, young people, and their families can join our online workshops and fun days, as well as use our counselling service. It’s been fantastic to hear about families coming together from across the UK, sharing experiences and making friends as part of our online sessions.
One thing I very quickly realised, perhaps because I joined Changing Faces during Face Equality Week, was how supportive, vocal and friendly the Changing Faces community is! Seeing people get behind our campaigners, ambassadors and young media champions when they speak out has been a joy.
When you share our campaign videos, hold a Face Equali-Tea Party, pass on our new “A World of Difference” education resources to a teacher you know, donate to a fundraising appeal or post a supportive comment online, you help us reach more people, and amplify the voices of our campaigners sharing their stories.
This year we’ve once again been part of national conversations. MPs have asked questions in the House of Commons – championing better representation of visible difference and disfigurement; regulatory bodies, like Ofcom, have been publicly encouraged to work with Changing Faces; new rulings have recognised the views of our campaigners with the banning of adverts for cosmetic procedures targeting under 18s; and millions of people have seen our latest “I Am Not Just Your Villain” film challenging representation of visible difference in popular culture.
We couldn’t have done all we have without you – our supporters, our fantastic volunteers who speak out and the amazing funders who contribute much needed financial support to help us deliver our services – thank you.
We’re going to be sharing some more of our highlights of 2021 on social media between Christmas and New Year, so do take a look if you get the chance.
As we look ahead to the new year, we’ve also been doing lots of work on the future direction for Changing Faces and how we make the biggest difference for people affected by visible difference.
Over the last few months, we’ve been seeking feedback from you, our supporters, and considering views from people with a visible difference not currently aware of Changing Faces, to help us develop our plans for 2022 and beyond. I’m looking forward to being able to share that thinking with you in the new year.
In the meantime, to everyone celebrating Christmas, I wish you and yours all the very best! For those of you who are looking forward to a festive break, I hope you can relax and enjoy some time off. To those working in essential services over this time, and particularly in health and social care services, thank you.
Sending my very best wishes and a Happy New Year.