Britain's best-known health care charity for Black people is urgently appealing for help because a lack of cash has put it at risk of closure.
The African Caribbean Leukaemia Trust (ACLT) needs to raise £80,000 by the end of March, after promising applications for funding failed. It was set up by Beverley De-Gale and Orin Lewis in London 15 years ago when their son Daniel, aged nine, needed to find a racially-matched bone marrow donor to treat his leukaemia. The couple were shocked when they found that there was a severe lack of donors from Black and mixed raced people.
Beverley De-Gale said: "We've never received government or NHS funding, and have been dependent on small donations from within the Black community. Given the very tough economic climate, this source of income has dropped substantially, and last week we were devastated to hear that our applications for long-term lottery funding had been rejected."
She added: "The Anthony Nolan trust, which does fantastic work for those searching for bone marrow donors in the wider population, receives substantial institutional donations. It values our work, because we've been able to raise donor levels among African-Caribbeans. Its chief executive, Henny Braund, has praised our "passion and dedication", saying: "ACLT has a crucial role to play in reaching out to [black and minority ethnic] communities and keeping this vital issue on the public agenda. We are very keen that this work continues and we look forward to continuing to work with ACLT to achieve real change."
The ACLT has been instrumental in raising awareness about the need for bone marrow donations from Black and minority ethnic people and have been directly and indirectly responsible for the rise in numbers of potential Black and mixed race donors from 550, when the charity started, to about 35,000 today.
Daniel De-Gale won his battle against leukaemia in 1999. Aged 12, he received a bone marrow transplant from American donor, Doreene Carney. Daniel was one of the first Black recipients in the UK of a bone marrow transplant from an unrelated donor.
Even though free of cancer, Daniel suffered health complications that led to multiple organ failure in October 2008, and he died aged 21.
The ACLT’s long-term funding has been halted and the charity has only enough money to survive until March 2011. They need to raise £80,000 by the end of March in order to continue regular service and meet their core costs.
Though the ACLT has attracted celebrity support, including super model Naomi Campbell, footballers John Barnes, Ian Wright and Emmanuel Adabayor, singers Gabrielle and Omar, and entertainer Alesha Dixon, its turnover is a fraction of the millions of pounds other health organisations like the Terrence Higgins Trust (THT), Britain's main HIV and AIDS charity, get. The THT has received hundreds of thousands of pounds of lottery funding.
Beverley De-Gale and Orin Lewis said in a statement: "We are seriously worried and are pleading to the public for donations to keep the ACLT alive. Together we have helped to save lives; many, many lives and this work is now in severe jeopardy. The lack of funds has serious implications on the charity’s immediate future."
They added: "More importantly, the future health of all patients and their families we support now and those who will need our help in the future will endure more heartache. The NHS services will be put under more pressure and will struggle to find racially-matched lifesavers for Black, Mixed race and Asian patients."
The ACLT have brought the number of people registered from 550 to 35,000 and counting. This has lead to many lives being saved including that of Sarah Thompson, who received a match in 2006. She said: "I'm forever indebted to the ACLT. Without it, I might not have received a donor with a match and probably would not be alive today."
The charity urges the public, the community, and influential individuals and organisations to support the cause to help raise vital funds in time, before time runs out for the ACLT.
* For information about ways to support the charity visit the ACLT website: and click on the "SOS" Please Help Save the ACLT Charity news story. Donate a single or a regular payment via the flickering ACLT "donate buttons".