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Gateshead charity FACT has been broken into and destroyed. Here's how you can help

On Thursday 13th June, Gateshead charity Fighting All Cancers Together (FACT) was broken into. Their community centre, the FACT Family Home had been a dream of Founder and Chief Executive Joanne Smith for years. The centre was open for only a couple of months; it was destroyed in hours. 

'The week before the break in, we were running full services,' says Joanne. 'It felt like the work was coming to an end; we still had some little tasks, but we felt like we were settled in. We'd spent the day before putting up the last few shelves; we were talking about a garden space next.'

'Then, that night, I got a phone call from our security company. They told me to go to the community centre and speak with the police.'

Joanne says that whilst she knew that any kind of break in would be bad, nothing could have prepared her for the level of destruction she found at the site, 'I felt nervous on the drive there, but I was hoping that they'd just stolen a couple of laptops. When I arrived I spoke with the police, and I could tell they were trying to prepare me for it. They kept saying that there was significant mess.' 

'Then they walked me through the building. I felt numb.'

The destruction of the FACT Family Home was extensive. Almost every room had been damaged; cabinets pulled over with their contents strewn about the floor, doors hanging off their hinges, walls smashed and windows broken. The furniture that FACT had built up over the years was in pieces. The information boards that the charity takes to schools and businesses had been smashed. Resources were trampled and trashed on the floor.

'It was like a tornado had gone through the building,' says Joanne. 'We started on the ground floor, and every floor we went up, the destruction got worse and worse. Seeing the space we'd built destroyed like that felt like an out of body experience. Its not like anything I've ever experienced before.'

Joanne had no time to process the impact of this; she had to jump straight into action. Volunteers and employees had to be called so that they wouldn't go into the building. After the police investigation, the place had to be cleaned. Joanne and her team painstakingly moved through each room, taking the damaged equipment and resources that they had worked so hard for and putting them into a skip. The organisation closed it's doors for the first time in 16 years.

'We've never had to cancel any services, even through the pandemic, but we had to close the building for a week,' says Joanne. 'It doesn't sound like a long time, but for people who are at the end of their lives, for family members who are about to lose someone, or have just lost someone, a week without support is huge.'

'Everyone who uses the building has already been through a trauma of some kind due to cancer. The centre was a safe space. To answer the door and have to turn someone away - it's devastating.'

The damage to the building was estimated to be about £60,000. The financial loss is extensive; FACT has lost models, wigs, mastectomy wear, resources and services that their users depend on. But the emotional cost is greater still.

'We've lost thank you cards from service users, photographs of the charity when it was in it's infancy, before we were on social media,' says Joanne. 'Some of these people aren't with us anymore. These things can't be replaced.'

FACT have set up a JustGiving page, and are asking the community for donations to help them reach the £60,000 target they need to get their organisation restored, 'We're a small charity. We've never had to do fundraise on this scale, or for something so traumatic. We've had some really incredibly responses. I hope that people keep talking about this, for our service users who depend on us.' 

Joanne hopes to publish a list of things that they've lost, to replace the things that can be replaced, 'Every little thing helps. If businesses can donate furniture, or fundraise for us; people that can donate a skill, or share the JustGiving page. Please reach out; we need all the help we can get.' 

If you have a donation, please get in touch with FACT by email (info@fact-cancersupport.co.uk) with the subject line 'Donation'. For all financial donations, please visit FACT's JustGiving page.

Donate to FACT's JustGiving page


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