By Rianna Patterson, Founder of the Dominica Dementia Foundation
September is World Alzheimer’s Month, so we asked Rianna who is leading the way in supporting dementia patients and their families in Dominica to tell us about some of the challenges she faced getting started. She established The Dominica Dementia Foundation to raise awareness of dementia, as well as to provide emotional and financial support to those suffering from the syndrome.
When Rianna founded her organisation, she had just left college, with no previous experience in business management. Taking on this challenge was daunting for her. Now she tells us about the steps she took to overcome adversity on her path to making change:
“I knew I wanted to make a difference, but initially didn’t know where to start or who to turn to for support. I took the first step by joining the Northern District Toastmasters in Dominica, a non-profit organisation focused on helping people develop communication skills. I am an introvert, but through this experience, I gained practical skills such as how to speak in a professional manner and how to keep my audience engaged. By stepping out of my comfort zone and joining the organisation, I became more confident and creative. I started to think of projects I could work on, as well as volunteering opportunities I could get involved with.
I was motivated by helping people and determined to make dementia a health priority in Dominica. I was driven by the joy that comes with helping and instilling kindness in others, as well as by creating bonds that transcend age. Yet, strong will alone is not always enough.
Despite strengthening my confidence, I still faced various difficulties, especially financial. Having secured my first job, much of my income went towards developing the organisation. Gathering momentum was also difficult, due to a lack of awareness, or initial interest in the cause. Businesses felt I was ‘too young’ and unequipped. I was determined to create an environment in which young people and the elderly supported one another, yet I was turned down for grants on a daily basis. The Dominica Dementia Foundation was both launched and funded solely by me and my family. I was exhausted, feeling burned out and often tempted to give up.
Nevertheless, I took matters into my own hands. I took up short courses online and started promoting my work through social media. I got in touch with a network of like-minded young people from college, hoping that they would be inspired by my mission and wish to get involved.
This month, the Dominica Dementia Foundation celebrated its two-year anniversary and I am proud of its accomplishments so far. We have achieved local, regional and international recognition, working with schools, care homes and partner organisations. Most importantly, we have helped so many people affected by dementia.
I still face challenges with funding and worry about the foundation’s sustainability in the future. I tackle this by reaching out to donors when I can, already having received support both locally and internationally. My advice for securing funding and support to launch an organisation? Be tenacious. Set goals. Utilise your resources. Don’t give up.”