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There’s a double boost of good news for Western Isles Cancer Care Initiative (WICCI) this week (Wednesday 28 April) as they reopen their doors to support cancer patients and their families.

After a long period of Covid closure and reduced service, WICCI’s centre on Cromwell Street, Stornoway, has been able to reopen, with services expected to begin again from Saturday 8 May, with oncology massage treatment at the centre.

That good news is supported by an announcement from Macmillan Cancer Support, who have pledged to invest a further £215,000 to cover staff and running costs for the WICCI centre over the next three years.

The money will enable WICCI to expand and build on successes which were already well under way before Covid struck, developing services including outreach to local communities throughout the Western Isles. 

WICCI has a social fund offering financial support to individuals with cancer, helping to cover costs and to relieve the hardship faced by many as a result of their diagnosis.  Since 2018, over 370 individuals have been supported, with over £205,000 being distributed throughout the Western Isles. This aspect of WICCI’s work is also fully funded by Macmillan Cancer Support.

Macmillan’s head in Scotland, Janice Preston, said: “We are delighted to be continuing our partnership with the WICCI through this extension to their funding. The initiative was created to address specific needs of people affected by cancer on the islands and we’ve seen the difference that it has already made to local people.

“This funding will allow them to continue delivering this much-needed support and expand their offer, ensuring even more people can be reached. We could not provide this funding without the continued support of local fundraising committees who work so hard and are completely dedicated to improving the lives of people affected by cancer.”

WICCI’s chairperson, Donald Macleod, said the good news had come at a crucial time. He said: “We were really busy in the WICCI Centre in Stornoway and throughout the Western Isles and then Covid hit. Many of the services had to stop, the centre had to close and staff were working from home and on part-time furlough. 

“This, coupled with the devastating impact Covid restrictions had on fundraising activity, destabilised our long-term sustainability, causing concern for the future viability of the charity.

“On behalf of our trustees and service users I would like to thank Macmillan Cancer Support for their continuing intervention and all the other organisations and individuals who contribute to, and support this worthy cause”

Macmillan fundraising committees in the Western Isles raise a tremendous amount of money every year and last year the Isle of Lewis fundraising committee was recognised by Macmillan Cancer Support for their achievements in challenging times. 

The Isle of Lewis fundraising team chairperson, Maggie Martin, said: “As a committee we stepped up to the challenge last year despite the pandemic, moving most of our usual raffles and events online. 

“We were so pleased with the community support for our activities and were astounded when Macmillan announced that we were one of the top fundraising teams in the whole of the UK! “We are so delighted to see our efforts returned to the Western Isles in the form of WICCI, it makes our role so much easier when we know the funding we raise is coming back to directly help people here from the Butt to Barra.”

Covid did deliver some unexpected benefits to the services WICCI was still able to offer during the pandemic. For the Hebridean Harmony singing group the venture online proved positive, with users dialling in from across the Western Isles who would not have been able to take part in sessions held in the WICCI Centre.  

But now the centre has re-opened, complementary therapies and counselling services can again be offered to cancer patients and their families, free of charge, due to generous regular donations from within the local community.

Opening the doors of the centre again WICCI’s development manager Helen Sandison said: “This funding package could not have come at a better time, we are so thankful to our friends at Macmillan Cancer Support and proud of the recognition of the good work we were achieving.  We are really looking forward to being able to support those affected by cancer throughout the Western Isles.”

Services are expected to resume from May, with oncology massage treatment starting on Saturday 8 May.  Anyone interested in attending an appointment should contact the WICCI Centre for details. 

Covid regulations will dictate which activities can be delivered initially and many of the services will remain online. You can find out more about services from the WICCI website at http://wicci.org.uk/ or the Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/wiccioffice/