Tom Twitchett hopes that the part he and his children played in a TV documentary about living on the breadline can help others avoid a similar tough time.
The 39-year-old and his daughter Niomi, 14 and son Drey, 12, were featured alongside two other families in Dispatches: Breadline Kids, which was broadcast last Monday (9) on Channel 4.
The programme highlighted the difficulties single parent Tom endured in getting the welfare state to give him the financial support he needed after he had to give up his job as a gardener to care for Niomi as she went through prolonged treatment for leukaemia.
Ultimately, he was forced to turn to REACH Community Projects in Haverhill for support, ending up using the Foodbank that it runs to make ends meet.
With the documentary now shown, Tom, of Shire Court, Haverhill, said: “I did the show so that other people can see with their own eyes how much of a struggle it was and so that it might prevent other people going through the same struggle.”
He also hopes it may change some people’s negative attitudes towards Foodbanks and those that use them.
“I saw a few reports that said people thought that Foodbanks were there for scroungers and it was quite upsetting pride wise.” he said.
“Other people shouldn’t feel like that and they should go for the help that’s there if they need it for the reason that when you can’t do anything else there’s nowhere else to turn to.”
After a long haul of chemotherapy that only ended in the spring following her diagnosis with leukaemia in September, Niomi is now in remission.
Although she still has to return to hospital for treatment her prognosis is, said her dad ‘positive.’
When she is feeling strong enough she is also now also able to attend school on some afternoons.
Her school, Castle Manor Academy, has also done all it can to help, said Tom, by swapping her lessons around to give her the best chance of catching up on her education.
Niomi is being treated at the Teenage Cancer Trust ward at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge.
To thank the staff there for all they have done for the family and raise money for the unit, Tom and a friend are planning a sponsored event in mid August.
They intend to paddle a canoe from Cambridge to Kings Lynn over four days, with everything raised going to the unit.
The Twitchett’s involvement in the documentary came about after they met one of the production team during one of their research visits to REACH.
Ann Merrigan, Haverhill Foodbank manager, then called Tom to ask if he would be willing to take part in the production company’s documentary about the Foodbank and its clients and he decided to take part.
TV crews visited Haverhill on a number of occasions from January to March to film at Tom’s home and at the REACH Community Resource Centre.
The involvement of his family in the programme has had some positive outcomes after a donor came forward to help pay for the costs of the upkeep of Tom’s car, which he at the very least needs to take Niomi to her hospital appointments.