A MOTHER of three has given up her 16-year teaching career to start a voluntary domestic-support service for families who are dealing with life-threatening or limiting conditions.
Joyce Obaseki, of Loughton in Essex, launched the social enterprise Grant A Smile only this month, but already has eight families on her books. “To me, this is my life’s purpose,” she said. “God wants me to do it. I would die a very unhappy woman if I don’t do it. I don’t care how much it will cost me: I will just do it.
“As far as I can see, no one is providing a voluntary service like this. I decided to take action to help the families I knew, and the thousands of others in their position. We support families who are drained by the emotional, physical, and mental struggle of being ill. We go into their family homes to clean, declutter, iron, do the gardening — all for free.”
Mrs Obaseki, who worships at the Epping Forest Community Church, first considered the idea five years ago, when she challenged a student at her school who was being bullied because he frequently arrived for lessons unkempt. He explained that his mother had cancer and had no energy to look after her home.
“I decided to go to his house,” she said. “He was a happy child; he was not at risk; but, because his mum was ill, she couldn’t look after him properly. Social services could help, but they charge, and she could not afford that.
“I offered to help her tidy up. She accepted me as another mum, not a teacher, and we became friends.” She even bought the boy five sets of school clothes, one for each day at school, and took them home each Friday to wash, ready for Monday.
Eventually, she decided to leave her job, and, with the help of her husband, Elson, an engineer, registered Grant A Smile.
“I only put it on social media, but already we have had so many referrals. I don’t count the hours I work, I just do what I can: it can be four or five hours. Elson comes, too; he usually does the gardening while I work inside. We have families in Essex, Kent, and Surrey. Now we are looking for volunteers to go to places elsewhere in the country.”
For details of how to volunteer, make referrals, or donate, visit www.grantasmile.org.uk.