Good Causes

Mission to help BAME women earns Leanne an award

When Leanne Pero was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer at the age of 30 she shared her experiences of treatment – a course of chemotherapy and a bilateral mastectomy – with other women in the BAME community.

The 35-year-old said, “The similarity in our stories was huge. As well as shock and anxiety there was a certain shame around cancer and a feeling you needed to keep it hush hush.”

Realising there was an urgent need to raise awareness among a demographic disproportionately affected by cancer, Leanne organised a series of informal coffee mornings to support other BAME women who had been diagnosed with the disease. The meetings evolved into the Black Women Rising Cancer Support Group, the first step in her extraordinary journey to help people in her community affected by cancer.

That journey – which includes Black Women Rising – The Untold Stories, an acclaimed 2017 photographic exhibition featuring portraits of 14 women affected by cancer, and the formation last year of her charity, The Leanne Pero Foundation – has been supported by funding from The National Lottery.

And this week the dynamic Londoner was named winner of the Health Category at the 2020 National Lottery Awards. Instead of an awards ceremony, this year’s trophies are being delivered in person to the winners by a celebrity with a special interest in their work.

Leanne was handed her award by Olympic gold medallist and sports presenter Denise Lewis, who lost her grandmother to cancer in 2005.

Leanne said, “Winning the award means everything – it’s been such an amazing morale booster. And having it presented by Denise Lewis, a childhood hero of mine, was absolutely brilliant.”

Leanne was given the all clear from cancer in 2017, but continues to do everything she can to support BAME women affected by the disease. As well as running her charity she is working on a second Black Women Rising photographic exhibition that is due to go on show at London’s Tate Gallery in 2021.

Leanne said, “The award is fantastic because it raises the profile of the project and allows us to reach more people. But none of this means anything unless you’re doing the core work, and the core of this project is helping people.”

11th November 2020

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