1481. Jessica Barker
Jessica Barker, from Birmingham, whose daughter Maisie was born with a severe heart defect, created the free app ‘Friendili’ for parents of disabled children, or children with health conditions, to meet virtually, forging support networks and tackling loneliness.
Maisie first had open heart surgery when she was just two days old, and spent six months in hospital before she was able to come home. Jessica realised, after trying to find online support groups from other parents in a similar position, that there were few networks available for families to share these experiences. She designed the ‘Friendili’ app to provide a private space for families to connect, whether by location, interests or based on their own experiences with a particular health condition, as well as providing a way of easily sharing information from charities that can support their health and wellbeing.
In a personal letter to Jessica, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said:
“On behalf of the whole country, I would like to thank you for bringing together families through your ‘Friendili’ app.
“One of the most uplifting things of recent times is how the country has come together to support each other and I was particularly inspired to hear how you have used the magic of technology to create support networks for parents.
“You know from your own experience how vital it is for parents of children with complex health needs to talk to each other and so, on behalf of the nation, thank you for making those conversations happen.”
“I am incredibly honoured to receive the Points of Light Award and for my work with Friendili to be recognised by the Prime Minister.
“For families of children with health needs and disabilities, life can be extremely rewarding, but it can also be lonely and isolating. This has been made worse by COVID-19, which has put a greater strain on family health and wellbeing.
“By using the Friendili app as a tech for good solution, I’m passionate about bringing families together and letting them know they’re not alone, even if their journey is ‘different’.
“Thank you so much for choosing me to receive this amazing award, I feel very privileged and as Friendili grows, look forward to helping more families connect and find the resources they need to thrive.”