Northumberland stoma swimmer takes stigma-busting campaign and vital supplies to Kenya

08-06-22 Gill Castle Chamelon buddies stoma alnwick northumberland tttv
Gill Castle runs Chameleon Buddies which provided resources and support for people with stomas. Credit: ITV News Tyne Tees

A Northumberland woman who has dedicated her life to trying to remove the stigma of stomas is now helping women on the other side of the world.

Gill Castle, from Alnwick, was left with a permanent stoma, which is an incision in the stomach where the bowel is emptied, following the birth of her son 11 years ago.

She has spent the last two years raising awareness of the condition and is not only now sending medical supplies to Kenya, but is set to take them herself.

Gill said: "We're going to be going to ladies out there who have got stomas as a result of having a fistula.

"A fistula is an opening where there shouldn't be one. Most of them get one as a result of a difficult childbirth like I had.

"They're effectively housebound and that's why we send what we don't need anymore out to them because they really do."

Gill spent the winter of 2020 swimming in the North Sea to raise awareness of living with a stoma.

The fundraising challenge for the Birth Trauma Association saw her take an icy dip in a bikini three times a week.

She now runs a charity called Chameleon Buddies, helping others with access to support and resources.

'Gill is like an angel'

Her story was seen by charity Beyond Fistula, in Kenya, which Gill has teamed up with and has been sending vital supplies to.

She will take more when she travels to the country later this month.

Many women and girls there have no access to stoma bags, with some even having to miss out on school because of it.

Her work is already making a difference, including helping one girl get to school.

Gill Castle, Chameleon Buddies

The charity says Gill has been their "angel" in helping transform the lives of the people they help.

Carol Mabeya, from Beyond Fistula, said: "Gill is like an angel we were waiting for after very many years.

"Her support of the colostomy bags has been very very enormous. We have had supplies continuously, something we have not been able to manage or afford."

Carol Mabeya, Beyond Fistula

Gill will visit the Fistula hospital during her trip this month and will provide training and support in person.

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