There was a strong showing of volunteers at the Balmoral earlier this month as we brought awareness of haemochromatosis to over 120,000 visitors to Northern Ireland’s premier agricultural show.

HUK's Belfast-based Philanthropy Manager, Neil Irwin was joined across the four days of the show by Roger, Catherine, Sean, Melissa, Valerie, Finbarr and Julie in the main Eikon Village and distributed thousands of leaflets highlighting the 1 in 10 people found to have the condition in local screening.

The success of the event was largely down to our informed and passionate volunteers who actively engaged with the public across the event – sharing their own experience of GH. Attendance at the show was supported by the National Lottery Community Fund.

The Haemochromatosis UK stand was directly opposite the main DUP stand visited by their elected representatives and party officials including Sir Jeffrey Donaldson (MP) and many other MLAs and local councillors. We had the opportunity to discuss the condition with Lord Morrow, Michelle McIveen (MLA) and Harry Harvey (MLA) among others – conversations we hope to pick up again over the coming weeks and months. Conversations were also enabled through our volunteers' pro-active chats with other political parties including Sinn Fein, who also had a stand in the Eikon Village.

Throughout our time at the Show we were visited by dozens of families with haemochromatosis who shared their stories with us of waiting lists, difficulty accessing venesection and getting genetic tests – but also occasional stories of good experiences.

Above : HUK Board Observer Julie Brown and Philanthropy Manager Neil Irwin

We were even visited by the grateful parents of an 18 year-old young man diagnosed through our Belfast screening project, part of our Operation Iron Overload. A number of people made a specific point of seeking us out from the show programme and we were glad to be able to give guidance and information to make their visit worthwhile.

Above : our stand before the show opened 

It was also an opportunity to talk with other exhibitors at the event, including Diabetes UK and Care Opinions. We were surrounded on all sides by people with experience of Haemochromatosis who were very pleased to see us represented at the Show.