Rianna Patterson pictured outside the Prince’s Trust office in London, UK. Photo credit:
Courtesy of the Prince’s Trust
A dementia activist who started a charity in her teens has launched a crowdfunding campaign for university so she can continue to provide a lifeline to people living with the disease.
This September, Rianna Patterson, 25, hopes to take her place at University College London (UCL) to study the degenerative disease she has been advocating for since 18 years old.
It’s a dream come true for the Dominican-raised activist, but Rianna’s dream of a master’s degree in dementia hangs in the balance without the £24,100 she needs for living expenses while living in England’s capital city.
Rianna has recently been awarded a bursary from the Illesha Charitable Trust, a private family trust based in England that makes ongoing and impact donations to Science, Technology & Diversity initiatives & causes. This goes alongside her crowdfunding campaign.
She said: “My grandmother passed away during the second year of my undergraduate degree and I was homeless shortly after. Since then I’ve been renting, but due to the cost of living, I haven’t been able to save money.
“I’ve already deferred the original 2022 offer to September 2023 because I wasn’t able to secure sufficient funding to pay for the tuition fees, accommodation, and living expenses.
“Crowdfunding is the only remaining option to raise finances for my living costs, estimated to be around £12,000, in addition to the tuition fee, which is £14,100.”
Rianna founded the Dominica Dementia Foundation in memory of her grandfather, Terry Vidal, who died of dementia in Dominica when she was 16.
She then went on to complete associate’s and bachelor’s degrees in psychology at the University of Kent − juggling academia with the day-to-day running of an international charity; representing the foundation in forums and building relationships with care providers that support Caribbean communities in the UK.
Terry was like a father figure to Rianna. “When he passed away, I felt lost. The whole family did,” she said.
The time she spent with her grandfather in hospital highlighted the lack of understanding of dementia in public health settings, poor access to support for young carers, and the cultural stigma towards dementia in the Caribbean. Through her charity and consultancy work, Rianna has sought to correct all of those while campaigning for improved research and resources on dementia and holistic treatments.
After finishing her degree, Rianna aspires to work for an organisation focused on making dementia a health priority in Dominica while fulfilling her mission to create a dementia-friendly world for people living with dementia and their families.
“Dementia is one of the biggest medical challenges of our time, so I want donors to see their sponsorship as a social investment for the community because I want to up skill the public through one-to-one mentorship to support their journey into academia as well run workshops to increase their knowledge on dementia.
This master’s degree will give me a solid foundation to continue the work of the Dominica Dementia Foundation, as well as secure a position as a senior researcher in dementia.
“I’ve raised over £5,300 so far and I’m very grateful for everyone who’s contributed because I know it’s difficult to do at the moment. To raise the money myself, I’ve contacted several potential donors directly, like other charities and trusts, as well as launching different services I can earn money from, such as public speaking.
“Raising the money will mean I can complete my master’s degree without the worry of having my studies interrupted because of financial constraints. It will give me peace of mind.”
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