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Mimosa: a community against cancer

The Mimosa ladies (Ellie Goblet D'Alviella is pictured third from right)Mimosa Matters began around a kitchen table in the south of France when the tragic, collective experiences of an inspirational group of women motivated them to stand up and start making a difference.

It was back in 2013 that the seed of Mimosa Matters was first sown. Ellie Goblet d’Alviella, a British expat who had moved to France with her young family two years earlier, was seated in the kitchen of a friend’s house talking about her younger brother’s recent diagnosis of Stage 4 pancreatic cancer.

“It became clear that this was something we were all affected by: mothers, fathers, siblings and friends,” says Ellie. “My brother was the very reason we started fundraising and we thought that rather than raise money for charities in the UK, we’d try and help down here. We had all come to the French Riviera to live and work, and we want to be able to give back to the community that has embraced us.”

Mimosa is made of eight expat women from around the world - the UK, Ireland, Sweden and Romania - as well as France. All coming from various career backgrounds, the group decided to pool their talents and expertise to raise funds for the many local sufferers and cancer associations in the south of France.

“We're officially registered as an association in France and like to think of ourselves as a charitable association and community rather than a charity,” says Ellie. “That’s why we teamed up with la Ligue contre le Cancer 06. La Ligue is the number one national charitable organisation against cancer in France and we’ve been supporting the Alpes-Maritimes chapter since we started.”

170 Mimosa runners took part in the 2016 marathonPublic attitude and the charitable giving structures are very different in France to those of the UK - “How many times have you been asked to sponsor a neighbour’s child or seen organisations in the street asking for donations?”- and Ellie explains that it took a while for la Ligue to understand what Mimosa was trying to do for them.

“La Ligue were at first surprised by our offer to help them as it's not something usually done, especially by a group of expats, but I think we've made some good inroads into the French charitable scene and the French community is starting to notice.”

Over the last three and a half years, the group has raised upwards of 140,000€, with the majority of money going towards La Ligue’s Espace Ligue centre in Antibes.

“We were one of the biggest financial supporters behind launching the Antibes centre,” says Ellie, “and while the money we’ve raised so far is by no means ‘big’ compared to UK standards, we have become one of the largest donors to la Ligue. Since the Espace ligue opened in Antibes in october 2015, over 500 appointments have been made. It’s a place where cancer sufferers can go for support and counselling, learn about alternative therapies, try out wearing a wig, and get dietary and beauty advice. It’s also a place for families of sufferers to go to and receive support. Around 57 patients are seen there regularly.”

Mimosa is also hoping to work with La Ligue to launch a prevention campaign - “regionally or nationally!” says Ellie - that will target and highlight the lesser known cancers, with a focus of ovarian and prostate cancer.

“Juliette [Clarkin, of Mimosa] has been asked to join La Ligue board of directors. her background is marketing, mine is PR, Marilen’s [Kenington] is law… We’ve got an accountant, event organisers, chefs… Everyone in their Mimosa team has their role. We are by no means experts in cancer, but we all have heart and conviction.” As well as La Ligue, there are other initiatives Mimosa fundraises for.

“We’ve visited the paediatric oncology unit at the l’Archet hospital in Nice,” Ellie explains, “and gave a cheque that will pay for entertainment and things for the ward during the summer months when everyone else is outside in the sun. We’ve been able to send a few families to Disney World too. Seeing the children still smiling despite everything they’re going through is truly inspirational. We also give a percentage of the money we raise to Angela Anderson and her team at Cancer Support Group 06.”

CSG06 was established in 2009 by a group of cancer patients and survivors, concerned psychologists and an oncology nurse who recognised the need for a cancer support group in the English-speaking community in the French Riviera. They provide everything from legal council and linguistic assistance at medical appointments to companionship and moral support.

Run club for the marathon event will begin in earnest towards the end of the summer “They are really on the frontline of the fight against cancer and are at the bedsides of patients,” says Ellie. 

Every year, the Mimosa team organises teams of runners for the Nice-Cannes marathon: “In 2016, we had 170 runners  and we raised over 25,000€. It seemed for a while as if the marathon wasn’t even going to happen after the terror attack in nice, but the organisers chose to move the start up into the Eco vallée. It meant that people who had planned to run a three kilometre leg now had to do seven! It was difficult, but the runners’ determination was heartwarming and inspirational. Even if some had to walk, they still said: ‘I want to do this for you.’”

Mimosa will be organising marathon teams and a weekly run group later this year, but for now, you can follow their work and progress on the Facebook page: Mimosa Matters. “What I love about Mimosa is that supporters have taken our idea and run with it,” Ellie concludes. “All year round, people are organising satellite events and it’s created a true sense and spirit of community.”


Elsa Carpenter