When starting a Gluten-Free Support Group, you should consider the group having its own dedicated web site, in which you can pass on information, updates of whats is being planned, local interest newsletters, photos from your events, and more! It also allows you to spread the word around that you exist, what your aims and ambitions are as a group, and can be a vital part of spreading awareness of celiac disease.
So this is why we originally created the Crawley Gluten Free Group (CGFG) web site, in the United Kingdom, back in October 2007. At first we didn’t realize there was such a world-wide demand for information about how to avoid eating gluten and being restricted to a diet of only eating gluten-free foods. In fact we didn’t realize that so many people in the world suffered from the celiac disease, or Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), or just an allergy to gluten.
At first the CGFG had no money in the bank, but we quickly realized that to spread the word and increase the awareness of the disease (both locally and throughout the UK) we decided that we would need our own website. At first we tried to develop a site with one designer, who said they were free, but then tried to charge us for hosting, so we quickly stopped using them.
So the challenge became how to find someone who would take our project on and help us develop it, completely for free! We designed the basic layout ourselves, but there is an Internet skill required to put what you think into the Internet language, so we continued to search, trying to find a free web site developer. Of course as is usually the case, if you try hard enough in life, you will usually find what your are seeking!
It took a lot of Internet searching and many dedicated email hours, until finally a company in Yorkshire responded and said they would help us. So we commenced with a charity web site developer and without their help and support, you probably would never have heard of us. If you are interested, you can find their details on our web site.
Of course the great thing about the Internet and fast broadband speeds is that a webmaster can be next door or thousands of miles away at the end of an Internet connection and require only seconds to communicate back and forth. So we commenced by agreeing on the basic content and layout of our web site, we tried out certain ideas, some we dropped, others we developed, like this month we have started a brand new travel section. There are many other ideas we wish to add and in the fullness of time we will, pictures on our recipe pages, a country welcome page, perhaps a chat line and others.
So our support group’s website was eventually launched. Initially we had only a small number of hits and downloads, but then possibly by referrals and links to and from other web sites, our hit rates grew, until today, the site has been opened by 124 different countries and they have downloaded thousands of pages. Every month we think there cannot be any more countries left, but then a new one appears, with the latest one being Ghana.
So we believe you can succeed if you wish, so if you don’t already have one in your area, go ahead and set up your own local support group, then develop your own web site, find someone who will support you and get started. It is very rewarding, as we are helping gluten sufferers, all around the world. We now have our first sponsor of the site, LIVWELL and last week we received our very first PayPal £100 donation. Over time, these sums of money will help us to improve the content of our website and better spread awareness in our local area.