Letchworth plus size model representing Hertfordshire at pageant wants to repay Home-Start for their help

PUBLISHED: 08:50 29 July 2015 | UPDATED: 12:44 29 July 2015

Plus size model Kimberley Ireland is representing Hertfordshire at a pageant and raising money for Home-Start.

Plus size model Kimberley Ireland is representing Hertfordshire at a pageant and raising money for Home-Start.

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A plus size model whose life fell apart after an accident at work is raising money for the family support charity which offered her a lifeline but now faces an uncertain future following funding cuts.

Kimberley Ireland from Letchworth strikes a pose.Kimberley Ireland from Letchworth strikes a pose.

Kimberley Ireland, of Highover Road in Letchworth, was working as a London veterinary nurse when she took the full weight of a large dog as it was moved on to an operating table.

Subsequent X-rays confirmed she had degenerative disc disease, which causes pain and sometimes weakness or numbness stemming from a degenerated disc in the spine.

Kimberley went from being someone fit and healthy to being unable to walk and confined to a wheelchair at one point.

She was 25 when the accident happened in 2011 and, with a two-year-old son to care for, thought she had nobody to turn to.

That is when family support charity Home-Start stepped in.

“I thought there was nobody who could help,” said Kimberley.

“I just didn’t have family support to help at the time, but Home-Start had volunteers coming in to help me get dressed.

“They tidied my house and cooked for me. They would stay for a few hours to play with my son, and organised day trips for the two of us.

“I’m so grateful to them. They are a great support network and the volunteers are amazing.”

Two weeks ago, Herts County Council decided to stop funding Home-Start for its home visiting service from September, in a move they say will save £390,000 a year.

The decision has sparked concern for the 395 struggling families with young children in Herts which Home-Start currently supports.

There are also fears over the future of the charity’s nine centres in the county, which include the North Herts branch in Letchworth and another in Stevenage.

Kimberley, who is mum to seven-year-old Harvey and one-year-old Harrison, said she wanted to find a way to help them and has started raising money through plus size modelling.

Following the accident, she went from a size 12 to a size 20 – and her confidence was at an all-time low.

Through a friend, she ended up at a confidence-building session run by a plus size modelling agency and hasn’t looked back.

She now gets regular work through plus size modelling and is a finalist in the pageant Ms British Beauty Curve – representing Hertfordshire at the event on Saturday, August 8.

About her modelling, which she does alongside a full-time job as a senior radiology administrator at Stevenage’s Lister Hospital, Kimberley said: “I want to promote body positivity. In social media and on television there’s so much pressure to be skinny. To me that’s not healthy.

“I want people to be happy in their own skin and accept others for who they are too.”

Despite having had several operations on her spine, being in constant pain and on medication for the rest of her life, she added: “I don’t let it stop me doing anything.”

Kimberley has so far raised £120 through companies helping her prepare for the pageant.

To support her fundraising effort, visit www.gofundme.com/ydgccg.

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