Saturday, 5 April 2014

The People's Poll.

 Harlow is such a beautiful place, it  has a beautiful history dating all the way back about 10,000 years and was famous for its three horses, forty three cattle, seven beehives, a designated sculpture town, and also famously known for having a first residential tower block in the country. 
Today I was invited to participate in an event called;'The Harlow Conversation' which was organised by the  department of Sociology from University of Cambridge. There were about 150 people present in Harlow Study Centre, a good mixture of ages, and from all academic back grounds, to debate issues that affect them at a local and national level.

The meeting was chaired by Dr.Jeff Miley,who is a judge at crown court  with two experts arguing for localism then two arguing against it. Localism means devolving power from central government to local government, and communities. I'm for localism myself because I believe the people who live in Harlow are better placed to make important decisions about the town rather than a bunch of folks in Parliament sitting on endless committees.
We discussed issues such as Education, Pay Day loan companies, Housing and Hospitals. I was shocked to learn that 26% of people in Harlow have no qualifications so who is to blame for this? Should school curriculum's be set by schools themselves instead of by Central Government, and if so, to what extent? To me, Education is VERY important. In Kenya, parents have to pay money out of their own pockets to send their children to school and buy books and equipment so they really appreciate education. In this country parents also pay for education through their taxes but it seems to me that education isn't as valued as it should be, and teachers don't seem to get the respect they deserve. I believe the government should spend more on giving teachers the opportunities to teach rather than weighing them down with paperwork and constant interference by OFSTED and observations in schools. I also feel more needs to be done about the lack of discipline in schools, and I speak from personal experience as the parent of a 13 year old boy who has really suffered through this.

The so - called pay day loan companies are, in my opinion, leeches that are sucking dry the most vulnerable people in our community. Harlow Council, I was very surprised to learn, doesn't even know how many of these companies there are in Harlow, and the current government doesn't seem interested in regulating such companies, which is something that makes me angry. After all, the mess this country is in was caused by greedy banks and we, the taxpayers, had to bail them out. They should be forced to give people decent loans and then there would be no business for the leeches. Credit Unions are also a good idea.

We also had a healthy debate on housing and whether green belt land should be used for 'affordable housing'. I want to know what they mean by affordable because a one bedroom flat in one of the new developments in Harlow costs £170,000, and I certainly don't think that is affordable! I think we need to build a lot more council houses so those people on low incomes can have a decent place to live. This would also create more jobs. Having lived in the town since 2000 I have noticed that hundreds of private houses have been built but no thought seems to have been given to all the extra traffic this has created. This is a problem that will only get worse unless something is done about it now. I also didn't know, until this meeting, that the M11 was actually built on the wrong side of our town.

Our local hospital, Princess Alexandra only has 489 beds for a town population of 80,000. Again, this is a potentially serious situation because of all the extra housing that has been built. This government seems to be intent on closing hospitals rather than extending them to provide the service our growing population needs.

I really enjoyed the day and felt empowered by having the opportunity to debate such serious topics. For me, this was a real example of what localism means and I would relish the opportunity to make my voice heard on a more regular basis.
Towards the end of the meeting, I couldn't help the destruction from the whistling wind outside  that reminded me of the film 'whistle down the wind'.

As we drew to a conclusion, I had so many questions that I needed answering and  I would like you to help me ponder on the following:
1.How does a government know how they are doing?
2.What happens when a community feels they are being ignored the government?
3.What is good governance? Is it a bunch of people at the top who think they know more than the people at a local level?
4.Do you think the person at a local level has enough knowledge and information to make decisions?

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Thursday, 3 April 2014

Love The One You're With.... I don't love polio

It's been quite a while since I last blogged but here I am. I really dislike winter because any bug or cold that is doing the rounds inevitably gets me. Thank God Spring has finally sprung, though we are now suffering from the 'Saharan Dust that makes breathing difficult. Hopefully it will be gone by the weekend. It's not pleasant that I am unable to train outdoors due to the 'bad air'.

Polio has almost been forgotten in the West but there are many survivors who are now struggling to live with the late effects of this awful condition. Still, life continues though with a little more difficulty, especially amongst the elder survivors.

A few weeks ago I was a guest at the British Polio Fellowship Indoor Championships held in Leicester. It was a great pleasure to be there and I was so glad I arrived early so I could have a try at the different sports. I really enjoyed wheelchair curling and bowls but I fell in love with wheelchair darts. I managed to score 120 with two darts so Phil Taylor watch out! I might take it up seriously when my racing career finally ends. It was fantastic to interact with the competitors, most of them in their 50's and 60's, and it was great to see the enthusiasm and competitive attitude they showed. This is a group of people who love themselves - they've accepted and made peace with who they are and not how they are defined. As a younger polio survivor I drew a lot of inspiration from them and I learned that actually we can never obtain peace in the outer world until we make peace with ourselves. We have to value our imperfections as much as our perfections! Anyway, it was lovely to present medals and see the pleasure on faces as they received their awards.

Statistically speaking there are around 120,000 polio survivors struggling with the late effects of polio in the UK. The British Polio Fellowship is working with the World Health Organisation to try and eradicate polio from the world. This year they are celebrating 75 years of the BPF  with different events and road shows, and you can find out more about the work they do or if you would like any kind of support related to polio - visit;  http://www.britishpolio.org.uk and a little bit about myself... http://www.annestrike.org 

I DON'T LOVE POLIO !!

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Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Happy New Year 2014 - MY WISH FOR YOU .....

I hope the days come easy
And the moments pass slow,
And each road leads you where you want it to go ...

And if you are faced with a choice
And you have to choose,
I hope you choose the one that means the most to you -

And if one door opens
to another door closed ...
I hope you keep on walking till you find the window,

If it's cold outside
show the world the warmth
of your SMILE .......
 
BUT more than anything,
My wish for you is that life becomes all that you want it to ...
         Your dreams stay big,
          Your worries stay small.
          You never need to carry
          More than you can hold.
And while you are out there getting where you're getting to,
I hope you know SOMEBODY LOVES YOU,
And wants the same things too,....
Yeah, this is my wish !!!

I hope you never look back but you never forget
All the ones who loved you in the place you left .....
I hope you always FORGIVE ,and never regret,
And you help somebody every chance you get -
And you find God's GRACE in every mistake,
And always give more than you take ...
              BUT more than anything .....
              My wish for you is that this life becomes all that you want it to !!!!!
 HAPPY NEW YEAR !!!

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Tuesday, 3 December 2013

International Day of Persons with Disabilities.

This day of observance was begun by the United Nations in 1992. It aims to promote an understanding of disability issues and mobilise support for the dignity, rights and well being for persons with disabilities. It also seeks to increase awareness of gains to be derived from the integration of persons with disabilities in every aspect of political, social, economic and cultural life. Very fine aims but what are the realities for the millions of people worldwide? Dismal if you are trying to live with a disability in a developing country where very often you are firmly placed at the very bottom of the society you aim to survive in. And what about here in the UK? Oh yes, we have accessible transport in most big towns and cities, and ramps into the majority of public buildings but we also have the disabled bearing the brunt of vicious cuts imposed by the current government, suffering the unfairness of Bedroom Tax, and others. Think on those things on this International Day of Persons with Disabilities. If you have to judge people living with disabilities, judge them based on what they can do, not on what they cannot. Judge them based on who they are, not who they aren't. Support their strengths and do not use their weakness to crush and destroy them to the bottom.  Otherwise, you are judging them based on your own shortcomings. 

 Africa has had enough of 'disability does not mean inability'. True inclusion of people labelled 'disabled' should involve more than just accessible toilets and ramps. People's attitudes need to change and start to recognise this group of people as full human beings. I totally agree with Emma Thompson that 'being labelled  'disabled' should not mean being disqualified from having access to EVERY aspect of life'. People who are differently abled such as myself have abilities too and this day should be about that, making sure that the society we live in is conducive to allow  these abilities to  blossom.  

No disability or dictionary out there is capable of clearly defining who we are as a person. It is only when we step out of that labelled box that our abilities begin to be fully recognised, giving us a much better definition of who we truly are as individuals. Today, I call upon every human race - Support us to break barriers, and to open doors, for an inclusive society for all. Let us take the dis out of disabled then we are able,take the cap away from handy and we are useful, take the label away and we are who we choose to become and dreams are turned into reality.

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Thursday, 26 September 2013

Tough Mudder Challenge.

In my last blog I told you I was planning to take on the 'Tough Mudder Challenge'. I am so proud of myself because I completed the course with my brilliant team mates from AbleChildAfrica, and I have the aching muscles, bruises, t- shirt and headband to prove it! It was, without a doubt, the toughest challenge I have ever faced but ......I DID IT!!!! All the hard training in the Harlow Leisurezone gym with my personal trainer Mark Macciochi paid off and his encouragement and positivity really helped me. In fact, everyone in the gym was very supportive and I was raring to go.

A few days before I met with some members of the AbleChildAfrica team to plan our strategy and to work out how we would tackle the many different obstacles during the challenge. It was just like a military operation. If I was daunted before the meeting I was even more daunted after it, and I was worried about my ability to get through it all in a wheelchair.

We travelled to Wales in a mini bus provided  by another charity, The Barbara Bus Fund, and though long, our journey was made easier by the witty jokes of Anthony and the good company of my fellow travellers. We arrived at the camp site the team were staying at in tents. Unfortunately my disability and tents don't mix so I was picked up by a fantastic taxi driver, Trevor,from CTE Crickhowell taxis, run by Ann and Gareth. He refused to take my fare because he said 'I challenged him by doing 'the mud thing',as he called it.. What a lovely man! We arrived at the Soar Chapel Guest House in Beaufort, Ebbw Vale. What a luxurious place, family run by lovely people who made me feel so welcome. I highly recommend it if you're ever in Wales.

In the morning Trevor picked me up again and drove me to the site. He wished me good luck and I told him I would need it! I found everyone signing waiver documents and I finally realised there was no turning back. This was it and I was feeling very anxious because of fear of the unknown. What is Tough Mudder? It's not a marathon, it's not a race but it's a challenge, an unbelievably tough challenge. Deep down I knew I had the strength but I was off to tackle obstacles that were not even accessible to 'able bodied' people let alone a woman with almost zero trunk function  or use of her legs in a wheelchair.

We did a team warm up and headed to the start line, but before we even got there we had to climb over a small wall. The first obstacle was 'Kiss of Mud' where we had to crawl through mud with barbed wire just above our heads. I kissed a LOT of mud!

The next obstacle,'Glory Blades' involved climbing two walls that are inclined towards you. This is where the teamwork really began for me. Teamwork is the ability to work as a group towards a common vision, even if that vision becomes extremely blurry. My vision got blurrier after each obstacle, but the teamwork shone through everything.

'Arctic Enema' - whoever invented this one is a true sadist! You immerse your whole body in a trough of ice floating on top of freezing muddy water. As we approached this obstacle I was told I couldn't do it because there was no ramp. I reasoned with him and finally won through and completed it successfully with the help of my team. He obviously didn't realise we had the great  Olympic Gold medal winning swimmer, Mark Foster, in our team!

'Trench Warfare' was next and it makes you feel you are on a battlefield, and in a way, you are, except you can't see anything because it's completely dark. Chris, who was in front of me in the tunnel talked to me and gave words of encouragement, as well as encouraging himself , which again is part of teamwork. I took a lot of strain on my elbows as I slowly dragged my way forward. It made me realise my lack of trunk function can be a real hindrance in events like this one.

'Mud Mile', was it really just a mile because it seemed to go on forever! We went up and down muddy hills, me in my wheelchair that was thick with mud as my team helped to pull me along with ropes and I tried to steer so I didn't lose control of the chair. I remember going up a particularly steep hill with part of the team pulling whilst the other part pushed and struggled to keep the wheelchair upright. It was TOUGH! But we did it! As we struggled, Mike Wickens caught his ankle on the front of the wheelchair. We bound his ankle with duct tape until we reached the next medical help and the poor man had to have a few stitches when he returned home. Sorry Mike. Another member of our team, Jonathan Charles, pulled a leg muscle half way through but the two of them bravely soldiered on and finished the challenge. Somewhere along the way we also lost a piece of my front wheel, but it didn't hurt. Lewis French, an engineer at British Airways, patched up a repair using people's gloves. Amazing! What kept us all going was the water stations and the half a banana we were given.Heaven! As if we hadn't gone through enough with the mud and ice and water, the designers of the course devised 'Hero Carry'. This is where you have to carry a team mate a set distance. Our team really worked well here, with members pulling me with ropes as they also carried someone, whilst others pushed me from the back whilst also carrying someone, and I had someone on my lap as I also tried to push and steer my wheelchair. The power of team work really shone through here and I am so proud of myself and my team mates.

All along the way every person who was taking part were extremely supportive of each other, helping each other to overcome the obstacles. I remember going down a really steep and muddy hill and people from other teams joined our team to get me down, and back up the other side. It was truly inspiring to see so many people working together.

'Everest' - 15ft tall, 35ft wide, and almost vertical, and sometimes lubricated with water and vegetable oil to make getting up it even harder. Speed is vital to give you the impetus to ascend the obstacle. So how did I do it when I have no use of my legs so can't run?? After me everyone; TEAMWORK!
'Teamwork divides the task and multiplies the success'. My team formed a human ladder then I had to work myself upwards using their bodies for support, and my own upper body strength to climb higher and higher. Halfway up  I almost gave up but the realisation that we were so close to the finish line spurred me on, as well as thinking about why we were doing the challenge. The crowd around us, the other 'Mudders' were roaring us on and yelling words of encouragement, and ladies and gentlemen, they got me up Everest. We went through the 'Electroshock Therapy' and we were finally crossing the Finish line. I want to give my personal thanks to all my Team mates by naming them - The best team ever;

Chris James.
Jane Anthony.
Mike Wickens.
Lewis French.
Ed Barney.
Nick McKenzie.
Becky Lawson.
Steve Booker.
Mike Anthony.
Aoife Twomey.
Jonathan Charles.
Mark Foster.

And a HUGE thank you to all the 'Mudders' who helped along the way.

People ask me why did I choose to do such a crazy thing? Growing up with a disability in Africa wasn't easy, and it still isn't easy for the people who live with a disability in the developing countries of the world. We are raising funds, and awareness, for AbleChildAfrica to continue their projects that supports disabled children to access their rights and give them the best possible chance of fulfilling their potential. You can make a donation to AbleChildAfrica by texting "MUDD13" £5 to 70070, and you can find out more at; www.ablechildafrica.org 

http://www.itv.com/news/london/topic/tough-mudder/

You can also donate online by going to;https://mydonate.bt.com/events/acatoughmudder



I am not what happened to me, I am what I choose to become. Don't listen to 'you can't', show them 'you can'!!!!

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Sunday, 8 September 2013

Rising to the Challenge!

It ain't what they call me, it's what I choose to answer to!

It's already September, My son is back at school,  and the summer is going out with a whimper. Where has the time gone? I haven't had much of a racing season because of injury but now I'm back, feeling mentally strong. I have a lot of work to do to get back into shape and I feel very unfit at this moment in time. Watch this space though because I am determined to bounce back in style next season, stronger, fitter, and raring to chase fresh challenges.

Life is a roller coaster, and some people choose to ride it and some would choose not to. All I can tell you is whatever the ride you can close your eyes to things you don't want to see, but you can't close your heart to the things you don't want to feel. Let's say I wouldn't be doing some 'challenges' if I didn't understand what people with disabilities in Africa have to endure on a daily basis! I have been there, I have lived it and experienced the stigma and prejudices one has to face when you are a minority, when you are 'different', and when the society you live in labels you disabled and therefore useless. These people know they are being treated unfairly but they just have to carry on living and in most cases being denied the most basic human rights. As a woman who is differently able, I know it's not what these people have been through in their lives that defines who they are, it is purely how they get through it that will make them the people they are today and tomorrow. And yes, beautiful, strong and compassionate people do not just happen - they have to suffer first.

AbleChildAfrica is a relatively small charity yet it  does  so much in changing lives. Their sole purpose is to provide help, support, and encouragement to the differently abled young people of Africa and their families, and to promote the realisation of equal rights for them all. 

I discovered that when you know your value you stop selling yourself short, you stand tall and are never ashamed of who you are... and when those around you want to focus on disabilities, you remove the 'dis' and use all your abilities to rise above limitations and break boundaries... Ladies and gentlemen, I am going to attempt to complete the 'Tough Mudder' challenge 

www.itv.com/news/london/story/2013-08-28/fresh-challenge-for-paralympian/

  an extreme assault course that includes ice, fire and underground tunnels, to name but a few. Not to 'boast', but  I will be tackling the challenge in my wheelchair, and I fully intend to finish it, no matter how long it takes.. Yes! I know it's tough but not as tough compared to the challenges differently able people in Africa have to face everyday of their lives. PLEASE support me in this challenge to raise much needed funds for AbleChildAfrica and help support giving a new lease of life to people who deserve it. Just click on the link below.

www.ablechildafrica.org/what-you-can-do/tough-mudder/

or text 'MUDD13' followed by the amount you wish to donate (£1,2,3,,5,10) to 70070

To end on a different note. Last summer I donated a racing wheelchair to the DR Congo so  Dedeline could compete in the Paralympics. That very same chair is now helping a young man to hopefully compete in the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow next year. That is how a small donation can help to change lives. I will be watching next year and cheering him on.





























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Sunday, 4 August 2013

Burning Candle for mama.

I am lighting this candle in honour of my MUM.

Those we love go away only physically but the beautiful memories walk besides us and inside us every day.
Unheard, unseen, but very near.
Still loved, still missed and very dear.

I miss the touch of her dear hands, so gentle and kind.
I miss her smile, her laughter, her wise, kind and soothing words.

When I was rejected, mama held me securely in her arms - close to her bosom and sometimes strapped me securely on to her back.
I know she wanted me to be happy than be filled with tears of sadness and sorrow -
Mama taught me love, kindness, honesty ....
Mama taught me gratitude and said it was bad manners to grumble.

So I try my best to honour her memory -
Unheard, unseen but very near.
Still loved, still missed and very dear.
 (From me Anne Olympia Naliaka Wafula-Strike. In memory of my beloved, mother,Ruth Rosoline Nekesa Wafula)

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