Sunday, 22 June 2014

From Mud Hut to MBE!!!

It's not everyday that your name appears in the London Gazette. It only happens when you have the great privilege of being named in the Queen's Birthday Honours List when you receive an award. I got an M.B.E last Saturday, 14th June, 2014, and to say I feel deeply honoured would be an understatement. I still can't believe it! I found out over a month ago when I received a letter from the Cabinet Office asking me if I would accept the award. I had to ask if he thought it was really me they meant to address the letter to. It was real. Honestly trying to keep such a secret was really, really hard. I didn't even tell my son Tim in case he told his friends and it leaked out. Anyway, I am so proud and can't wait for the official ceremony to have it presented to me. That will be a day to remembe r for ever! It just goes to show that even someone from a humble background like my own can achieve. I am blessed!!

Last week the British Polio Fellowship held their road show in London and I did a session on fitness for wheelchair users and others. It went down well and it was nice to see the enthusiasm of the audience. I really appreciate my role as an ambassador for  the BPF and to spread the message about polio and the people who have survived it, 120,000 in the UK alone. A lot of that number still suffer from Post Polio Syndrome and the late effects of polio, and there is a lot needs to be done to give them the help and support they need. Imagine how many people in the world are suffering in countries where ignorance is rife? My main message is a very simple one - END POLIO NOW!

I also spent an evening in the Houses of Parliament as guest speaker for one of the charities I support, RESULTS UK, a great project that lobbies our MPs to try and end world poverty. Other speakers included; Aaron Oxley, executive director of RESULTS UK, Annette Brooke MP, and Mark Dybul, director, Global Fund to fight AIDS,TB, and Malaria. I spoke about the challenges facing children with disabilities and other marginalised groups in developing countries, e.g the fact that children with disabilities are more likely to be out of school than any other group of children, the barriers created by discrimination and the lack of properly trained teachers and accessible schools.

         "It's a huge honour and blessing to be named in Her Majesty's Birthday Honours to be a Member Of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (Mbe) for services to disability sport and charity work This recognition is not just for me but for all of us especially those that have given me opportunities to give back to society."

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Sunday, 8 June 2014

Around the World in ..... 6 Days!!!

Jules Verne once wrote a book called,'Around the World in 80 Days'. Well, I've just done it in 6! Let me tell you how it happened.

On Friday 31st may, I was invited to attend a breakfast meeting with Sir Emeka Offor by Rotary International  and amongst the organizers were Judith Diment  and Nayan Patel who was particularly so keen for me to participate at the meeting. Sir Emeka is Rotary's Polio Ambassador in Nigeria and is totally committed to eradicating polio in Nigeria. I am not normally an early morning person but on this occasion I went along because I too want to see polio totally eradicated from the whole world and I was interested to hear what is being done. Also, as an Ambassador myself for the British Polio Fellowship I am always keen to hear the experiences of others. I spoke briefly about my own experience then we had a frank exchange of views and ideas. It was a very interesting meeting and I was glad I had made the effort to attend. I must admit my enthusiasm for another breakfast meeting the next day was full of curiosity when the invitation was given, but after discussing with Norman about looking after our son Tim when I returned home he said I should go because he understands my passion on and interest in any matters relating to polio. Well, he was right but not even in my wildest dreams could I ever have imagined what did happen. Sir Emeka invited me along with Manoj Soma and Gautam Lewis, who in my opinion is a encyclopaedia on crutches - as his special guests to attend the 105th Rotary International convention in Australia. I said I would love to. When is it? I was expecting him to say in a few weeks time but instead he said we would fly out with British Airways at 9.30 that night! Wow! I phoned Norman to ask him if I could go and he gave me his full support so I headed back to Harlow to pack.

After rushing to pack a few things I left again at 2.30pm saying a tearful farewell to my sweetheart son Tim, but he seemed more interested in playing with his mates so off I went. I've been to Australia once before so I knew I was in for a long flight. The crew on the plane were fantastic and did everything they could to make my journey a comfortable one. We had a brief stopover in Singapore and finally arrived in Sydney on Monday morning and were driven to our hotel, Holiday Inn in Old Harbour. I was totally exhausted but very excited had time to refresh and off we went to Sydney Olympic park to the rotary house of Friendship to view different stalls and meet Rotarians from all over the World. 

On Tuesday we went to the conference in the Olympic Park and I spoke at a breakfast meeting which was so humbling to be in the company of main donors of polio eradication. A bit overwhelming. It was nice to meet up again with Ade Adepitan, who shared his experience as a polio survivo then  Sir Emeka was given the opportunity to stand on the podium and make a special announcement - Yes, ladies and gentlemen he donated $ One million towards the eradication of Polio. Now this was overwhelming! . I also met a lot of Rotarians I've met down the years in my role as a public speaker spreading awareness of polio and related issues such as the late effects of polio and PPS (post polio sydrome)  that most polio survivors are struggling with. Again, that evening  I fell into bed exhausted but very happy. I have to admit I wasn't too happy when Norman and Tim rang to see how I was but he's very understanding and didn't take offence at my snappy response- he's used to it.

On Wednesday we paid a visit to the Rotary house of Friendship  and wandered around the numerous displays and stands. I was particularly intrigued by one that had an actual iron lung, something we never had in Kenya. I was also excited to see the End  Polio Now Torch that is due to go around the whole world. I can't wait to carry it when it arrives here in the UK. I had the immense privilege of carrying the Paralympic Torch in 2012 as a Paralympian but I will be even more proud to carry the Polio Torch because it is symbolic of the total eradication of polio from our world. Can't wait.


Most evenings on this amazing visit to Sydney, Sir Emeka did not wait  for us to be friendly - he showed us how by inviting us as a group to share dinner with himself and his outstanding staff. Sir Emeka is rich in love and generosity and he lives by example and his deeds clearly show that there is no exercise better for the heart than reaching down and lifting people up and creating opportunities to enrich lives! I definitely would like to learn more from this man by the grace of God, how he does it - I suppose there isn't a fomula! 
 Thursday we began the long flight home and I finally got back home on Friday morning. The journey of a lifetime. I will use this blog to say a HUGE thank you to Sir Emeka Offor and his staff  both at Chrome Group and Sir Emeka Offor Foundation for providing me with the opportunity and I am really looking forward to working with them again in the near future.

So, jet lagged and back to reality. A busy week lies ahead. Speaking in the House of Commons on Tuesday, then doing a talk on fitness for the British polio Fellowship on Thursday.I am not rich in monetary terms but God is good to me and I thank him for all he lets me do and the great people He brings my way ...
And to sum up this blog let us remind our selves of the need to eradicate polio and the support the polio survivors who struggle with the late effects of the disease need!
Kindness is a language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.
Wherever there is a human being,there is an opportunity for a kindness.
Instead of waiting for people to be friendly, show them how.

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Wednesday, 14 May 2014

WoMentoring Programme

I believe inspiration comes from looking at everything in a positive way. You only have to open your eyes to be inspired. You also need to make peace with yourself and my secret is to value my imperfections as well as my perfections. Once you do this life becomes worth living..

I haven't trained much due to external commitments but I have made a promise to myself to create the time to get back to the gym and back on the road. I haven't lost my love for wheelchair racing but I have been guilty of putting it into the background as I concentrate on other things. I have been very encouraged by comments from fellow racers saying they miss my presence at competitions so watch this space!

Last week I had the great privilege of spending time in beautiful  Vienna, Austria with a lot of truly inspirational and amazing women. I have been asked to be one of the mentors by the European Paralympic Committee, in conjunction with the International Paralympic Committee and the Agitos Foundation. The 'Womentoring Programme' is a pilot initiative that aims to have women mentoring women in sport, hopefully helping them to improve and achieve in various ways. We stayed in the Marriott Hotel in Vienna and I was amazed at the luxurious room I was given. It was lovely, but it didn't stop me missing my son.

As a Mentor I will be on hand to offer my support and encouragement to my Mentee in the hope she can make progress in her chosen field. I also hope to challenge her to move beyond her comfort zone. I am very excited by this opportunity because it empowers women and helps them to improve their leadership skills. I firmly believe we need more women in leadership roles in all areas of society and I'm really looking forward to learning more about how to be a good leader. I firmly believe in never giving up. You must use failure as a spur to greater things, and as the old saying goes;'If at first you don't succeed, try try again'. When you make the effort you can achieve your goals. A successful woman is one who wakes up each day and determines to make progress no matter what rejections and negativity they may experience. Tomorrow is another day!

It was a genuine pleasure for me to meet so many great women, Maria Rauch - Kallat who has been a minister in the Austrian government and so full of wisdom of empowerment, Amanda Bennett, Tine Rindum - Teilman, and great athletes such as Sylvana Mastre and Gaizem Girismen, to name just a few. We all learned and shared our knowledge and experience of issues such as gender equality, women in sport, thinking tactically to enable change and the presentation of good practice. I came away full of new knowledge and a determination to put it into practice in my new role.

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Friday, 18 April 2014

Blinded by Science!

It's that time of year when most people wear smiles on their faces in this part of the world - a bit of sunshine and warm weather really seems to cheer people up. It's lovely to be able to wheel around town and not freeze almost to death! Mind you, I say 'wheel' but I really struggle in this loan wheelchair and can't wait to get my own chair in the next few weeks. That really will put a smile on my face.

Last week I paid a visit to 'Your World Healthcare' in London. They have been wonderfully supportive to my charity and myself so I popped in to say a big thank you. Whilst I was there I learned a group of them are going to tackle 'Tough Mudder' on April 26th to raise money for community groups. Having completed the same course last year I gave them three bits of advice; 1). It is NOT a race. 2). Teamwork is vital. 3). Please get across the finish line because the feeling of having really achieved something is a wonderful experience. I could not have done it without the incredible support of my team from AbleChildAfrica and it was an experience I shall always be proud of.

This week I was invited by the Church of Scotland to participate in the Edinburgh International Science Festival. I was there to debate some very serious issues, such as,'Do sport and science really mix'? and,'Can the use of technology make sport a truly level playing field'? This is the year of the Commonwealth Games to be held in Glasgow and the audience based debate saw me on a panel with Rugby star Scott Hastings, Dr.Grant Jarvie, and the moderator was the great sports journalist Graham Speirs. We explored the benefits, problems and ethical questions that arise from the use of technological advances in competitive sport. I was really impressed when Scott Hastings said that in his day he played sport for the love of it and not for fame or money! That is exactly why I took part in competitive wheelchair racing but it seems that for many people these days money rules everything and people will go to any lengths to win, even damaging their bodies by using drugs. Anyway, I enjoyed the debate and would really like the opportunity to air my own views more often. Thanks for inviting me!

Today is Good Friday, the day Jesus gave his life to help save humanity. I watched a programme on BBC1, 'The Great North Passion', which came live from Norman's home town, South Shields.  I remember him once saying to me that a while ago people valued and embraced Christianity and religion as whole more than they do these days, and today, as I watched this programme, I thought to myself .... 'there would have been a lot more people present because people were a lot more religious'. I think it's really sad that people in general seem to have lost their faith. I feel certain the world would be a lot happier place if they found it again! 


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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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