Sunday 21 February 2010

Disability Empowerment Association Launched.

It's been months in the planning but yesterday we finally launched our new charity, Disabled Empowerment Association, at Passmores School in Harlow. In attendance were; Mrs Kezia Obama(stepmum to USA President Obama), Harlow MP Bill Rammell, the Lord Lieutenant of Essex, Lord Petre, Edna Stevens,chair of Harlow Council, Robert Halfon, Conservative candidate, and local Councillor, Tony Hall. There were about two hundred people present who thoroughly enjoyed the entertainment provided by; Footwork Dance School(Indian dance),Efua Academy(African dance and drums), Makin' Steps Performing Arts(Hip hop dance), and Dance 21, for me the stars of the evening. They were fantastic, especially when they danced to songs from 'Grease'. Music was provided by Adam Amor, superb saxophonist and very good friend, Noah Keya, and DJ Lopo T. I've been very stressed out over the past few weeks trying to set the whole event up but the end result made it all worthwhile. Thanks to everyone involved, especially our Chairman, Solomon Mugondi who was MC.

Now the hard work really starts as we try to get the funding to run classes in Art, Dance, Music, IT, Creative Writing and Sport. I will have to balance my sporting activities with work for the charity but I will do it because I relish a challenge. Bring it on! Can we make it a successful organisation, YES WE CAN!!

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Tuesday 16 February 2010

The Red Arrows.

Phew! Training has been going well but the poor weather has meant more gym work and sessions on the rollers. It's been tough but I'm determined to do well this season so I'm really pushing myself hard to prepare for my first race of the season at Silverwood next month.

Training apart I had the great privilege of being invited to meet the Red Arrows so I set off with my husband Norman and son Tim on Sunday morning. The journey didn't get off to a very good start because there was a replacement bus service from Harlow to Stanstead due to the never ending engineering works that seem to happen every weekend. I couldn't get on the coach so the staff at Harlow had to order a taxi to take me on the first part of my journey. We had to wait almost an hour at Stanstead before catching the train to Peterborough but the station staff were brilliant and really helpful. We had breakfast in the airport terminal before returning down to the train station where a ramp was waiting to get me on the train and I was put in a lovely, spacious wheelchair space.

How different was our experience at Peterborough! We had to wait an hour here as well but the station staff were their usual grumpy and rude selves. They left us to our own devices and we managed to find a space in the waiting room. We had to catch a train to Newark Northgate and when it arrived the grumpy staff member told us to wait with him, then made us hurry along the platform because he had been standing in the wrong place. There was no wheelchair space available so we were jammed into a very crowded area just inside the door, being told not to worry because it was only a 30 minute journey! The only consolation was that I was glad to leave the rude Peterborough staff behind. I have travelled through that station many times over the past 10 years and my experience has always been a negative one. They have no idea how to deal with disabled people and I can easily vote them the worst station staff in England!

At Newark we had to wait another twenty minutes in the freezing cold but at least the staff there were friendly and helpful and we completed the last stage of our journey to Lincoln with no problems.

We had decided to treat ourselves and stayed in a 'posh' hotel next to the cathedral. We had a quick look around but it was pouring down with rain and none of the restaurants near us had wheelchair access. We had a late lunch in one that my husband had to haul me up a step to get into but the food was nice so it was okay. Mind you, Lincoln is very hilly so we were very limited in our travels.

We had dinner in the hotel which was lovely then turned in for an early night after watching a bit of tv.

We had a delicious breakfast of fresh Lincolnshire produce and it was lovely to taste real fresh food for a change.

It was snowing when we got into our taxi for the short ride out to RAF Scampton where the Red Arrows are based. We had a brilliant time and were treated like royalty. An engineer took us into the hangar and explained everything about the planes and how they work. Then we went to the crew briefing where the Squadron Commander explained what the crew would be doing that morning. It was fascinating stuff and Tim was really enjoying it all.

We went outside and watched the planes taking off before being driven to the control tower where we watched the Arrows go through their routine. It was excellent,breathtaking stuff, and we took loads of photo's. We then had our photo taken beside the plane with the crew when the planes had landed before going back inside to watch the crew being debriefed.

We had an excellent lunch of chicken curry and the crew mixed with their visitors, signed autographs and posed for pictures. They are lovely people and Tim was thrilled with his autographed poster and toy plane. We all had a great time and I would like to say a huge thank you to everyone involved for giving us such a memorable experience.

The journey home was okay, apart from at Peterborough where we had to change and a staff member just ointed at the platform we needed and walked off, leaving Norman to push me up and down the steep ramps with me having to balance our luggage on my knees. However, even their ignorance couldn't detract from a great day that we'll never forget.

Labels: , , , , , , , ,

Tuesday 2 February 2010

Team Essex Ambassador Awards.

Last night I attended the awards ceremony at the Radisson Blu Hotel at Stanstead Airport where I was delighted to accept my award from Team Essex for the second successive year. I felt really proud when my name was announced and I went up onto the stage to receive my cheque. It was also great to see three residents of Harlow being honoured; Faith Pitman, Judo, James Huckle, Shooting, and myself. Harlow certainly excels when it comes to producing sporting talent.

It was a lovely event and the buffet was superb, a delicious blend of hot and cold, and I really enjoyed it. Also, there was beautiful music provided by the Essex Youth String Quartet. It was great to get dressed up and mix with some lovely, talented people.

Labels: , , , ,

Monday 1 February 2010

Canal Boat Project

Yesterday I had a rest day from training and took the opportunity to take a leisurely cruise on the canal in 'Stort Daybreak', the boat I launched a few years back that began my association with the Harlow Canal Boat Project. Its a charity I'm very close to and try to support as much as I can because it allows people with a disability to enjoy our wonderful network of canals in specially adapted wheelchair accessible barges.

I went along with my niece Sylvia, my son Tim and two of his friends, Ben and Daniel, and we were joined on board by Robert Halfon and his girlfriend, the Project Co-Ordinator Doreen Goodall and her husband, and Mark, a wheelchair shooter. Our skipper was Tom Bilbow,first mate Les Hunt and Michael Motts was the crewman. It was lovely to be in such mixed company and we all had a great time as the barge crunched its way through the frozen over canal. Tim and his friends had a great time helping the crew to work the locks and got a lovely certificate each for their efforts. Mind you, I felt like I was on the 'Titanic' and was on the lookout for icebergs! Thank goodness there weren't any. We had a lovely lunch at Parndon Mill before returning to base. It was a lovely day out and many thanks to Doreen for arranging it and the crew for making our journey a safe one.

Labels: , , , , , , , ,