Saturday 31 December 2011

Happy New Year 2012.

Well, here we are again at the end of yet another year but tomorrow is the start of a fresh year so it's a time to be positive.

Wouldn't it be great if we didn't let anything, or anyone, put us down in 2012 - if we know that the world loves us, we are valued and that's why we are here? So we should love life, be grateful, love ourselves, and let all that is full of love and compassion be ours! Have you ever received so much love that it changed your perception of the entire human race? Let us seek it.

I'm lucky to be here everyday to celebrate life and love deeply, so on this final day of the year I want to follow tradition and make a few resolutions;

I won't make promises that I won't keep.
I want to pay more attention to the small intuition that I have ignored in the past.
I want to continue to learn forgiveness more and more, for when we forgive we earn the key to rewriting our stories of success. Did you know that bearing a grudge wears us down so much?
I want to take more care with what I say to people for the tongue can hurt and the tongue can scar.
I want to love like I've never been hurt before.
I want to train even harder and enjoy my sport.

Life can be difficult and the trials of this life can test my obedience (to the resolutions and other things!) Oh please God, help me!

A Happy New Year 2012! May all your dreams come true.

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Saturday 24 December 2011

Christmas Special!!!

It's finally here and you can feel children's excitement in the air..... I really hope we all remember the true meaning of Christmas before it became commercialised. A friend complained that Santa only works one day a year - I wish his job contract included Africa. When I was growing up we were lucky if we got some new clothes on Christmas morning to wear to church. However, I do enjoy seeing people go the extra mile to make the ones they love feel special. I am really looking forward to spending Christmas with my son - it's always magical when he wakes up on Christmas morning and races to the front room. His eyes go straight to the presents wrapped under the tree - I am a blessed and happy mum when I see that smile on his face, and I share in his joy as he rips the paper off his presents.

The tradition here in England is that you have turkey for lunch but this year we have pardoned the turkey and I shall be cooking duck instead. My son, Tim, really wanted goose but we couldn't find one anywhere, not even in Marks and Spencer, so he asked for duck! I really hope it will be fine but whatever happens nothing can spoil the joy of seeing his face in the morning. Roll on Christmas!!!

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Monday 12 December 2011

Santa Is Dead!!!

Is now the winter of my discontent? Being of African origin I absolutely loathe the British winter! In Kenya the worst we get is the rainy seasons but here you get hurricane force winds, lashing freezing rain, hailstones and snow, and bitterly cold temperatures. As a wheelchair user its the hands that suffer most, and no matter how nicely dressed you are your hands get filthy and make you feel unclean. I leave a double trail wherever I go shopping. I could never get away with committing crimes because the police would easily follow my tracks.

Training is going well (despite the weather), and last weeks sessions were great. I rarely get a pat on the back from my coach, Ken, but last week he was pleased with me. Most people see this time of year as a time for relaxing but as for me I feel driven to improve so I will continue to work hard and maybe have Christmas Day off!

The Christmas tree is up and I realise how quickly my son,Tim, is growing up. Just last year he believed in Santa but yesterday he wrote his list and started it, 'Dear Santa (mum and dad)'. It was sweet when he believed in Santa but at least I don't have to go to the trouble of putting talc on the floor and 'Santa's footprints', or leave a drink and biscuits then eat them so he thought Santa had actually been. This time last year we were at my dads home and then on the beach on Christmas Day itself. It is sad that people seem to have forgotten the true meaning of Christmas and seem more interested in material things.

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Friday 2 December 2011

Too Many Disabled Children in Developing Countries Are Being Denied Their Rights

Anne Wafula Strike

Too Many Disabled Children in Developing Countries Are Being Denied Their Rights

On this UN International Day for Persons with Disabilities, I want to talk about education, how it helped me, and why it is integral to achieving equality for disabled people.

I know the quality of education I received has had a huge impact on my life. I was born in Mihu, Kenya, in 1969. I was a fit and healthy child before polio struck when I was two.

Superstitious villagers believed my family was cursed and were very cruel towards me following my partial recovery and restricted use of my legs, so we had to relocate to my father's military barracks in Nairobi. Unfortunately, this attitude towards disability is common in much of Africa.

When I was five years old, I was sent off to attend Joyland School for the Physically Handicapped, a Salvation Army institute. I loved being there, because it was a community of disabled children, but it was only when I went to secondary school that I was introduced to the 'real world.'

I attended a secondary school for able-bodied children, and as the school was not accessible, I had problems getting to class or even going to the toilet. I wanted to quit many times but my father would not let me, insisting that education was the magical key that would set me up for life. He was right, and this is the kind of encouragement that other children with disabilities need, if they are to stay in education.

After completing A-levels, I studied Education at Moi University in Kenya, graduating with first class honours. At the Moi University graduation ceremony, it is customary to climb the stairs to the stage to receive your award from the President, and with my disability, this was not possible. So, he had to come down the stairs specially, just to present my award to me - it was a moment that gave me great confidence.

After graduation I taught at Machakos Technical College in Eastern Kenya. When I was there, I did not want my students to see me as a person with disabilities, and I know that I achieved this. My previous education gave me the confidence to command attention and authority as a teacher.

I recently spoke about my life and education at an event in the House of Commons called 'An equal start for all: disability and education in low-income countries.' The event highlighted the difficulties that disabled children have growing up in developing countries, especially with regards to accessing education.

At the event, parliamentarians had the chance to hear from people like me who have had to fight prejudice and disadvantage due to our disabilities, about how a quality education can bring immeasurable benefits to our lives. It was also a chance for charities that campaign for disabled people to put pressure on the UK government to act, and put more effort into supporting education for disabled people in developing countries.

I believe that an education is the greatest thing that you can give to someone with a disability. I remember how I battled discrimination, and I am now a mother, teacher, author, and paralympic athlete. I had the opportunity to achieve all of these things because I was fortunate enough to receive a good education and was encouraged by my father to do the best that I could.

When I was growing up and even still today, I did not want sympathy, I wanted opportunity. I wanted to be given the opportunity to prove what I can do for the community, and I know this is what many other disabled people want as well.

But far too many disabled children are denied their rights - around 90% of disabled children in Africa do not go to school, and even UK government international development funds often ignore this terrible situation.

When given access to their fundamental rights, disabled people can achieve the equality that enables them to make vital contributions to society, improving their lives and the lives of others. Please join me in calling for more attention to the plight of disabled children who are excluded from school.

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Too Many Disabled Children in Developing Countries Are Being Denied Their Rights