Friday 12 October 2012

The Paralympic Roadshow.

This week I have been visiting Primary schools in Harlow as part of 'The Paralympic Road Show',  an initiative that has been launched by Essex County Council to build on the enthusiasm generated by the Paralympic Games this summer. I am working alongside Howard Nicholls,  who is the Essex Carrying the Flame Coordinator, and we are both promoting the Olympic/Paralympic values of, friendship, respect, excellence, equality, courage, determination and inspiration.

I have really enjoyed talking to children and teachers at Longwood Primary School, Church Langley Primary school, and Holy Cross Catholic Primary Academy, all in Harlow. I believe it is very important that we teach children respect, particularly for those people who have different abilities. I have made a conscious decision NOT to use the word 'disability' during my visits and instead I have replaced it with 'differently able'. I want the children to learn that life is about ability v ability and that we all have the ability to do our best to achieve our goals in life. All the activities we do with the children are designed to get them working in teams and to inspire self confidence and self respect.

I have to say I was totally overwhelmed during my visit to Church Langley when I saw a display the kids had produced about me! It was very humbling and it made my day, so thank you. I am looking forward to visiting more schools in the coming weeks.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Monday 8 October 2012

The Butterfly Experience.

Well, I'm finally back in training after a long rest and I was a bit shocked when I had to really wriggle my bum to fit into my Racing Chair! The other guys at Mark Hall Sport Centre thought it was hilarious! The first session was so hard and I really ached afterwards but I soon got back into my routine and it feels really good to be back. The only negative thing is the awful rain we are having just now but I guess that's just one of the drawbacks of winter training. I don't even want to think about the snow and ice that will inevitably follow.

On Saturday I was off on my travels again, heading for Southport as a guest speaker at the 41st Annual District 1220 Conference of the Rotarians.The theme of the conference was 'Inspire a Generation' so appropriate especially after the buzz of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. Many thanks to John and Susan Shipman for making all my travel arrangements and for being fantastic hosts for the duration of my stay. They met me at the station and we drove to the Ramada Hotel where I stayed on Saturday night. I had a beautiful view from the window of my room and it's only a shame I didn't find the time to roll along the riverbank.

After a quick shower I got dressed ready for the evening. Sue told me I would be picked from my room by 'James Bond' but when I opened my door there was only Sue standing there. I asked where 'Mr Bond' was and she told me he was holding the lift door open for me. We really laughed when I saw him in his Bond attire, gallantly waiting for us. We had a lovely time at the Reception and then had photographs taken before heading into dinner. Everyone was having a lovely time, drinking wine with their meal but I stuck firmly to my favourite, water! Afterwards everyone headed off to dance to a live band but I was so tired after my journey I declined and headed for an early night to prepare myself for my talk next day. I learnt that most of them had danced until the early hours but I don't know where they got the energy from! I only dance in my dreams.

On Sunday morning, after breakfast, I headed to the Southport Theatre to prepare myself for the talk ahead. I really enjoyed listening to some of the other speakers, especially Sandra Fong from Fiji, and the RIBI president,John Minhinick who spoke on the efforts of the Rotarians to eradicate polio. As I waited I worried about my power point presentation and what would I do if it failed to work. I decided I would just speak from my heart. Then it was my turn.

I have spoken in so many different places but for some reason this audience felt special.. I was nervous as I went on stage and started  showing my video. After that I started my  power point and the first slide has a quote,'Isn't life a beautiful mystery? Every second of it'. It also has a picture of a beautiful blue butterfly. I started my talk and a butterfly flew on stage. I didn't notice it at first but as I continued my talk it landed on the podium just as I was talking about my late mother. I told the audience,'Wow! I'm loving the butterfly. Where did it come from?' The audience also sighed with amazement.  It remained on stage with me until I had finished my talk. Afterwards, a few people asked me how I had managed to control the butterfly on stage, and Sue Shipman and a few other people mentioned how strange it was that the butterfly seemed to enter at the mention of my late mother. Well, as a born again Christian I am not superstitious, but it really was one of the weirdest things that has ever happened to me in front of a live audience. Anyway, it was a beautiful experience and I really felt honoured to have been invited.

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