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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