HEMI Hearts

As always, I am looking forward to attending HEMI Hearts’ monthly session later today, along with my family.  It is a voluntary community group, founded and operated by parents living in the Derby area and was established to provide a support group for children and families living with hemiplegia, the same form of cerebral palsy I was born with.

HEMI Hearts provides an after school therapeutic play group, including access to specialist health professionals and giving families a chance to get together for a chat. They offer friendship, an ear to listen, a shoulder to lean on and a smile to celebrate achievements.

The group was set up 2011 following a donation from a parent’s employer and I was thrilled to be asked to become its Patron four years ago.

HEMI Hearts fundraises throughout the year to help subsidise the monthly groups, provide resources for therapy and play and fund family events.

In 2015 I was delighted to help arrange for members to be player escorts at the opening game of the Cerebral Palsy Football World Championships held at St George’s Park.  Preparations have now been made for the group to meet with the England Cerebral Palsy Squad at a training camp in a few weeks’ time 😊

For more information visit http://www.hemihearts.org.uk/


Rams in Kenya – A Very Humbling Experience

Since 2012 Derby County Community Trust (DCCT) in partnership with African Adventures has taken a group of volunteers over to Kenya to work schools in the Rhonda slum areas around Nakura, which has an estimated population of one million.

As a Trustee on DCCT’s Board I was keen to see at first hand the fantastic work which is being undertaken and so back in May I joined over 70 others participants who travelled to East Africa.

With such a large party of people we were divided into four teams based at different schools for the duration of our trip.  I was assigned to the Mama Kerry Academy.

We arrived at our accommodation, having been travelling for over 30 hours since saying farewell to our loved ones at Pride Park Stadium.  The next morning, following a good night’s sleep we were taken to our schools to learn what it was hoped we could achieve over the coming two weeks.

The welcome we received from the pupils was incredible, singing and dancing with huge smiles on their faces as we looked on and within a matter of moments we were swinging our hips too.

The key aims for our project team were to build a new kitchen and classroom as well as dig out a trench in order for pipes to be laid meaning running water being available at the school for the first time.

My first thought was that this seemed extremely ambitious, however very soon it became apparent that our group were fully focussed and that we simply could not let the pupils and staff down.

Over the days it was wonderful to see at first hand the progress which was been made and it was great to be helping to make a tangible difference to people’s lives.  Whilst I am certainly not a builder I assumed the role of labourer and found myself assisting the build team, spending a lot of time with a spade in my hand and pushing a wheelbarrow around the site.

During the second week we had a number of desks delivered for the new classroom and I took on responsibility for ensuring that they were sanded down and then painted in bright colours.

Aside from the manual work there was also opportunity to get to know the children and their teachers.  We provided them with a variety of different sporting equipment including badminton and tennis sets, along with a football, which proved to be the biggest hit of all with the pupils.

Many of the children were curious about why we were at the school and how life compares in the UK.  The younger children were also intrigued by the splint I wear on my leg due to being born with cerebral palsy.

It was great to spend time in the classrooms and read stories to the children who in turn attempted to teach me some words in Swahili.  I was also able to serve porridge on a number of occasions as a feeding programme is incorporated into the school day which includes breakfast and lunch.

On our penultimate day in school a ‘donations’ day was arranged whereby all of the pupils received a set of clothes, shoes, stationary and a cuddly toy.  These were items that the volunteers had brought with them and it was certainly an occasion which brought a tear to the eye.

We also carried out visits to the homes of some of the children and met with their parents, witnessing the cramped conditions the families reside in.

Back home I reflected on what had been a truly humbling experience.




International Day of Persons with Disabilities

Over 1 billion people in the world have some form of disability, that’s 1 in 7. It can affect all us at any time in our lives.

The annual observance of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities was proclaimed in 1992, by the United Nations General Assembly resolution 47/3.

It aims to promote the rights and well-being of persons with disabilities in all spheres of society and development, and to increase awareness of the situation of persons with disabilities in every aspect of political, social, economic and cultural life.

International Day of Persons with Disabilities is celebrated on 3rd December and the UN has announced that this year’s theme is Empowering persons with disabilities and ensuring inclusiveness and equality’.

Whilst trawling the web for more information about the plans for 2018 I came across www.purplespace.org

PurpleSpace is the world’s only networking and professional development hub for disabled employees, network and resource group leaders and allies from all sectors and trades .  It has developed the #PurpleLightUp movement which it believes will help to unify a global call to action.

In 2017 major corporations and government buildings in countries across the world lit up purple or flew a purple flag to celebrate the power of disabled people across the world.  This year the aim is to go ‘Bigger, Bolder & Brighter’.  To that end organisations are invited to pledge on how they will be joining #PurpleLightUp

This may be to use social media to celebrate its own ‘purple’ disabled employees and the positive impact they have in the workplace, or perhaps holding a disability awareness event and inviting attendees to add a little purple in their attire.  For those more ambitious organisations, they could even illuminate their buildings in the colour purple.

True inclusion comes from a world that accepts all human difference, where people demand their voices to be heard.

Be part of the purple revolution.


Hate Crime Awareness Week

This week – 13th to 20th October is National Hate Crime Awareness Week and as a result my Twitter feed has been full of tweets and retweets about Hate Crime. Disturbingly there is a year on year upwards trend of such crimes being reported.
Hate crimes are any crimes that are targeted at a person because of hostility or prejudice towards that person’s:

· disability

· race or ethnicity

· religion or belief

· sexual orientation

· transgender identity

Today I had the pleasure of attending a ‘Spectrum of Hate’ event at a local school which had been organised by Derby Homes, in conjunction with Derby City Council and Derbyshire Police.

Year 8 pupils had the opportunity discuss the different forms of hate crime with people who have ‘lived’ experiences of discrimination, including myself. I was born with cerebral palsy and spent much of my teenage years being verbally and physically abused by my peers simply because I was different.

There was lots of lively discussions and the children were particularly surprised that only around 16% of people living with a disability were born with it.

We talked about the origins of the derogatory term “spaz” and why we should embrace differences, after all it is possible for anyone to find themselves disabled at any time.
As it happens to be Invisible Disabilities Week, we also talked about the many hidden disabilities including autism, ADHD, diabetes and heart conditions to name but a few.

I thoroughly enjoyed the event and was hearted when one of the children came up to me afterwards to say that having listened to my experiences “referring to someone as a ‘spaz’ doesn’t seem so funny now” …


#NHCAW #WeStandTogether #NoPlaceForHate #SpreadLoveNotHate #No2Hate


Hate Crime