My mother died in her early forties and I was her primary carer. Her life of suffering and death had a profound effect on me. I decided I wanted to spend my life working in a career which supported people like my mother. For me it was not just about the support, it was about the dignity and humanity, and the recognition people in care often lack these qualities.
My background was palliative care. I spent 15 years working with the sick and dying within the hospice movement. Over those years I had the great pleasure of meeting Mother Theresa of Calcutta on a number of occasions and indeed working with her. Her humanity inspired me so much and taught me what a great privilege it is to be able to offer a helping hand to someone in need.
Around 20 years ago, I decided I wanted to work with probably the most forgotten people in society — disabled people. That was when I began working for Leonard Cheshire Disability. I have primarily worked in day care settings for all of this time. Day care is an interesting concept as it is often assumed people access day care services to be cared for during the day. But I introduced enablement programs to ensure services like ours can offer ongoing rehabilitation and stimulation to the many people who use our services.
This was a pretty radical change of concept. Through the relationships we have developed with great friends of our service and grants we have received, we now offer enablement programmes to up to 70 people a day. This includes exercise, life skills, healthy eating, IT workshops and a whole host of other enabling and occupational activities. I love coming to work as much today as I did 20 years ago. I am eternally grateful for the opportunity the charity has given me to touch hearts and minds, and watch the development on a daily basis of disabled people.
I have recently developed an acute form of connective tissue disease, which is the disease my mother died from. Although this scares me for my own future, it does not prevent or get in the way of what I believe my purpose in life is. And that is enabling people. There is no point in living a life without giving back.
My hope for the future and this charity is that we will go from strength to strength. I would like us to grow to be one of the most recognised charities in this country, supporting disabled people with a strong emphasis on humanitarianism, empathy, compassion and focusing on the dignity of each individual.
I am eternally grateful for the opportunity the charity has given me to touch hearts and minds.