Yesterday I was invited to be the main guest at the,'End Polio Now' Campaign organised by Chelmsford Rotary Club. It was a great event and was very well attended, with 500 hundred people there. It was held at the Chelmsford Civic Theatre. Let me give a brief explanation of what the campaign is all about.
It was instigated by Bill and Melinda Gates, and because they are both Rotarians they invited 34,000 Rotary Clubs around the world to raise funds to help to eradicate polio. The campaign has been a hot one and and a great deal of money has been raised to vaccinate children in those countries of the world blighted by this awful disease. Yesterday as I took my place on the stage I felt very humble as a polio survivor who has continued to lead a very meaningful life - surviving polio is great, but even greater is vaccinating children so they don't contract the virus in the first place. I think my short speech went down well.
When I contracted polio as a small child in Kenya the villagers didn't have any idea what it was so calling it 'witchcraft' was the easiest option because that was something they could explain. As I grew up callipers and crutches were the standard solution to the immobility caused by polio so that is what I had to use to get around. 'Walking' in this way , as far as I knew, there was no one whose footsteps I could strive to follow in but I was determined not to let anything stand in my way of living a full and happy life. When I moved to the UK I discarded my callipers and crutches, not without some regret because I have always had a love/hate relationship with them. They have been as much a part of me as my skinny, sexy legs since I was four years old. They have caused me a great deal of pain and discomfort, but I respect them because they have got me to a lot of places and allowed me to do a lot of things that I wouldn't otherwise have been able to do. Using a wheelchair makes my body feel so light without all those steel and leather encumbrances. However, sometimes, when I want to be six feet tall,and sexy,I put on my callipers and polio boots and stand up on my crutches just to remind myself of how life used to be. I know that I will never forget them for as long as I live. When you have a disability, knowing that you are not defined by it is the sweetest feeling! It doesn't matter how the rest of the world looks at me because I KNOW I may never get a seat on the board because I'm in the WRONG chair but I also KNOW I'm intelligent, compassionate, driven, and still very sexy!
'Humour can break down barriers and melt prejudices'.('In My Dreams I Dance' p.78).
To finish on a sad note I was upset to hear of the death of Whitney Houston. Dying on our own is not what most of us would want. What are friends, family and relatives for but hey, who are we to judge others? Growing up in Kenya as a young teenager I used to try and copy her hairstyles. R.I.P.
Labels: 'End Polio Now', Bill Gates, callipers, Chelmsford Civic Theatre, Chelmsford Rotary Club, crutches, intelligent, Kenya, polio, polio boots, sexy, skinny legs, vaccination, Whitney Houston