I was first introduced to Ann through our good friend Scott Rains, who is one of the most important people in the disability rights community, and also one of the most prolific “connectors” of people who can and should work together for the greater good. So, I introduced myself and began following her work, her words of wisdom and determination, and her amazing imagery. This gorgeous, uplifting, positive and supportive woman is a powerhouse and a force in the universe you will benefit from getting to know.
It is my pleasure to share with you my discussion and a deeper look into a woman who is working to make a difference in the world.
What brought you from Kenya to Great Britain?
I arrived in England in 2000 after being invited by the Physically Handicapped Association of Britain (PHAB) to give talks on what it was like living with a disability in Africa. I also had plans to record a single with the late Ian Dury, a polio survivor rock star, but he unfortunately passed away the day I flew from Kenya.
How is the healthcare there?
Healthcare has to be paid for by the individual, and there are not many people who can afford it so I would say there is a lot of room for improvement!
What do you feel could be improved in the healthcare system?
Healthcare needs to be totally free so it can be accessed by everyone, not just those who can afford it. All attitudinal barriers need to be broken down if we have to realize full Inclusion of the differently-abled (persons with disability) in society.
Have you had any serious complication due to your disability?
Only when I was a child and had to be in a plaster cast for months on end.
What about love. Have you experienced great romantic love?
Love is craved by most human beings. We want to be loved and we want to love too. Of course, apart from romantic love is the love I have for and from my son. Motherhood is my greatest achievement. My son is my pride and joy. He lights up my world every day and I am blessed to be his mother.
What have you learned about love in your journey thus far?
I’ve learned that love is not a straight road but that it has lots of bends and turns, but love, real love, can overcome any obstacle in its way.
What are some of the things you are currently working on improving in your personal life/journey.
I am working very hard to establish my own foundation, Olympia-Wafula Foundation (www.olympia-wafulafoundation.org) which aims to improve the quality of life for people with disabilities, especially in developing countries. I also continue to support other charities in various ways mainly as a fundraiser and an advocate. Some of the charities I support include: The British Polio, AbleChildAfrica, CBM UK, and Right To Play.
Work/Career Projects you are currently focused on achieving in the next 1-5 years
To me life is a trip, I survey the distance covered and I know am truly blessed. I would relish the opportunity to do more public speaking.
Personal goals over same period of time?
To continue to give my love and support to my family and friends and those I come across.
Do you feel most of your closest friends are athletes?
I wouldn’t say my closest friends are athletes but there are a lot of them I feel close to. I have close friends some who are very high profile yet so humble and genuine friends. I respect and care for my family and friends a lot. I never take any friendship for granted and there are some lovely people I know that have enriched my personality a great deal.
What are some of your favorite personal activities, other than sports?
I love music, films, and staying fit and healthy. I love to write a little bit. I cherish to support others – maybe because as a young girl growing up with a disability in Africa amidst all the stigma and prejudices, I got a lot of support from people who believe in me – my father is my hero.
Tell us about motherhood. How many children do you have, ages?
I have been blessed with one child. The most gorgeous son in the world 😉 and I call him my miracle child because doctors had told me I could never have children.
What has been the greatest personal challenge you have yet to overcome in your life? How did you face and overcome?
Life presents challenges every day and I do my best to overcome them. I suppose my biggest challenge was being pregnant, morning sickness for months on end, then giving birth, none of which was easy but God gave me the strength to overcome everything.
I realize athletics have been an important role in who you are and what you have become, but many women do not have this inclination. How do you develop self-esteem outside of sports?
I believe sport is a very valuable part of my life but the best way to have self-belief is to really love yourself and who you are because as much as we may be different, we are in charge of the quality of persons we would like to become.
What is your favorite food? Do you enjoy cooking?
My favorite food is ‘ugali’ and chicken with green vegetable. Ugali is stiff maize porridge from Kenya. I do enjoy cooking African food.
What is your guilty pleasure?
My guilty pleasure is my hot water bottle! England is a cold country for most of the year!
Your favorite beauty secret?
My beauty secret – well, self-worth and self-acceptance. I don’t try to be someone else. Definitely I love to feel sexy and appreciated but am also not ignorant that life can be cruel. A percentage of the human species will not think of a woman who is different such as myself to be deemed ‘beautiful’. I say beauty is skin deep and you are as beautiful as you feel. Love yourself, there’s only one of you. Keeping fit, healthy and trying to minimize stressful situations and company is good for the body”
Please provide some of your favorite quotes?
‘Disability doesn’t mean inability’ and another quote from my autobiography “In My Dreams I Dance” pg. 79~ ‘when you have a disability, knowing that you are not defined by it is the sweetest feeling’.
What is your view of how we can improve the lives of people with disabilities in Africa?
A difficult question but I would have to say don’t judge them on their disability but on their potential, and give support to the organizations, like mine, who are trying to improve their lives in a small way.
How can we help?
By giving what you can to those who need it most.
If anyone is interested in supporting the foundation to sponsor young people living with disabilities to access education and mobility, please email [email protected]
“Your perceived disability should not affect your ability to be fully integrated into society” Anne Wafula Strike www.annestrike.org
Twitter: @Anne_W_Strike, Facebook You can order a hard copy of Anne’s autobiography or get it on kindle: http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B0047T6Q9Y/ref=cm_sw_r_tw_awdl_9lJ2vb00C52CJ
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