It was our AGM this week and we had a good turnout. Thanks in particular to our president Lord Baden Powell and our patrons The High Sheriff and The Bishop of Dorking for making time in their busy schedules to attend.
As well as the business part of the meeting, we had great talks from two young people who have both had very challenging life histories and have come through shining, a inspiration to us all. We were very grateful to them talking at our AGM. Here is a bit about their histories.
Shannon had a difficult start from a young age – her mother had a mental breakdown and was absent from home for months on end. Her father could not cope with parenting Shannon and her younger brother. Shannon was expelled from school and joined a gang at the age of 14, getting into lots of trouble with police and authorities. Later, she got a new boyfriend who was not in the gang and initially seemed nice, but later became violent after she got pregnant. Then 3 months after giving birth, Shannon’s brother died in a car crash. Shannon developed extreme depression; however, after calling the police 13 times, she eventually found the strength to send her partner to prison.
Shannon found out about the charity called Straight Talking and applied for a job as a peer educator. She was really nervous to start with, but they encouraged her to develop confidence and she has since developed many skills not only for work but for life as well. She has been promoted twice. Her life has improved massively and she is a much better and stronger person - she knows her worth and believes that she can achieve almost anything she wants to in life.
Our other speaker, Dan Eley, had a very different set of personal challenges. He worked as a charity worker with impoverished children in Latin America for two years before a diving accident in the Colombian Amazon left him paralysed from the chest down two years ago. Dan spent a year in hospital, fighting for his life and facing up to the enormous emotional and physical challenges of being severely paralysed. During these difficult times he had the opportunity to meet other people with similar disabilities who had overcome extreme adversity to go on and achieve great things in life. This inspired him to pursue his dream of starting the Dan Eley Foundation to deliver apprenticeship-style training schemes for children living in poverty in Colombia and Latin America.
Since its inception in 2012 the Foundation has funded and implemented three six-month apprenticeship training courses in conjunction with a partner charity in Colombia and is currently in the process of funding its fourth. Despite being in a wheelchair, Dan travels to Colombia twice a year to interview candidates for the course, visit graduates in the work place and help run clinics in the slums. The foundation also runs schemes for young people in Surrey.
Both Shannon and Dan have dug deep and found incredible inner strength to overcome their challenges. They have shown amazing bravery in the face of adversity. And again they have shown bravery in sharing their challenges with the world, talking openly about their difficulties as well as their triumphs. They are an example to us all not to put up with the status quo. My challenge to you this week is a little different. Imagine that you have the same levels of bravery as Shannon and Dan. Imagine that you have the confidence to speak out about something that you normally keep quiet about or make a major change in your life to become happier. What would it be?