A Hertfordshire school had a discussion with a difference recently, when Colin Powell, a long-standing and active member of The British Polio Fellowship, addressed 400 pupils at Aldenham Senior School on 7th May about Polio and Post Polio Syndrome (PPS); Colin presented the school with packs of wild flower seeds on behalf of the charity, allowing pupils to participate in the ‘sowing the seeds of hope’ campaign in the charity’s 75th anniversary year.
Colin addressed the audience with a summary of his life with Polio, to 11 and 18 year old pupils, with the focus that Polio is more than just a word and that information and education are both essential in ensuring that Polio stays eradicated in the UK and never returns. A more important message than ever, given the latest warnings on Polio from the World Health Organisation (WHO).
“It was a pleasure to speak to the Aldenham pupils and I would like to thank the school for inviting me along,” said Colin. “In today’s social networking language, we now regularly use the phrase “it’s gone viral”, but in my childhood it had a totally different connotation where it would have referred to the epidemic level spread of the Polio virus in the United Kingdom. With Polio eradicated, it is easy for PPS to become a forgotten footnote to the story of Polio. Yet while over 120,000 people in the UK remain affected, it is an ongoing issue in need of serious attention.”
The discussion was followed by handing out 20 packets of specially selected wild flowers donated by Syngenta and Westland Horticulture to pupils, with the hope that the school can establish flower beds in remembrance of those with the late effects of Polio and PPS, thereby sowing the seeds of hope for the future.
“The aim of the seeds of hope campaign is threefold, “explained Colin. “ It teaches something about growth and the seasons and serves as a reminder to the next generation not to let Polio
return and to secure the help of our young people in our efforts to support those living with the late effects of Polio and PPS. Thirdly, events like these help The British Polio Fellowship raise the profile of its role, with the local community too, all of which makes it an incredibly positive activity all round.”
Colin has lived with Polio all his life since contracting the disease aged just six months. “I was young when I contracted Polio and while hopefully these children will never face this situation, it is important they know that disability can be overcome and that there is always hope,” added Colin. “I can do anything if I want to do it badly enough and I hope I passed that hope along to the pupils.”
Polio left Colin with paralysis in his legs, feet and spine and with respiratory problems, meaning he could only start school aged 11 once discharged from hospital. Despite being a wheelchair user, Colin has travelled the globe, despite this being like ‘planning a military operation’. Since 2010 Colin has lived with PPS himself, so he now uses a ventilator at night and requires in-flight oxygen on his travels.
“I would like to thank Colin for coming along and delivering a very informative presentation,” said Robert Collins, Head of 6th Form and Careers at Aldenham Senior School. “It is one thing to see Polio on the news but quite another to meet Colin in person. His personal account will live long in the memory of all of us who heard it and the flowers will be a more lasting legacy of his visit.”
This event was just the latest in a number of planned visits to those schools helping The British Polio Fellowship to Sow the Seeds of Hope. In April, QVC presenter Julia Roberts helped the charity sow the seeds at Christchurch School in Virginia Water Surrey and Colin is due to do more school talks of his own throughout the year.
The British Polio Fellowship is a charity dedicated to helping, supporting and empowering those in the UK living with the effects of Polio and PPS. For more details or information on The British Polio Fellowship, call 0800 043 1935, email at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the website at www.britishpolio.org.uk