The last month has been a whirlwind of activity, from my initial suspicion when I received the e-mail congratulating me on being awarded a Tributes Excellence award for 2015, culminating in the awards banquet two nights ago.
You must understand the reasons for my initial suspicion – the mail I received was through my website, was related to an award that I had never heard of, was from someone whose name I didn’t recognise, and a few speaking friends had recently received fairly similar scams. So I was somewhat suspicious, as most people would have been. However, after some investigation, not only did the whole thing turn out to be legitimate, but it also turned out that the award put me back into contact with someone I had known when I was studying at the university of KwaZulu Natal, back in the days before I lost my sight.
To explain the whole thing would take far more than just a single post, but perhaps a little background might be of help: the Tributes excellence Awards are awards that are bestowed annually to women with disabilities who are recognised as having excelled in their fields. The list of previous recipients numbers some truly incredible women – to find out the calibre of women who have been recognised, you can take a look at the Tributes website: www.tributessa.co.za
And so, we, the 2015 Tributes Excellence recipients, and our traveling companions, spent a few days in Mangaung (or Bloemfontein, for those of you who know it by that name), being treated to a number of events, experiences and celebrations, courtesy of the Mangaung Municipality. I found the cultural tour of Mangaung of particular interest with my background and love of history, and was moved by our visit to Amelia House, a home for children with severe Cerebral Palsy.
The Tributes Award Ceremony was quite an event, with several government dignitaries from local and national government in attendance, and an audience of around 400 people.
But for me the most lasting impression of the Tributes Excellence 2015 experience will remain the relationships I built with the 12 amazing women who were honoured as this year’s Tributes Excellence award recipients. I was impressed, humbled, motivated, amazed and inspired by the passion and dedication shown by each of the women who were recognised, each of whom is playing a role in making Southern Africa a better place for those who are differently-abled.
My second Casual Day interview was with Radio Cape Pulpit 729 AM today.. Only this time it was a pre-recorded interview and, right now, I’m not sure when it is going to be aired, though definitely before Casual Day on 4 September.
This time I was not alone, as my amazing fellow Cape Town Casual Day Ambassador, Simone Botha, who is a hearing impaired professional ballerina, was also interviewed.
Here’s something you may not know: a person who is hearing impaired and uses a cochlea implant to assist them in hearing, generally will do an in-studio interview as a telephone interview poses challenges.
The previous interview I did focussed on Casual Day, the positive change that the Casual Day event has on changing lives of persons living with a disability, and on where people could get their Casual Day stickers. This time, it felt to me like the focus was on me- and what it was like living without sight… and that made me a whole lot more nervous – I’m not sure if that was a hangover from my previous reticence to tell my own story, or whether I was merely startled as I had assumed the focus would be on Casual Day, but that’s how I felt!
Still, I found myself enjoying the experience of this interview, and especially of sharing the experience with Simone – though we were interviewed separately, Simone sat in on my interview and we took advantage of the opportunity to get some photos.
I’m loving the time I’m spending as a Casual Day Goodwill Ambassador, and doing my small bit to make a difference!
We couldn’t have planned it better if we’d tried – the day I was featured in the People’s Post newspaper, in the Southern Suburbs of Cape Town, was also the day I was scheduled to do my first Casual Day media interview, on Radio CCFM 107.5, in Muizenberg.
Thanks to Andrea Vinassa, our PR Champ at the Casual Day office, I was well briefed on what types of questions I might be asked, and she gave me all the salient facts that I would need to sound like a great ambassador during the interview.
Fortunately I had the chance to chat to the interviewer for a few minutes before we went on air so I had a good idea of what to expect… although, knowing what to expect and being efficiently prepped only helps with part of the nerves!
But, as I always say, it is those nerves that keep me focussing on what I’m doing and saying… it’s only when I’m not nervous that I mess up!
In general, I felt the interview went well – thanks in no small part to the preparation given to me by Andrea, and to the experience of unprepared speaking that I have gained as a member of Toastmasters International –I am living proof of the fact that Toastmasters works!
If you’d like to listen to the interview, you can do so below.
Have you ever been in a phase when it suddenly feels like lots of things start happening at the same time?
There I was, busy with my brand new writing project today when I noticed I had received an e-mail… from the PRO of Casual Day inviting me to be one of their Goodwill Ambassadors for 2015. I’m really excited about this opportunity as I believe it will enable me to use my blindness to make a real difference in the lives of others living with a disability.
For those of you who don’t know about Casual Day, it is South Africa’s biggest fundraising event for persons with disabilities that is held every year, usually on the first Friday in September. Casual Day raises funds that support a spectrum of various disabilities, reaching some 500 organisations that support those living with disability.
The role of a Casual Day Goodwill Ambassador is to raise awareness of the positive impact that Casual Day makes on the lives of persons living with a disability, and to increase Casual Day sticker sales, thus making a real contribution. The role often includes radio and TV interviews promoting Casual Day… so who knows where it will take me…
If you’d like to know more, you can check out the Casual Day website at www.casualday.co.za
It is hard to believe that a year ago I started selling my illustrated children’s books, The Adventures of Missy Mouse, as a way of raising awareness of the capabilities of persons living with a visual impairment. It’s been an amazing journey so far and the response to the books has been exciting – there is very little that feels as rewarding as getting feedback from a child who has enjoyed reading the books I’ve written, or hearing from parents or grandparents about how much the children in their families have been enjoying the stories.
PS You can order the books through the website if you live in South Africa, or through amazon.com if ordering from elsewhere in the world.