Since winning my national 2016 Dementia Friendly award I have continued with the same drive and passion in raising awareness and inspiring action across the city of Exeter.
As a Dementia Friends Champion and Lead of the Exeter Dementia Action Alliance the transformation in perceptions is beginning to take shape. As we know change is tough but being open is a key starting point. Exeter as a busy, vibrant community has embraced the vision in working towards a dementia friendly city with open arms.
I am certainly not super woman and at times have genuinely struggled, juggling work, being a mum, following my passion in dementia and working towards the completion of my BSc in Health & Social care through the Open University (which I'm delighted to share I completed last month!).
However I continue enthusiastically to deliver regular Dementia Friends sessions which have now equated to 1310 individuals. These sessions have ranged in diversity and venue from GP practices, supermarkets, coffee shops, Beijing Airport (when I trekked the Great Wall of China) and more recently a floor session for South West yoga teachers at their bi-annual festival.
I enjoy presenting my quarterly community radio show on Phonic FM ‘Living better with dementia’ offering a platform for those living with dementia to share their personal stories and experiences as well as innovators the space to contribute with their new and existing initiatives.
The Dementia Friends initiative has been pivotal in sparking interest in local organisations and empowering commitment to take action and do more. To date the Exeter Dementia Action Alliance has received a commitment from 58 organisations. This really is tremendous and I feel so very fortunate to have been such a huge part of this developing work.
What I have discovered more recently is the impact and power of collaboration and partnership and how together we can achieve fresh perspectives and ideas and learn so much from one another.
Dementia as a condition permeates so much of what I do. My eyes and ears are always open, and any given opportunity to make connections is ever present. My friends and family will back me on that one !
To date I have delivered over 90 individual Dementia Friends sessions which has been the platform and key component to developing a collaborative approach with local businesses and organisations, acting and committing to this evolving community work.
What surprises so many when asked what drives me is how I have not experienced a deep familial connection with dementia but describe myself as someone having an innate empathy with those living with the condition and their families. Being a medium for change and support in the field of dementia is my life purpose and I will wholeheartedly continue with my insatiable drive.
What has been truly heartening for me in the past 3 months is the support I have received from
the community and beyond as I made the decision to personally educate myself more specifically in dementia, following my degree. I took the plunge to crowd fund with trepidation an online Post Graduate Certificate in Dementia Studies with Stirling University. The £2k course fees have been covered by the generosity of those who have supported my voluntary work over the past 3 years and I achieved my target last week. What can I say …. I simply don't have words!
I am not unique as a Champion, there are so many fantastic individuals across the country making tremendous differences daily. I salute you all and say continue doing what you do, being amazing. In the meantime I hold on to my motto by Gandhi ‘“Be the change you want to see the world”.
Who knows what my future holds but I will continue to do what I do. Finding Dementia Friends has changed my life, being honoured for my work was a welcome bonus and for that I am truly thankful