She is an inspiration to many people living with disability having fought the stigma that comes with disability to build a career in sport.
Her services towards Disability Sport and Charity work has earned her a Member of the Most Exellent Order of the British Empire-the MBE.
Anne Wafula Strike has represented both the United Kingdom and Kenya since she took up sport and became a Paralympian within three years after the birth of her son. She has since had a distinguished career in wheelchair racing, which saw her travel the world to compete against her peers.
Wafula provides a personal example of courage, commitment and determination that challenges misconceptions about disability. Athlete, author, and sporting ambassador, She inspires achievement and excellence across a broad range of life situations through motivational talks and appearances that encourages others to overcome difficulties and maximise their potential.
“As a woman who grew up with polio in Africa, I am well aware of the importance for disabled people accessing sport and the benefits of positive societal change developing countries gain by having positive role models,” she says.
“Sport can bring about change for people with disabilities in a profound way. It enables some to make choices and take risks, while others gradually acquire skills and accomplishments which build the self-confidence needed to take on other life challenges, such as pursuing education or employment,” she adds in one of her write ups.
According to Wafula, sport is an equaliser and its enormous potential has global reach. The language of sport is a universal one. It impacts positively on communities in general, and on young people in particular, fostering inclusion and influencing cultural attitudes.
She says, many children across the world born with disabilities continue to be ostracised from their communities out of ignorance that the disability is contagious, or a curse.
“Indeed this was my own experience as I was growing up. Visibility of disabled people being included and treated the same as everyone else helps break down these ideas. Sport is one way that I am able to feel equal physically as it provides me with a platform for the world to see that I don’t let my disability define me.”
“2012 was a very successful and exciting year with the Olympic and Paralympic Games coming to London. It was a big honour to be one of the 580 people taking part in the torch relay, being one of the ITV London Tonight commentary team, and being at hand for expert insights on Paralympic Games for BBC World TV.”
From contracting polio as a very small child, she had to overcome in Kenya to achieve her first goal of getting an education and going to university to become a first class teacher herself.
She was later to defy what medical experts had told her was impossible by giving birth to a baby boy called Timothy despite her condition. Following the birth of her son, Anne looked for a way to lose some weight and stumbled across wheelchair racing. She turned out to be rather good at the sport and shortly after taking it up, she received the remarkable distinction of competing at the Athens 2004 Paralympic Games becoming the first ever wheelchair racer from East Africa to compete in the Paralympics.
“I was very proud when I competed for Kenya in Athens to become the first East African wheelchair racer to compete at the Paralympics but I am also very proud to compete for Great Britain as well so I consider myself and Essex girl from Africa.
But that journey has not been easy at times.
In a report published by the guardian early this year, Wafula Strike says she was left humiliated after three-hour journey on CrossCountry train with no disabled toilet.
An award-winning Paralympic athlete and disabilities campaigner says she was “completely robbed of her dignity” after a train company failed to provide an accessible toilet on a three-hour journey.
“I was completely robbed of my dignity by the train company,” she said. “I would like to ask the train company when will they give me my dignity back? As a disabled person I have worked so hard over the years to build up my confidence and self-belief.
“Having access to a toilet, especially in a developed nation like the UK, is one of the most basic rights. I tried to conceal the smell of urine by spraying perfume over myself. When I finally got home after my nightmare journey, I scrubbed myself clean in the shower then flung myself on my bed and sobbed for hours.”
That notwithstanding, nobody can rob her the fact that she remains an inspiration to many. He book titled “In my Dreams I Dance,” is truly one of the most moving true stories around but Anne Wafula Strike, her tale is as much about giving hope to others as it is about herself.
Additional reports from the Guardian