A few years ago, I thought I may write the heading above an article about becoming the UK’s first ever deaf Ambassador. I was headed in the right direction, having obtained a Deputy Ambassador’s post and with several years’ experience at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office behind me. The financial crisis and hardening attitudes to supporting disabled staff in government departments changed all that.
So rather than receiving the red-sealed parchment certificate from HM the Queen investing me with the power to represent her in another country, I received an attractive green name badge.
Rather than going through an official ceremony with the government of a different country, I travelled to Leicester. Yes, Leicester. The call came from a different source, but one whose values I rate more highly than my ex-employer’s and one which I am proud and honoured to represent.
The values of the organisation are: democratic, equal, inclusive, accessible and open.
The organisation’s vision is ‘A better world – equal, democratic and just; it challenges and inspires individuals, communities and society’.
At a time when people are finding it difficult to make ends meet, this organisation has 3,000 active volunteers. The work it does changes lives, enabling people who are often on the margins of society for various reasons to learn, play a full role, get employment and develop. Few things could be more important.
As I took part in the briefing about becoming an Ambassador for this fantastic body, I felt something I have not felt for a very long time: heartened: Heartened that the UK still boasts organisations with such strong integrity; heartened that 15 of us had agreed to represent it voluntarily at a wide range of levels; heartened that there was a group that was ready to campaign and fight for equal rights. There was a sense that we would be participating in something meaningful which could bring real results. I hope that had events worked out differently, that I could have felt the same about representing the UK government abroad, but of course I was denied the opportunity to find out.
Those of you who have already learned with, worked with or heard of the Workers’ Educational Association may have guessed that it is the WEA for whom I recently became an Ambassador. For those who did not please visit their website and find out a little more. I guarantee you will learn something new.