When you’re born, you never know what the future holds in store for you. For Anne Wafula Strike MBE, the first East Africa Paralympian who is now changing lives in Africa with her foundation, her disability may have the best thing that ever happened to her.
But at the time of her disability, there was no one from her little Kenyan village that would have agreed. Not yet anyway. An athlete, mother, author and chair of a foundation in her name, this is the story of Anne Wafula Strike.
Why she’s fearless
Growing up in Kenya, the first two years of Anne’s life we’re completely normal. She was a healthy, able-bodied girl from a loving family. But at the age of 2 1/2 years, Anne was struck with polio, which quickly spread through her spinal column and permanently paralyzed her from T7 and down.
Polio at the time was something not understood in her village. Many thought she was cursed and wanted to burn down her family’s home. And with her mother dying at the age of nine, her childhood was rough. Fortunately however she was blessed with an educated father who made sure and was educated as well. She went to high school and even sang in a high school band.
While the injury would limit her from using her legs again, but what she would destined to do with their upper body was amazing. After having a child in her twenties and moving to the UK, she was inspired in 2002 while watching female wheelchair racers on TV and knew it was something she wanted to do. So at the age of 31 years old she began to train become a wheelchair racer, and become a wheelchair racer did she ever.
When she began to race, the sport came easily to her. In 2004, she represented Kenya at the Paralympics in Athens and in 2005, she was the first person to represent Kenya in the World Cup. She may have been late to the game when it came to athletics, but she’s a natural. In 2006, she landed a spot on the Great Britain wheelchair racing team, and was the #1 racer there in both the 100 meter and 200 meter categories.
And when the Paralympics came through London in 2012, she carried the Olympic torch with two other British citizensoriginally from Africa.
Now days, this 44 year old woman is busy trying to change the world. With her foundation, the Olympia Wafula Foundation, she writes and speaks whenever she can on the topic of advancing the rights of the disabled in Africa. And just recently, she returned from Nigeria, Malawi and Kenya donating wheelchairs to kids with disabilities.
She is also working with the British polio fellowship to change the perception of polio. Her work with the disabled has been so powerful that she was awarded a member of the most excellent British Empire last October. Adaptive clothing designer IZ Adaptive even made her a custom dress (seen above).
And lastly, Anne wrote a book a couple of years ago called “In My Dreams I Dance,” an autobiography where she talks about her upbringing into her life today. One of the quotes from this book was chosen as one of the top 10 quotes in Europe of 2013. The quote: “I have suffered discrimination, but what I have come to realize is that when I carry out grudges I am the one who suffers most.”
A beautiful quote from an ever hopeful soul.
Have you considered taking up adapted sports once past the age of 30?
– Visit her foundation: Olympia Wafula Foundation
Watch the videos!
– Anne Wafula, from a mud hut to tea with the Queen
– Women and Power: Disability is not inability, Anne Wafula’s story
– Olympia Wafula Foundation