Talking the Walk
Yesterday I gave a talk / lecture at the Repat hospital.
The audience were the nurses, the physio's and the occupational therapists who work specifically in amputee rehabilitation.
We laughed, We cried but mostly we shared - best practice ideas, overcoming familiar challenges etc.
I WALKED away - I walked away because of the amazing 'work' these people do - their belief and their commitment and unconditional love for humanity is what ran in the veins of those who taught me how to stand on '2 feet' again and how to face the fear and take that all important first step!
This hospital is currently under threat of closure because of the haunting of the 'bottom line' ...
The Repatuation Hospital was founded as a place where returning soldiers could come to be healed - healed of the little known PTSD, healed of the un-healable loss of limbs, and to most importantly offer a sense of community and belonging.
Today in 2015 that sense of community and belonging remains strong - in fact it is the glue, I believe, that holds the very walls together.
No one will understand the needs of an amputee better than another amputee - the infliction has no prognosis other than permanency - it is for life.
This unique South Australian landmark has all the promise to be a future centre of Excellence in the care of returning soldiers, and of the public - people like myself who can feel some sense of 'normality ' when in an environment where most people have something missing!
If this hospital closes, the units may be amalgamated into other South Australian hospitals - legs will still be fitted, PTSD still treated, wounds still dressed...and rehab still done, just not under the ONE roof!
The health benefits of community and belonging may not be quantifiable on a spread-sheet - they are just FELT in the heart and soul.
I am the proud Ambassador for the Repat Hospital here in South Australia. I hope it is a role that will continue for my lifetime and beyond.
My world changed the moment a suicide bomber detonated his device on the same tube carriage as me - July 7, 2005 in London. He was influenced by a destructive IDEOLOGY and by no means someone whom I would offer the respect of being religious. I have devoted my Life to the mission of deterring anyone from following the path of violent extremism and in exploring ways in which a sustainable Peace can be established. In the 10 years since the London bombings, I have worked with many hundreds of people - some from faith groups, some not - this includes Muslims. I have grown in my understanding of Islam and how ideological based terrorism has in many ways hijacked this particular faith. I have witnessed the pain of so many who suffer the consequences of the tentacles of violent extremism, I have witnessed the disgust and dismay from the many Islamic communities that I have worked with at how these atrocious acts are carried out in the name of God. Being the Bridge is NOT about a group of people coming together to just hold hands - its sentiment and purpose is to address any division, for it is our belief and our understanding that division - the 'US' and 'THEM' creates the very fertile ground in which our youth can become radicalised, it also creates the feelings that so many have expressed in this thread which plays directly into the hands of the Extremist propaganda machine. I have experienced the greatest insight into Humanity during the hours of my rescue and it is on this that I base my messaging and the sum total of all my work. On admittance to hospital my label was 'One Unknown, estimated female'. What this chilling label told me was that the rescuer's - the paramedics, the police, the fire and rescue teams and the volunteer doctors that rushed to the scene. These people put their own lives at risk to come and save mine - One Unknown - and to them it didn't matter what my skin colour was, whether I had a faith or not, rich or poor - nothing mattered other than I was a precious human life. 'Be The Bridge' is about being 'open' - about not presuming something about someone because of the colour of their skin, or how they may be dressed, its about removing ANY barriers which may prevent us from having a greater understanding of eachother as Human beings. Yes, it is a TWO WAY path - the metaphor of a bridge is to offer a path between two points.
If you would like to know more:
Twitter Hashtag: #BeTheBridge
2015 marks 10 years since the London Bombings where 52 people lost their lives and hundreds were permanently injured. Gill was fortunate to survive the initial blast however her injuries were so severe, losing both legs from just below the knee, that she wasn’t expected to live.
‘I made a vow while waiting for rescue in the train carriage, that if I was to survive then I would use my ‘second life’ to make a positive difference’ and since 2005 Gill has devoted her work to building sustainable peace with a focus on deterring all people from following a path of extremism.
‘My focus is to ensure we are creating societies where we are confident in our difference because we are united as ‘one’,not divided into groups of ‘us and ‘them.’ ‘It was important for me to use my body in its ‘new’ form to show the strength, courage and determination that I believe is within each of us –that we can face adversity and make a difference, embracing life for all it offers.’
Gill went on to say that the motivation that has stayed at the core of all she does was from the actions of the rescuer’s and all those who never gave up trying to save her life in the aftermath of the bombs.
‘My hospital label chillingly read, One Unknown, estimated female’ what that told me was that the rescuers were willing to put their own lives at risk to come and save mine, to save as many people as they could. To them it didn’t matter what colour my skin was, whether I had a faith or no faith at all, if I was rich or poor – nothing mattered other than I was a precious human life’.
Gill continued ‘I understood immediately what it meant to be part of humanity and just how interdependent and interconnected we all actually are – one person can make a significant difference’.
Note: #BeTheBridge will be inviting other international friends and colleagues to re create the initiative.
This is no comfort to a family who have lost their son, their brother, their loved one, but I am giving much thought to how 'we' respond / as global citizens, as a nation and as individuals.
My instinct is that you can't kill 'good' - you can't kill dedication to the betterment of humanity - for these are qualities that live and indeed can grow within each and every one of us. They are powerful, so powerful in fact that they brought me back from from the brink of death.
Each person who saved my life in the aftermath of the London Bombings gave their ALL, not one person gave up hope, even though my situation was bleak. What I received was unconditional love - I felt it and drew strength from it. I am here today because a series of strangers put their lives at risk to save mine, someone they didn't know - each rescuer held me close and willed me to live.
Billions of people can TODAY make a choice to reach out, to give more, to be more empathetic and to make a commitment to humanity.
Thank you Abdul -Rahman Kassig for all you selflessly gave - may yours and the other lives taken offer us more than you could have hoped - may our collective 'good' rise to soaring heights, may we shine so brightly that we forever light the night sky.
Our Lives are Our Legacy:
I am feeling very proud, returning home from a very exceptional evening.
South Australian, Australian of the Year
Thank you for this wonderful honour, I am truly grateful to be standing here tonight and what an amazing welcome ‘home’
I offer my gratitude and thanks to my fellow nominee’s, Nick, James and Ian who have made enormous personal contributions towards the betterment of our society, and it’s with great pride that I also stand with you.
This award signifies to me that the work i am doing and the message I convey is brilliantly being recognised and most importantly, being heard.
Peace building and indeed countering an extremist narrative is difficult to quantify – I don’t fund raise, so there’s no sum of money to show for my achievements, my success is in the silence of someone choosing a different path other than violent extremism and in the growing understanding that what unites us all is far greater than what divides.
It’s an often lonely vocation, but I stand on the shoulders of some rather noble giants and nothing will deter me from my absolute devotion and commitment to ensuring that not one more innocent and valuable life falls victim to an act of extremist violence fuelled by ignorance and hatred.
I gain a great deal of personal encouragement from the letters and messages i get from people throughout Australia and internationally who have read my book, heard a radio interview or read an article and have been moved to Re - look their own lives.
So many people want to make a positive difference, both within their lives and for the lives of others.
And so it is to all those who reach out and strive to make a difference that i would also like to acknowledge and thank.
Knowing that the precious gift of my second life is affecting positive change is part of what keeps me devoted to building a culture where peace is considered a verb, just something we all could consciously do!
Ultimately my goal is to build a world in which we could all live with confidence and empathy.
Unity is the cure for division Confidence is an antidote to Fear.
With the destructive presence of extremist ideology affecting so many lives and threatening to spread its decay, we must all stand with strength and courage and be the positive change we wish to see.
What’s imperative and powerful is that we do this together – each and every one of us.
I trust that a part from my work I have been recognised as someone who is symbolic of human triumph in the face of adversity.
That i am a living reminder that no matter what challenge life presents us with, we each have the ability and brilliance to not only face change but to reach through to the other side and find our own way of thriving.
Our life is our legacy – thank you for honouring mine and for shining a bright light on peace and community.
Gill Hicks MBE
I was severely and permanently injured in the London bombings of 2005. I am determined to do all I can to deter anyone from following a path of extreme violent action and believe everyone can make a personal difference to create a confident global community and a sustainable peace.