Hello, I’m Heather and this is my first day as Chief Executive of Changing Faces. I’m taking over from the fabulous Becky Hewitt who has done such an amazing job of leading the organisation for nearly four years. She will be a hard act to follow.
I’m particularly excited to be starting during Face Equality Week when there is so much activity to celebrate visible difference and get people talking about what needs to change. Reading the stories on the Changing Faces website of people living with a visible difference played a big part in me wanting to take on this role. It was so powerful to hear about people’s experiences at school, at work or in other parts of their daily lives and how hard it can be to deal with other people’s reactions.
Since I grew up, I feel that society’s view of what is an acceptable way to look has become narrower, not broader. This might be partly down to social media’s encouragement to display a perfect face, body, home or holiday (remember those?). Whatever the reason, I find it sad that there is such pressure towards similarity and not diversity.
It is healthy for society to celebrate difference, and it will have such a positive impact for everyone with a visible difference if this results in less staring, less abuse, and simply being accepted and treated like everyone else.
This comes across so powerfully in the films that Changing Faces campaigners and ambassadors, Adam, Ella, Rory and Natalie, have made for Face Equality Week. Please share these with everyone you can to get people talking about why diversity and equality is so important. As Ella says:
Learning and talking are big themes of this week’s activities, and are certainly something that I am looking forward to doing in my first week. I hope I have a lot to bring from my NHS and charity experience, but I know how important it will be to listen and learn from the Changing Faces team, from supporters, campaigners, those who use our services and the entire community that is Changing Faces. I’m particularly looking forward to a Face Equali-Tea party tomorrow with campaigners to get the conversation going.
I’ve been talking a lot to friends and former colleagues about the work of Changing Faces – some are familiar with the charity and its great reputation and others have heard of it but want to know more about what it does and why. It’s a great opportunity for improving people’s understanding of the challenges of living with a visible difference and what needs to change.
One big common factor with my area of work for the last eight years, prostate cancer, is the need to get people talking about something which is not well understood. So often we don’t start those conversations because we simply don’t know how. When people start talking, genuinely improving their understanding and dispelling myths, everyone benefits. I am looking forward to many conversations over the coming week where I will learn, and will start playing my own part in passing that knowledge on to others.
I wish you all a happy and lively Face Equality Week and I look forward to meeting many new friends.