My father has been involved with Changing Faces for many years as he was born with a rare condition known as a vascular anomaly, which affects the right side of his head, face, eye and mouth. He has been in and out of hospital most of his life due to his condition, and he has had over 16 operations on his eye to try and make it easier for him to live a normal life.
His teenage years at school were quite challenging as people could be quite rude and abusive towards him. However, he was very strong and overcame the taunts of those who just did not understand. When I was growing up, I did get bullied at school about my dad and the way he looked. I found it quite difficult, to the point that my dad came to my school and gave a talk about his condition.
When we went shopping, people would stare at him. It really upset me, so I would retaliate sometimes. My dad used to tell me off for snapping, but I just wondered why people looked at my dad in a different way than I did. I never saw him as any different because I saw him every day and never noticed anything. Nowadays, I don’t actually notice if people stare. It doesn’t concern me like it used to, and I feel like I cope with it much better now.
My dad became involved with Changing Faces way back in 1997 when he got in touch asking if there was anything he could do to support them. Through Changing Faces, he has met many other people with visible differences and has been able to get support and share his advice with others.
He has also been involved in media coverage with Changing Faces over the years and one of the biggest things to happen to him was when his face appeared all over London tube stations in one of the charity’s major campaigns. This was hugely exciting for my dad, our family and everyone who’s supported him.
My father has raised a lot of money to help and support Changing Faces. As I have grown up, I have been quite involved with the charity too and have raised a lot of money for them – including taking on a sky dive with my father’s best friend in 2014 and raising over £1,500.
Recently, me and my partner decided to run the London Landmarks Half Marathon (LLHM) for Changing Faces. Since the LLHM has now been postponed, we’re thinking about doing our own running event, but we might make the decision after lockdown when we find out what the date of the next LLHM will be. We have raised around £400 so far, but we would love to be able to raise so much more for this amazing charity which has supported my father throughout his life.
I want to show people that there’s nothing wrong with looking different so that public perceptions of my dad and other people with visible differences can change. At the end of the day, we’re all the same.