On Thursday the 26th of May 2012 I travelled to London to attend the 25 year anniversary of Changing Faces.
Changing Faces Faces is a fantastic charity that has been helping people come to terms with their facial differences and to campaign for #faceequality
What this means is that they are trying to change the way that people with disfigurements are treated.
In order to do this they have developed guidelines to follow which they are trying to get implemented into law. The guidelines are there to help employers better help and understand the challenges of people with a different face. They have also set out guidelines for the media.
All media have a moral responsibility to ensure people with disfigurement are dealt with in sensitive way. It is a tough challenge as it would seem we are all desensitized to the fact that people who are different can be made fun of. This is why they challenge the media about ill thought comments towards someone with a disfigurement.
For example if someone refers to Joseph Merrick the “Elephant man” as being ugly, they will challenge that because the elephant man had a rare disorder called Proteus syndrome a syndrome which people still suffer from today.
Their point is that the people living with any differences can be offended, hurt and permanently damaged by peoples jokes and comments, even if it is not directed at them.
I have supported Changing Faces for a few years now having met James Partridge at a charitable report by The healing foundation (now the scar free foundation) This introduction motivated me to write an article for them and from then on I have been asked to feature on their promotional material ever since.
London bound for St Marys Axe
I must admit I didn’t have a clue where St Marys Axe was or what it was. But for a 25 year anniversary event it had to be something special. Ah its the Gherkin! The big building in London that looks like, well a Gherkin! I have no idea what to expect, and so added to excitement of the event I knew it would be a special evening.
The great thing about these events is that you get to meet the people you only ever get to see in pictures. As I arrived I found 2 familiar faces sitting outside engrossed in conversation. London is very busy especially in this neck of the woods and here we all where, a collection of people with different faces in plain sight without a care in the world. That is the point of this charity, it empowers people who are different with the confidence to be comfortable.
The top floor! Now this is going to be special, the only place I have ever been to the top floor of is Ramsgate’s multi storey car park! The views are stunning especially on a clear sunny day like today.
The room was buzzing with conversation. I went around the room chatting to the team, fellow ambassadors and trustees. I was pleased, surprised and humbled to see how much my image was being used for their promotional material.
I had a lovely chat with Baroness Finley who asked if I would sign her copy of the report which had my face on the front cover. This was a first for me, someone wants my autograph! A baroness wants my autograph!
The pleasantries were halted by a request for silence, down to business.
James founded the charity 25 years ago after a car crash as a younger man, the fire left him with horrific burns which for 17 years he tried to live with. The reaction from people to his new appearance caused upset to himself and his family, and so he set to wrote a book. This action set into motion a chain of events which would change his life, and without the initial intention, created Changing Faces.
Sadly this evening was James last as chief exective. He has been diagnosed with cancer which means he has to hand over his legacy. He is currently receiving chemotherapy and to run such an important charity at the same time is simply too much. James hasn’t come this far in life to go out quietly. Not James.
Tonight wasn’t about what James could no longer do, it was all about the new things the charity has done, and what they are going to do.
Face equality day
The first big announcement was that this date, the 26th of May is #faceequalityday, a celebration, respectful, motivational day to raise understanding and educate people about facial differences.
Face equality day was a huge hit trending on social media and covered by Tv and radio.
Disfigurement in the uk
Changing faces exclusively released their report “Disfigurement in the uk” which is the largest ever study into how people with disfigurement are treated.
This day was not just a celebration, it was an awakening. Changing Faces have indentified itself as a charity with clear goals. Simply put, to make the world a better place.
James has appointed a new CEO who will bring a new fresh approach. Everyone agrees that they can’t imagine Changing Faces without James. Something tells me he will never be too far away….