Mel, a woman with disabilities:
“For many years, I was crushed by the horrific circumstances of my life, but Ikkaido gave me the way back.”
“From the age of 11, I suffered sexual, physical, and emotional abuse from my father.
My dream was always to become a PE teacher. As a young teenager, I was obsessed with sport. It was the only way I knew how to escape the horrific abuse I faced as a child. At 17, however, I sustained a knee injury and was told I would never be able to do sports again. I was no longer able to cope with the trauma, and I began to self-harm.
At 23, during my pregnancy, my self-harm got worse, and I began to burn my legs with a hot iron. I was referred to a psychologist and was given anti-depressants, but they made me feel awful. There were times when I wanted to cry, but I couldn’t. I was left with no feelings, and I hated it. At 25, my youngest son was born, and two months later, my eldest son was diagnosed with Autism. I blamed myself; I felt like a failure. I put everything I had into getting the proper support for my boys, but I began to neglect myself even more. Soon after, my husband was investigated for abuse towards one of the boys. I felt like I couldn’t go on living anymore. The self-harm became so bad that I disfigured my face with a cheese-greater, and I ended up in hospital after trying to kill myself.
I was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, given more medication and encouraged to undergo talking therapy, which just felt like I was reliving the worst experiences of my life. Soon after, I was readmitted to the hospital for brain surgery. The surgery was a disaster – I was left with physical impairments on the right-hand side of my body and face, hearing impairment, speech impairment, visual impairment, severe nerve damage, loss of sensation in several parts of my body and a permanent CSF drain. I was at an all-time low - my life had changed completely, and suddenly I could no longer do so many things. I lost my job. As time went by, it felt more and more like there was no point in me living.
I contacted Ikkaido so that the boys and I could do something together, learn together and make ourselves happier. It was terrific, a fully inclusive, accessible community and sport for all three of us. I began to feel more confident, and we were enjoying the support and social aspect of the sessions.
Soon, I began helping more at the sessions and was given the opportunity to take my Level 2 Inclusive Coaching Qualification. I was petrified, but I’m so glad I did it. The course taught me so much, not just about coaching but about myself too. After the course, my confidence and self-esteem sky-rocketed, and my mental health began to improve. I began to look forward rather than look at my past; I began to see I had a future and something that I was good at. I have grown so much in confidence and self-worth. I have found something that brings me enjoyment, but most importantly, I have found something that no drugs or therapy could ever give me.
My children’s self-confidence and mental health have
transformed. Ikkaido has become part of all our lifestyles,
and coaching has given me passion and renewed hope.
I want to carry on with developing my coaching further and
am enjoying learning and helping others to see the actual
benefits of what coaching and sport can do, primarily through
the lens of my own lived experience of disability and mental
Mel’s recovery journey led her to be invited to Buckingham
Palace in September 2019. She was recently named Coach
of the Year by Princess Anne. After two years of education
with Ikkaido, she realised her childhood dream of becoming
a PE teacher.
Kit, a transgender man with disabilities:
"Having something where I can forget about everything else that's going on in my life has been great for my mental health. I've found Ikkaido sessions to be a great emotional outlet. It feels great to be good at something again and be able to connect with other disabled people. I don't have to hide who I am, and I don't have to worry about trying to hide my disabilities or identity either. I can't recommend IKKAIDO enough. It's done wonders for my mental health and helped me embrace who I am." ~ Kit,
Kit has become a community leader. During a previous project that sought to connect young people with local and international politics, he inspired a group of young people to help establish and manage Plus World Café. The Ikkaido team is supporting him in funding and implementing the idea. Kit wants to ensure that anyone who has suffered poor mental health will be welcome there.
Amine (on the far right), a young man with autism from a refugee background during a residential course:
“I'm less shy to speak English. I'm more sociable and this allows me to reach out more to others and therefore to have more self-confidence. This week inspired me to set up a business and I had some great ideas here” – Amine, after a one-week residential course that developed entrepreneurial skills amongst people from disadvantaged communities with and without disabilities.
Amine has since returned to France but now co-manages a company that sells t-shirts with awareness-raising slogans about the importance of inclusion for those with disabilities.
As a person with autism, social situations are always difficult and fear and pressure can be immense.
However, the inclusive atmosphere fostered in BEAT IT! was ideal, with every person, regardless of their demographic, communicating and collaborating in different creative non-formal exercises to achieve amazing results. Participants explored the influence of social media on bullying, fake news and populism in our society and their disastrous impacts on our generation. I was inspired to learn more about critical thinking as a means to identify and combat these harmful aspects of modern society. Suddenly, I became more confident in my ability to speak in public and for the first time in my life, it was my ability that defined me and not my disability. I will continue to impart this knowledge to others by developing more projects like BEAT IT! – BEAT IT Participant
My priorities have changed since I took part in the EmployABLE project. I arrived in Britain from Aleppo in Syria with my family a few years ago. My parents worked day and night to make a life for us here. I have always believed that you will succeed if you work hard. I qualified in accountancy and business and I now run two restaurants and a taxi business. Success means everything to me.
employABLE focused on improving the employment skills of disabled and disadvantaged people. Through the programme, participants learnt how to develop and run an inclusive Festival of Martial Arts, and I saw just how much everyone learnt, and the sense of achievement which that brought.
Inclusion is key – everyone should have equal opportunities no matter what their situation. I’ve realised that life shouldn’t just be about ‘making it’ but about helping everyone else to succeed as well. No-one should be defined by their background or (dis)ability, just as I shouldn’t be defined by mine. – Refugee participant of EmployABLE
“Now that it's been more than a year from that first contact with Ikkaido, and having done a huge self-reflection all these months, I can see how mentally unstable I was. This was the moment I would have given up on life but instead learned about myself and how to live.”
University drop out after a one week residential course in N. Macedonia
“Thank you for all the support you have given. To you it might be a little of your time, to me it meant confirmation of the hardest choices I have ever had to make at a mere age of 22. I know that listening to us and the advice you gave was more than just a pay cheque to you! So thank you, thank you, thank you.”
Young female refugee from conflict after a one week residential course
“You have given me inner strength and have helped me a lot in my personal journey of finding myself.”
Male wheelchair user
“I write this to you because I feel awkward to just tell you this in person, which I probably should, but I just feel awkward doing so. But I really, really appreciate everything you have done for me, it really means a lot and I don’t know how to show it because I just can’t present emotions. THANK YOU for being there for me and telling me your words of wisdom. It’s nice to hear and know that I can have someone to talk to and that I can have someone who cares about me. So THANK YOU and I honestly cannot thank you enough!”
Young girl with anxiety depression and self-harming
“I saw the power you have to make people understand that they can create their own path in life; I now understand that even though we may face huge problems, we can be strong enough to take a step forward.”
Young woman trafficked into prostitution
“I haven’t felt like I am marginalised here. Why should I always have to be the marginalised person.”
M with Cerebral Palsy, mobility issues and blind
“I really want to take this opportunity to thank you so much for that week in Athens. It changed both E and myself after some difficult years. E has had an amazing year since. She got really involved in community activities through her school, did voluntary work for charities and especially got involved with a local group of parents who set up an education and training centre here for adults with learning disabilities. Her amazing sense of humour is back. Her singing is back! Everyone that knows her both at home and school has remarked on how happy she seems. She even got a job all by herself this summer. I could go on and on but I won’t for your sake.
I just want to profoundly thank you and I also thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule in Athens to talk to me as a parent. What you expressed was invaluable. She made valuable friends in Athens, especially from England, and mentions them as she contacts them on Snapchat.
She got an award at school for community involvement last week. She will be working with her singing teacher doing summer camps with children. She joined a youth group for teens who may have autism, LGBTQ, generally young people isolated in our community and has made good friends- they have gone surfing, mountain walking, “mud surfing”! She went away for her first night on her own with a youth group and “I” survived! She decided to go to the school ball. She’s not self harming as bad, managing her stress better. She’s washing, showering and brushing her teeth and takes her medicine reliably now.
As her head teacher said she got some “sparkle” back and chose E out of her year to help students during state exams here, escorting to toilet etc.
She can be whatever she wants and it’s the best feeling ever to see her grow.
THANK YOU SO MUCH!”
Parent of a young disabled participant in EVA-FEM one year later.