We're All Unique!

Inspire Blog |

March 1st is Zero Discrimination Day, a time to celebrate diversity and raise awareness of the importance of valuing and embracing the talents that each person brings to their workplace, communities, and society.

Leanne Stephen is a Customer Service Officer and qualified Fitness Instructor at Grimsby Health & Wellbeing Centre. She’s overcome many challenges to get where she is today, making her number of achievements particularly inspiring.  

Born eleven weeks early with Cerebral Palsy, Leanne has relied on a wheelchair to get around throughout her life due to how it has affected the movement in her legs. The challenges have not only been physical, but they have also tested her mental and emotional resolve in dealing with various forms of discrimination throughout her life. 

Leanne said: "Being the only wheelchair user at my primary school, I always felt a bit different. To this day I can remember some of the hurtful comments that others made, which made me question “Why did this happen to me?”"

At the age of 13, after taking part in a sports taster day at Clee Fields, Leanne discovered a love for table tennis, a sport that formed an important part of her teenage years and beyond.  

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Table tennis was something I did by myself with no one else’s help. It was something for me to be proud of, there were no negative comments, it was all positive and constructive – it gave me a feeling of belonging and helped me find myself.

Leanne

After a few years of playing, Leanne was spotted by Team GB and after a great deal of dedication, went on to represent the country at the Commonwealth Games in Delhi, India in 2010.

Following over a decade of playing table tennis, Leanne then embraced a new challenge when she started work for Lincs Inspire as a Customer Service Officer in 2015, also going on to find a new passion in fitness and gaining a qualification as a Fitness Instructor. She regularly trains in the gym and is always looking for the next challenge she can apply herself to.  

Leanne said: “When people tell you that you can’t do something so many times, you begin to believe it. I’ve had people say to me, “you can’t do this” or “you can’t do that”. Nowadays that just fuels me even more. 

“If you have a crazy dream that you want to do, it’s not crazy, do it! Let people say what they want to ​say but use that as the fuel for your fire. 

“I’ve learnt that it’s okay to be a bit different – the world is less boring if everyone has something a little bit different about them. We’re all unique and have something to offer."

Pictured: Leanne carrying the Olympic Torch for The London 2012 Olympic Games

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It’s great to be able to raise awareness for Zero Discrimination Day, but personally I think it should be Zero Discrimination Day every day!

I also want to show that yes, maybe I’ve had some discrimination in the past like everybody and it’s not always okay, but it happens. A big part of it is how you deal with that discrimination - do you think, “okay that’s all I’m going to do with my life because that’s what people are telling me”, or do you use it and say, “No actually, I’m going to prove you wrong!”

Leanne

Having overcome many obstacles along the way, helping and inspiring others is very important to Leanne. She has spoken as part of motivational talks in schools and colleges and is a big advocate of sport and fitness.  

Leanne added: “When I was younger, I never thought it would be possible to be where I am today, there was nobody to look to and think “if they can do it, then I can”.  My real passion in life is to inspire others.

"“I can’t” used to be my favourite word, “Believe in yourself and you can do unbelievable things!”"

 

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