I never thought I'd be able to join the police; seven years later, I'm leading an International Aid mission.
I grew up in a police family, and becoming a police officer was my dream, but as I became older it became clear that this was never going to be possible. My Cystic Fibrosis affected my health in a way that meant it was incredibly unlikely I would be able to meet the physical requirements, and even if I could, the truth was that it would not be safe to do so.
Then Police Community Support Officers were introduced. Frontline officers, working to engage with and protect communities from harm, but without the physical requirements. Upon leaving university I joined West Mercia in 2014 and never looked back.
From there, I joined the International Police Association and over the past 5 years this organisation has taken me around the world. Socially, and professionally, I have visited officers from Hong Kong to Russia, Kazakhstan to Ireland and many more in between. l have also attended International training courses and even spent time learning about policing in Estonia and delivering my own presentations on the UK system.
This travel raised my own reputation, and brought me to the attention of the National Police Aid Charities.
The National Police Aid Charities is an organisation that is led by former and serving Police Officers, and whose purpose is delivering aid across Africa. Usually this has taken the form of shipments of medical and school equipment, along with other essential supplies, however last year they approached me with a mission: Op Zephyr.
They would provide the logistics, and they wanted me to provide the crew.
Op Zephyr is an international project to help establish a functioning ambulance service in the West African nation of The Gambia. To this end, the charity will be purchasing over 30 ambulances and support vehicles, even fire engines, from France and Spain, before driving them across the Sahara to deliver them.
Once in The Gambia, these will be donated to the most rural areas to support their community hospitals and the people that most depend on them.
The importance of this mission cannot be overstated; the levels of maternal mortality in the Gambia are unacceptably high and are ranked among the highest in Africa, estimated at 1,050 per 100,000 live births and are higher in rural than in urban areas. The manner of those deaths for mother and child do not bear thinking about.
The number of deaths and amputations through late presentation of infected fractures and wounds is also unbelievably high. Amputations are deemed convenient because travel to aftercare at hospitals is impossible for complicated injuries. What start as relatively straightforward or even minor injuries, soon become life-changing or even life-threatening, simply due to the lack of a basic infrastructure. Our mission can change that.
I joined the police to help people. I joined the IPA because I love travelling and it tied that in to the job I love.
I'm going on Op Zephyr because we can make a difference.
I never thought I would be able to join the Police, now I'm leading my colleagues on an International Mission to change lives. A Life Unlimited is always possible.