The Life of a Campaigner

LDUK admin Sophie Ward shares what she has been doing for our annual ‘Wake Up to Lyme’ campaign to inspire people to get involved in spreading the word about the dangers of ticks.

I arranged a brief meeting with my local MP,  Ben Wallace, to fill him in on where we are at with campaigning for change. My mum and I, whilst acknowledging some positives, both expressed disappointment in the new Lyme disease NICE guidelines in terms of the lack of help available for those who are chronically ill with the disease. We shared that there was a good turnout at the London protest on 1st May and explained that the newly formed All-Party Parliamentary Group for Lyme Disease have begun their Enquiry which involves several meetings in Westminster to learn more about the issues faced by Lyme disease patients and to work out what can be done to improve the situation. As part of the LDUK admin team, I helped to write a list of questions to be passed on to MPs and some were asked on the day of the first meeting. We hope that these questions will help to highlight the real battle we face and the serious and complex issue we are dealing with and that ultimately, change will be achieved.

Sophie Ward and Ben Wallace MP

My MP is really happy with what has been going on recently and he feels that it is a huge step forward for politicians and health officials to start reaching out and engaging with the Lyme community. Ben Wallace MP encouraged me, Lyme Disease UK and fellow sufferers to keep pushing for change and raising our voices as people power is ultimately what will bring about change.

My family own and run residential parks and a holiday park within the Lancashire region. We live amongst gorgeous countryside and promote outdoor activities and walks. This month is the walking festival across Wyre and it is run by Wyre Council. We have many amazing activities that are based outdoors. I spoke to my dad about putting signs and leaflets around our parks and even having a tick removal kit on all of our sites alongside the regular first aid kits so that in addition to raising awareness, we have the correct equipment on hand to safely remove ticks.

My mum then suggested I get in touch with Rufus Bellamy who is the National Adviser for Conservation and Environmental Management at the British Holiday & Home Park Association. Rufus and his father David Bellamy run an award scheme where parks compete for gold, silver and bronze awards for their annual contribution to the environment.

So we wrote to Rufus, explaining my Lyme disease story and my aim to add posters and other educational materials around our parks and asked if he would be willing to help spread awareness about this awful disease. Rufus understood the alarming issue, especially as he is passionate about promoting outdoor living, nature and so forth. Rufus felt it was incredibly important that people are made aware of Lyme disease and that they are educated and protected without being fearful of the outdoors. Rufus, personally sent an email out to all 690 parks in his nationwide award scheme and has been getting such a positive response from other park owners.

Rufus gave me a statement about his aims for providing education on Lyme disease in parks:

“Having been introduced to the need to raise public awareness about Lyme disease by Sophie Ward and her family, I realised that the UK’s parks industry was an obvious channel through which to spread the word. As the manager for a conservation award scheme that reaches out across that industry, I am lucky enough to have an easy way to spread the message. My aim is to provide regular reminders to park operators about the disease and to let them know how they can pass on key information to their guests. I hope that in this way, the right messages can get out to a large number of people. If it saves just one person from the disease, then it will have been worthwhile.”

It’s amazing, uplifting and inspiring to have such a key figure representing our fight and who is enthusiastic about raising awareness and bringing about change. Thank you, Rufus.

I was recently interviewed in NOW magazine and it felt good to share my story and to raise awareness of Lyme disease in as many different ways as possible. I was also interviewed by BBC Radio Lancashire.

Keep up the good work Sophie and thank you to everyone else who is campaigning hard during Lyme awareness month. Find out how you can get involved here.

You can follow Sophie’s blog here

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