Reflections on 2011 and looking to the year ahead…

2011 with all its economic woes has not been an easy year for many people but it has certainly been an important one in bringing more and more unusual-looking faces into the public eye in the UK and around the world. The positive messages that shine from these faces are successfully challenging the tired old stereotypes and assumptions – you know the ones I mean about ‘life is bound to be second rate looking like that’ or ‘you really need some more surgery’.

There have been some great stories broadcast on our screens – TV, iPad and computer – and I salute everyone who has has committed to conveying those crucial messages…  such as:

  • Jono Lancaster, a great guy with a condition called Treacher Collins syndrome who has already made some eye-opening and very pragmatic films about surgery and his childhood,
  • JR Martinez, the American war veteran who won Dancing with the Stars, the US version of Strictly – he’s opened so many minds to the possibilities rather than the downsides of getting major facial scarring and is about to become a parent!
  • Adam Pearson and Katie Piper for fronting up two very powerful Channel 4 TV programmes in early 2011 – ‘Beauty and the Beast: the Ugly Face of Prejudice’ and ‘Katie: My Beautiful Friends’. Both on at prime time, mainstream TV in the UK, these documentaries opened up the dilemmas and personal insights involved in looking unusual in today’s look-perfect society – more power to everyone who appeared in them…

And it was great to see the Time magazine photo of Bibi Aisha win the World Photo of the Year for 2010 too

For me, 2011 has seriously tested the essential optimism that I have and you have to have to run a growing charity in austerity Britain but I am pleased to say that it has been considerably affirmed by the support of lots of new and long-standing donors – big thanks to you/them all!

And I have realised too how much my overall optimism has been nurtured by seeing hope in little everyday moments. Like the twinkle in the eye of the supermarket check-out assistant with an unusual face as I thanked her for my change – she was clearly living life to the full, unphased by and managing other people’s reactions with great aplomb. No need for our ‘Handling other people’s reactions’ guide

Or the parent who calls to seek advice about their daughter’s face and prospects after she’s injured in a nasty car accident – and sounds reassured and strong after the call…

Looking ahead, 2012 will mark 20 years of Changing Faces – and we hope to make it a launch pad for the next chapter… a charity with a powerful local presence in the UK and an influential agent for change internationally. More anon…

A Happy and Hope-full New Year to all!

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