A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step

Remember Felix?

Last week I returned to Felix’s village with a gift for him…a pair of children’s crutches.

We had arranged for them to be sent from the UK office to replace the worn wooden homemade crutches he had been using since his landmine accident in 2008.

Felix turned up to meet us with his father, after the usual ritual of hello’s and how are you? how are your family? and several handshakes we got down to the business in hand….to hand over Felix’s new crutches!

He had been given a plastic yellow whistle by one of our supervisor’s (we use them in the minefield to signal break times) and he inexplicably stood with it proudly stuck in his mouth until his father whispered for him to take it out and let it hang round his neck on its fluorescent string.

We showed his father how the crutches could be extended in length as Felix grew older and taller then his father tenderly took 1 wooden crutch, laid it on the ground and helped his son feed his left arm down the shaft of the new crutch until his hand came to rest on the handgrip. 

Felix tentatively rested his weight onto his left arm as his father gently replaced his other wooden crutch with his new metal one.

The crutches are probably just a touch too big for him right now but in 6 months time they will fit him perfectly and of course it will take him a bit of time to get used to the difference in how they feel to use but even so he smiled broadly as he took his first tentative steps.

I don’t think for a second that this small gift will transform change this boy’s life. He needs a prosthetic limb. He could probably benefit from physiotherapy. He has a long way to go before life will (if ever) be close to normality.

But as Felix took off down the dirt track to show off his new crutches to his friends an old proverb sprung to mind…”a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step”



  1. Mark Sweatman said,

    March 15, 2010 at 10:18 pm

    Hey Helen,

    You may remember I used to work with you at the Wirral News – I was Mark Hannam back then, but now I have my mum’s maiden name. Would love to say “good times”, but let’sface it they were shite!

    Anyway, just a note to say I had heard on the grapevine about the line of work you are in, and I couldn’t be more impressed. I always knew you would do something amazing.

    As for me, well not quit so amazing, but a little more worthwhile than working for the News… I went and did teacker training, and am now teaching Latin and French at West Kirby Grammar. If ever you’re back on the Wirral, you really must come into our school and give a talk to our girls in assembly – I’m sure you could inspire a few!

    Anyway, take care and do get in touch -it would be lovely to hear from you.
    Mark. x

  2. Sam Davidson said,

    March 29, 2010 at 11:05 am


    A “short” chat at Trav and Sarah’s wedding and I was your No 1 Australian fan. A Google search using “Mozambique Mines Helen” and I had it down to two, Helen Gray and Helen Tirebuck. Then this blog and hey presto. All the questions I had for you, that were interrupted by a tad too much red wine/pina colada, are answered and a whole lot more.

    It was brilliant to meet you and I hope you enjoyed your time Down Under. I will gladly join the bandwagon following your progress and wish you the very best of luck. I might be crediting you in the future for rekindling a long held dream of returning to Eastern/Southern Africa with my family for some work and play.

    Have fun,

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