Peterborough woman sets sail on life changing challenge

(top left) Jan Cottrell, (top right) Rhiannon Nally, (bottom left) Sonia Cullington,
(top left) Jan Cottrell, (top right) Rhiannon Nally, (bottom left) Sonia Cullington,

A Peterborough woman is refusing to let her disability prevent her from setting sail on the trip of a lifetime this week.

Hana Smid suffers from Disequilibrium Syndrome - a long-term condition with similarities to Cerebral Palsy- and has to cope with visual problems. A key symptom for Hana is deafness caused by Auditory Neuropathy which means hearing aids don’t really help.

However, she was determined to sail on the Lord Nelson Tall Ships voyage around Las Palmas this December. However, with just days to go, Hana was left without an able-bodied ‘buddy’ to accompany her on the adventure.

Hana’s GP, Dr Rhiannon Nally from Wansford Surgery has a big heart for her patients and champions the voluntary and private sector working together, and after being told about Hana’s situation, Dr Nally contacted the Peterborough Council for Voluntary Services (PCVS) Wellbeing Service to see if a buddy could be found.

Jan Cottrell, PCVS Wellbeing Manager said: “Dr Nally’s plea to find a buddy in just four days touched our hearts and the Wellbeing Service worked all weekend, sending out 60 emails to trusted contacts to make this happen.”

Thankfully, Sonia Cullington, Director of WOW Fitness, was well known to the Wellbeing Service and stepped forward to help. Sonia has worked extensively with Public Health and the GP Referral Service to support people from all kinds of backgrounds. Sonia and Hana hit it off straight away finding that they live close to each other and were both born in Dundee!

Hana said: “I wanted to do something without the support of my family and this voyage will help to build my confidence and self-esteem. There’s so many new things to try on Nelson, and climbing the crow’s nest will be a new challenge and help improve my physical strength and balance.”

Dr Nally said: “I think this is a shining example of how we can work with the voluntary and private sector to change people’s lives’. The idea of working collaboratively with the NHS and voluntary sector is not new to Peterborough and fits into their 5 year forward plan and is welcomed by Wansford Surgery.

Hana and Sonia sail away on the December 13 for 8 days. The voyage will include working together in a team of 50 people,12 of whom have a disability, on the Lord Nelson Tall Ship, informally known as ‘Nelly’.