The Compassionate Baroness and the Lady Cox Rehabilitation Centre

baronesscox

Caroline Cox, a Baroness in the House of Lords, in the British Parliament, is one of the kindest, most caring and compassionate women I have ever met. She has such a heart for the most vulnerable sections of society. She has truly been a ‘voice for the voiceless’ and has championed human rights around the world – she is a woman of faith and that has been the guiding light, in whatever she has done. There are those who agree to disagree with her, but she carries on regardless, ‘speaking up for those who cannot speak up for themselves.’

Decades ago, Caroline Cox replied one of my letters when I was campaigning on behalf of parents, care givers and people with autism – you could sense the compassion in her. Caroline Cox is no fake. She is the real deal. In 2015 Biola University in the United States of America invited a Baroness for the first time, to address 225 graduates and 725 under graduates at their Spring Commencement ceremonies. On that occasion Biola University presented her with the Chuck Colson Award for Conviction and Courage. Recipients of the award are individuals who demonstrate commitment to the unshakeable truths of a biblical worldview, as well as a willingness to act on biblical convictions, however risky or challenging it may be.

An Armenian organisation in the United States, awarded her with the ANCA-WR ‘Advocate for Justice’ award in 2018. She has always been a powerful voice for the voiceless. She is the founder and CEO of Humanitarian Aid Relief Trust (HART), which combines aid with advocacy, working for people suffering from oppression, exploitation and persecution.

trip3

In 2018 Caroline Cox asked me if I would like to accompany her and a team from HART to visit the Lady Cox Rehabilitation Centre in Artsakh, Armenia to celebrate 20 years of this Centre. I readily agreed because my gut feeling was that I would see something amazing here. Wherever we travelled in Armenia, people would come up to Caroline Cox and thank her for standing by them, in their hour of need.  I will never forget, as we were walking in Stepanakert, this really frail old lady crossing the road, saw Caroline and came up to her and spoke to her with gratitude in her eyes.

When we reached the Centre I witnessed the work of the staff and therapists – they were giving love, care, devotion, dedication, commitment. The Lady Cox Rehabilitation Centre is headed by a gentleman called Vardan who is the embodiment of Compassionate Leadership. He is totally driven by compassion and is a powerful voice for the vulnerable in Armenia. Vardan is deeply passionate about helping and supporting the disabled in Armenia. It was wonderful to see love in action.

trip1

I was so moved to meet with the children with autism. One little boy jumped into my arms and hugged me. It touched my heart. This beautiful place is a ‘centre of excellence, ‘ in every sense. I saw people who had suffered strokes and the therapists were teaching them to walk and talk again. I saw children with autism being taught skills which will help them to live independently, they were teaching them communication skills and so many other skills too. I walked into one room and saw very young children with autism who were being taught to prepare vegetables for their lunch at the Centre. As I left the room, a little boy with autism shouted out ‘Papa.’ It shook my heart.

Some of the people who came to this centre were from the poorest of the poor, travelling miles away from villages in Armenia, in order for the staff and therapists to help their loved ones. They are able to stay for a few weeks at the Centre and the staff teach the parents and caregivers much needed skills and strategies to help their children when they return home.

Training is given to people who need it. When I was there I saw local school children visiting the Centre – it was a learning experience for them. The place is a hub of activity, you could feel a real buzz. Vardan should be congratulated for introducing innovation, educational strategies, in service in house training for his staff – he is an amazing visionary and so forward thinking with a positive outlook on life. Sir Winston Churchill once said: ‘Never, never, never give up.’ Vardan certainly never gives up. He sees the big picture and he has acted upon it. Partnership working is important to him and he has partnered with people all over the world.

centre

summercamp

Wherever you are in the world, please have a place in your heart for HART,  help raise much needed funds for the Lady Cox Rehabilitation Centre. They do so much with very little. A mustard seed has grown into a great big tree. At the moment the charity is trying to raise funds to buy a used van for Vardan (The Van4Vardan campaign), so that they could transport the differently abled to summer camps.

Having visited this Centre (as a former autism campaigner), I can assure you that what is happening here is genuine, real, innovative, a place of compassion – really supporting the differently abled. Please contact the Lady Cox Rehabilitation Centre, visit them, volunteer, consider financially supporting the work for the most vulnerable sections of society. HART is spearheading this wonderful work, reaching out ‘to the least of these.’ The Lady Cox Rehabilitation Centre is a place of love and compassion. A diamond in the heart of Eastern Europe. A very precious place.

Ivan Corea

carolinevardan

van4vardan

Please contact the Humanitarian Aid Relief Trust (HART) in London, in the United Kingdom for further information. Their contact details are on the website – please access the link below:

https://www.hart-uk.org/

https://www.justgiving.com/campaign/van4vardan

 

Some pictures courtesy of the Humanitarian Aid Relief Trust

 

When St. Paul’s Cathedral opened their doors to people with autism with compassion

stpauls

The year was 2002, we campaigned long and hard on autism and there was a huge need to raise awareness of autism. It was such a struggle to access public services. We did it for love and not for the money after our precious son was diagnosed with autism. Parents, carers and people with autism were finding life very difficult without public services – so my wife and I set about persuading partners to come on board with a small acorn of an idea hatched in our front room in Essex, in the United Kingdom. It grew into something big – we initiated 2002 as Autism Awareness Year – this was the first ever occasion of partnership working on autism in the UK, on such a large scale – all of it was for the good of parents, carers and people with autism in the United Kingdom – the idea was freely given in order to help others. Over 800 UK organisations came on board as partners of the year. The inspiration behind all of this was our precious son, we thank God for his life and we know that Jesus loves him.

Parliamentary debates were held in the Scottish Parliament, in the House of Commons and in the House of Lord in the Palace of Westminster in 2002 Autism Awareness Year.

The British Prime Minister at the time, Tony Blair became the first ever Prime Minister in the history of the United Kingdom to mention the word autism. in the House of Commons in the British Parliament and to back and support the year. Prime Minister Tony Blair personally answered a question on Autism Awareness Year at Prime Minister’s Questions, in the chamber of the House of Commons, on the 9th of January 2002.

Photo of Ms Linda PerhamMs Linda Perham  Labour, Ilford North

“Will the Prime Minister acknowledge the success of the British Institute for Brain Injured Children, the Disabilities Trust and my constituents, Ivan and Charika Corea, in getting 2002 declared as autism awareness year? Will he ensure that the national and local bodies that are responsible for health, social services and education co-operate in the joined-up provision of services that autistic people and their families desperately need? “

Photo of Tony BlairTony Blair  Prime Minister

“Yes, I certainly congratulate my hon. Friend’s constituents and the organisations concerned. Autism awareness year should give us the opportunity to raise the awareness of this condition, which is very debilitating and is distressing for families; in addition, it should ensure that we can learn more about what causes autism. She will be pleased to know that, in addition to the measures being taken by the voluntary sector, the Government are putting more resources and research into exactly how autism occurs and how we should deal with it. “

autism sunday

We also felt there was a need for the faith community to engage with parents, carers and the autism community, to reach out in love in the name of Jesus. We launched the International Day of Prayer for Autism also known as Autism Sunday in 2002 during Autism Awareness Year. This was the first ever international event on autism. It was amazing, God opened unexpected doors and showed favour as this was for ‘the least of these’ in His name. I remember walking into a restaurant with work colleagues a few months before and saw the Bishop of London, Richard Chartres having lunch with the famed BBC TV Newsnight presenter, Jeremy Paxman. That prompted us to write to the Bishop of London. He wrote back personally supporting the whole idea of Autism Sunday and we asked if there could be an event at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. It turned out that the Bishop of London, Rt.Rev.Richard Chartres had been involved with a charity dealing with autism – what a divine connection!

The Cathedral administrators got in touch with us and it was on. God just opened door after door of favour, the British press, radio and television heralded Autism Sunday, giving it wide coverage with television crews outside the Cathedral and televising clips for the evening news, across the nation. Bill Turnbull of BBC TV News had a special news item  giving an opportunity for us to invite people to the service. The ‘Thunderer,’ the London Times published the news on their Royal & Court Page.

St_Paul's_Cathedral_Nave,_London,_UK_-_Diliff

St. Paul’s Cathedral showed tremendous compassion to the vulnerable, by opening the Cathedral doors for the first time, to parents, carers and people with autism – 600 people turned up for the service. The Canon who took the service made a special reference to Autism Sunday and welcomed everyone. It was a beautiful moment ,celebrating the lives of all people with autism, their parents and carers. There was total freedom inside the Cathedral  – children with autism were walking up and down – that’s what Jesus would have done. As the choristers walked down in procession a little boy with autism shouted out:  ‘thank you.’ People were moved by the service and the compassion extended to the vulnerable by St. Paul’s Cathedral.

This acorn of an idea spread purely by word of mouth, without a penny being spent on expensive public relations and marketing campaigns and it is now a global event -the oldest global event, celebrating the lives of people with autism. Every life is precious and has worth and value in the sight of God. This was a celebration of life and rightly so.

Ivan Corea

Parliamentary debates in the House of Commons and in the House of Lords in 2002 Autism Awareness Year:

Prime Minister Tony Blair supports 2002 Autism Awareness Year at Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs) on 9th January 2002:

https://www.theyworkforyou.com/debates/?id=2002-01-09.534.2

The Scottish Parliament debate heralding Autism Awareness Year on 6th December 2001:

https://www.theyworkforyou.com/sp/?id=2001-12-06.4678.0&s

Photographs of St.Paul’s Cathedral courtesy of Wikipedia