LAST year Selkirk’s Amy Ward needed walking sticks to get around as she spent a seventh year battling ME.
But this year she is fundraising to go to Guatemala City for two years to help teenage girls in prison.
The 29-year-old, who leaves for the Central American country in January, said: “I’m not really thinking about it because there’s so much to do, but after I pray about it I’m doing little jigs!”
Amy has raised about £7,000 so far and needs £14,000 to volunteer and help rehabilitate the girls, often gang members who have committed serious crimes. She will be trying projects such as music classes, English teaching, sport, crafts, childcare facilities and “hopefully a way for the girls to earn an income”.
But two years ago undertaking such a challenge would have been impossible as the music graduate fought ME, also known as chronic fatigue syndrome, a disease characterised by debilitating fatigue, painful muscles and joints, disordered sleep, gastric disturbances and poor memory and concentration.
In 2004 Amy was about to start a postgraduate course in orchestra conducting, but was going to work in a school in India first. She had inoculations then fell ill with a virus which she couldn’t shake off and the following summer she was diagnosed with ME.
“Initially I was confined to bed, it was fairly bad. I couldn’t dress myself, I couldn’t always feed myself and I remember once I wasn’t able to go through to the kitchen to get a drink of water because my muscles weren’t working. I gradually got better.
“By year two or three I was going to hydrotherapy and that was my week’s big outing.” She started using a wheelchair and then walking sticks as she tried various therapies with varying degrees of success.
By January 2011, she was teaching about 25 music pupils each week, but still using walking sticks and not able to get far “without feeling very poorly”.
She says on her website: “Teaching came at a price; I had to rest following lessons and other activities, and any physical exercise was out of the question. Numerous unpleasant symptoms were a daily experience. I came to terms with living with the illness for the rest of my life, and staying in Selkirk.”
But in February 2011 she went on a three-day course which combines neurolinguistic programming, cognitive behavioural therapy and other disciplines.
“All these things seemed to be a way of resetting the body’s system. That week I was up the Eildons. It was pretty fantastic. It was emotional. I kept tearing up. My body feels itself again.”
She continued: “I had come to terms that I wouldn’t be able to leave Selkirk ever. Overnight, my horizon became bigger, stretching from the back of the garden to wherever I wanted to go. And I thought ‘now I don’t have to be here – what do I really want to be doing?’”
She said: “I saw many small things (kindnesses) – like a card through the door – when I was ill: for them (the people who did these things) it was such a small part of their week, but that was sometimes the thing that got me through that day and reminded me that I was loved and I really want to give that back.”
She then came across the Christian organisation Latin Link, which helps people in Latin America, and who have organised her two-year placement.
Amy’s next fundraiser is a ceilidh at Selkirk High School on Saturday, October 20, from 7pm, with music by Bedlam, a raffle and food.
She said: “There will be lots of dancing and I’m hoping all ages will come along.”
Tickets are £8 or £5 from Amy on 01750 20794, or by emailing email@example.com.
For more information visit www.guatemalacalling.co.uk