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Hannah shines a light for Africa in Paralympic torch relay

A VOLUNTEER champion from Frome, had the experience of a lifetime when she carried the Paralympic torch as part of an Inspirational Women’s Team for health education charity, Act4 Africa recently.

Hannah Lane was part of the Act4Africa team who took part in the 24-hour overnight relay that carried the Paralympic Flame from Stoke Mandeville to the Olympic Stadium for the opening ceremony.

The Act4Africa team has reached and impacted more than one million young Africans to reduce stigma for those living with HIV/AIDS, and provides free counselling and testing facilities in remote rural African villages.

Hannah became aware of Act 4 Africa 10 years ago when the charity were in their early stages, and seeing their vision, matched a lot of what she was interested in (creative expression, Africa and HIV work), she soon got involved, and joined a summer team the following year to Tanzania, and again in 2004, when she stayed there working for them for four months.

After finishing her nurse training in 2008 she returned to co-lead a summer team (with Dora Witcomb of Bath) to Kasese, in western Uganda. She was absolutely thrilled to be given the opportunity to represent the charity and be involved in such an inspirational event. She is hoping that the charity’s involvement in the relay will help to shine a light on the work of Act4Africa and encourage others to get involved.

Hannah said, “I was thrilled to be chosen by Act4Africa and the Paralympics Committee to run in the Paralympic Torch Relay. Those who compete at the games are a huge inspiration.

“So many have overcome phenomenal challenges to get to the games. It mirrors the challenges that our local teams who deliver our AIDS Prevention and Stigma Reduction Programmes in Africa fight to overcome every day. Every single one of our staff in Africa has lost a family member (or in some cases, many family members) to HIV.

“Many of them have had to overcome incredible challenges – from the loss of their parents in childhood, to homelessness and stigma because of ignorance about how the disease is spread. AIDS really is the ‘cancer’ of Africa and Act4Africa plays a significant part in eradicating it.

“AIDS is a silent killer that knows no boundaries: race, age or sexuality. The charity is determined to step up its work until every child, every parent, and every person in Africa knows the truth about AIDS.

“Since I first joined Act4Africa on expedition, when I saw the impact of HIV for the first time: child led households and orphans with no future because of the unnecessary loss of their parents, I’ve been absolutely passionate about supporting the charity’s work. Our team hopes that, by taking part in this important national event, we can help to put the AIDS pandemic in Africa back on the media’s agenda and encourage people to support the work of Act4Africa, which gives thousands of young people lifesaving health education and a hope for a better future.”

Kathy Smedley, the charity’s founder who heads up the Inspirational Women’s Torch Relay Team said, “It is such an honour to be able to have Hannah in our relay team. She has worked tirelessly to support our little charity and has seen, first hand, the impact of her efforts when she’s joined us on expedition out in Africa. Many, many people will go on to have long, fulfilling lives without the threat of HIV and AIDS as a result of Hannah’s efforts. She is a truly inspirational woman, and it’s been wonderful to have her on our relay team.”

To find out more about Act4Africa latest campaign, “5 Million Lives2, log onto: www.act4africa. org/get-involved.aspx.

Pictured: Hannah (second from left) and team carrying the flame