Maria, originally from London but now living in Swanage, was 23 when she was hit by a vehicle and sustained 15 fractures. The hospital staff joked that she would laugh at this in 20 years’ time after being airlifted home. She calmly told them to read her notes as she was run over at the age of three by a police car on a blue light.
It took over three years for her to recover from the near fatal accident. But she did – learning to walk again, and rebuilding her life, all she explains, without family help or support.
“I was so fortunate that the nurses looked after me when I had no-one and I made a promise to myself that I never wanted anyone to feel alone during a critical time in need.
“Picking up a camera, learning photography and following a new-found passion for the ocean proved to be great distraction technique to help me forget about ‘stuff’.
“I never expected to win prizes, (which I did), or write a book, (which people loved and it won ‘Book of the Year’ in the Dive Industry) or most importantly for me, to be able to help other photographers to win prizes (23 of them in all!).
“Watching the guests on my photography courses join me as complete beginners, then grow in confidence, develop their new-found skills and even go on to win awards is just the best life gift to me. One of my guest’s work was even featured on the recent BBC Blue Planet series.
“Having a camera took my mind off everything, helping to build valuable life-skills such as giving me the courage to overcome my shyness and help with self-esteem and confidence. I now love sharing my skills and knowledge to help others achieve their own goals.
“Since I came to Dorset I’ve loved working as an Auxiliary Nurse at our local hospitals, as well as being a Support Worker at St Anne’s and with BCHA.
“It is so incredibly rewarding being able to listen and support others through their own life struggles, helping to build their confidence and watching them take steps forward to overcome challenges with positive outcomes. There’s a deep satisfaction in being able to help people that in turn helps me so much too. I just truly love it.
“I believe that art, creativity and nature can play such a huge part in recovery and wellbeing and I recently launched Photography for Wellbeing Photo Walks, where people can learn a new skill in a supportive, friendly, welcoming environment. It seemed to make sense to combine my Support Worker and Nursing Skills with my photography knowledge to help others.
“I recently spent time with someone who was previously supported by BCHA. We had a lovely walk in RSPB Arne practicing with both her phone and camera. It was priceless watching her knowledge develop, and to see her capture beautiful butterfly photos. She later sent me a message saying how much the day had meant to her. She has also since wanted to meet again, and this really touched me.
“I love how BCHA supports people from all walks of life and am so proud when I’m asked to help the organisation. I’m hoping that I can continue to develop my skills by joining its team full time in the near future.
“There are just so many people struggling at the moment. Helping to give them strength, build their own confidence and see them smile is just the best gift for which I’ll forever be grateful.
“Thank you BCHA for all the great things that you do.”