Inspirational message at Mid-winter Christmas Dinner

Guest speaker Robbie Francis, the Director of The Lucy Foundation, gave an amazing talk to Members as part of the College's Mid-winter Christmas Dinner held on Sunday, 15 July.

Robbie (29) has an incredible personal story which resonates so well and powerfully with young people. Born without a left leg and most of the major bones missing in her right leg, she has made  determined, incredible and praiseworthy efforts to not let her physical disability consume her in a negative way.

Her early teenage years were not easy, however, as she came to despise her artificial limb which she had called Lucy Leg from an early age "because what toddler can say pros-the-sis or art-i-fi-cial limb!"  After a declining attitude and choice of friends, and battling with the question of "why me?", Robbie made a decision to "come out" as a disabled person and "to stop hiding from what truly made me unique."

Since that day, Robbie's achievements have been recognised with prestigious awards, which she has used to advance her academic, professional and life's experiences. She has worked in the disability sector for over a decade as a support worker, documentary maker, human rights intern, researcher, consultant and as an advisor. She has experience working with people with disabilities in France, Bangladesh, India, Mexico and Ecuador, and has also spearheaded research on gender, war and disability rights.

In her captivating talk, Robbie challenged Members in three ways, citing examples from her own life:

  • Choose to live with Lucy (turning a weakness into a strength)
  • Choose to help one person at a time and always start with the person nearest you
  • Choose to do things differently

Choosing to do business differently, in 2014 Robbie co-founded The Lucy Foundation which is a social enterprise committed to empowering people with disabilities by working with local communities to promote education, employment and a culture of disability inclusiveness through sustainable trade. Their first project is based in Oaxaca, Mexico, where they are working with locals with and without disabilities to promote a culture of disability inclusiveness, equality, human rights, training and employment through the production and export of coffee to New Zealand.

Just recently Robbie submitted her PhD thesis for examination. Her research focused on inclusive and accessible research methodologies and the experiences of people with disabilities during conflict and displacement. Prior to embarking on her PhD, Robbie studied international conflict resolution and mediation in Israel-Palestine.

Robbie has also achieved in many other areas. For instance, she was named Attitude Entrepreneur of the Year in 2017, she has spoken at many conferences around the world, and has been named in the Spinoff's top 10 women in business to look out for. She is currently the Project Manager for the 2018 Attitude Awards to be held later this year - a black tie, red carpet, gala event celebrating the achievements of New Zealanders living with disabilities. 

The College was honoured and privileged to have Robbie attend and speak at our Mid-winter Christmas Dinner. Her address was excellent, thought-provoking, inspirational and challenging. In Robbie's words: "Tonight we drink, we eat, we reflect, and we celebrate all that has been. But tomorrow each of us must choose how to be the best version of ourselves. Tomorrow is the first day of the rest of 2018, how are you going to choose to live it?"

(Story by the Master, Dr Charles Tustin)

Posted: Tuesday July 17, 2018