Tammy Radford grew up and still lives in Officer, Victoria located 50 minutes from Melbourne. She has been married for 17 years to the same man and have 2 teenagers. Up until recently she was working as a Community Development Manager for a residential land developer in the South East Suburbs of Melbourne. She loved her job of building a strong, well connected community that was diverse and inclusive. She resigned from her position to run as a candidate in her local council elections for Officer Ward in the Shire of Cardinia. Tammy believes everyone has a purpose in life, and for many years she believed hers was to be a care giver for her family. Recently she realised that she had much more purpose than that. She is convinced that challenging herself and pursuing her dreams will make a difference to her community where she lives, her family and friends.
This is Tammy's story of courage as shared with Affluent Society from Australia:
Our second baby, our daughter, was born with a number of medical issues. One of these was a cleft lip and palate. She missed so many days of school due to these medical issues, medical appointments and surgeries. By Grade 3 she had gone through 10 surgeries and they left scars. Her first surgery was at the age of 12 weeks old and that was to repair her cleft lip. This was the scar my daughter hated the most, as this was the scar that caused her the most pain, emotionally. For her, this scar made her different to all the other kids. This scar made them call her ugly. This scar made them not play with her. This scar made her cry and hate herself. This scar was why she was bullied. As a parent not being able to comfort your child and reassure them that they are beautiful, they are loved and that everything will get better, is the worse feeling in the world. I felt so helpless. I wanted more than anything for my daughter to feel included and “normal”.
My dream is that one day everyone will feel welcomed and included. That people will just be accepted for who they are as a person, and not what they look like. That differences will be embraced, and not rejected.
It all starts with community
I have been actively involved with my community as a volunteer for many years. This began when our our daughter was born. At the time our son was 17 months old, and all of a sudden my life was filled with hospital appointments, feeding issues and toddler tantrums! I felt isolated and alone. I went in search of support groups, but there weren’t any at the time in my area. So I joined the CleftPals Victoria committee and started a support group. I organised for us to meet once a month at a local play centre, and was so pleased that from the very first meeting there were families like me looking for a group to join where we could share our feelings, our struggles, feel understood and not alone. It felt good to be part of a community where myself and my daughter were included, and it was then I made a commitment to myself that I would always make people feel welcomed and included when I met them. As a group we continued to meet till our babies were of school age.
These past few years volunteering for community organisations have been fulfilling. I have enjoyed organising and participating in events and activities that encourage social connections, engagement and inclusion. I chose this type of volunteering to continue the commitment I had made to myself, that I would always make people feel welcomed and included. This was for my community but it was also for my daughter. Creating a community that she felt welcomed and included in. For some time I have thought, “How can I be of greater service to my community?” and that’s when I decided I wanted to serve the community as a Councillor. In talking this over with my family, I saw how proud my daughter looked when I announced that I was going to resign from my job and run as a candidate for our local council. In that moment I knew I had made the right decision. No matter the outcome, I was showing my daughter that even though this decision was scary, and very challenging, I was pursuing my dreams and she could too.
Making a scary decision
At the moment I am most afraid of failing. Making a decision like this, and setting this goal is scary. What if I don’t succeed in being voted in for this election, does that mean that I failed? Will my family especially my daughter see me as a failure? These are questions that are keeping me up at night. I know I can look back and say that I have run this campaign with integrity, passion and commitment, but, if not elected have I failed? This is pressure I have put on myself and I need to learn to not worry about the “what if”, a fault I have that I am constantly struggling with, and one that has stopped me from challenging myself in the past.
There are many who are not as lucky, living under the same conditions that I am. Currently in Melbourne we are still under strict restrictions to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. I am fortunate that I live in a loving family home. I have others to talk too, play games with, and that has helped me to cope through this pandemic. Their homes may not be as loving and are desperate to escape, or they are living on their own. They must be feeling so isolated. As much as my family and I have supported local members of our community the best we can under restrictions, I know that there will still be so many people out there without any support, and that makes me really sad.
It felt good to be part of a community where myself and my daughter were included, and it was then I made a commitment to myself that I would always make people feel welcomed and included...
Courage to pursue your dreams
When you become a mother you tend to put yourself last. Your priority becomes your children and you ensure they are happy, and healthy. Having a child that requires extra care, puts more strain on your time and juggling your other child with medical appointments, school and home. You pretty quickly end up with little time other than to fall in to bed at the end of every night exhausted! It has been very difficult for me to make this decision to run for council. I felt selfish for even thinking it, and guilty for wanting to do something for myself. I knew though, that it was time for me to pursue my passion. Challenging myself and my thinking has made me very happy. In reality my children are doing well, both in high school now. They still need me, but really it was me who was making it difficult to put myself first, not them. Pursuing my passion has been an inspiration for them, and that makes me really happy also.
My dream is that one day everyone will feel welcomed and included. That people will just be accepted for who they are as a person, and not what they look like. That differences will be embraced, and not rejected. This is a big dream to achieve! I feel sometimes we get caught up making others happy, which does feel good, but I encourage everyone to look deep within and think about what you are doing to make yourself happy. Are you achieving your dreams or somebody else’s? Because really truly being happy within yourself is infectious and will inspire others. Having the courage to pursue my dreams and aspirations, I hope will also help my daughter to see in herself what I see in her. A brave, courageous, beautiful, strong young woman who brings so much joy to the world. My favourite quote is by Walt Disney; “All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.”
About Human Stories:
All of us have a story to share. Some are joyful. Some are teary. Some provide perspectives. Several are downright heartbreaking. Others are simply inspiring.
I've been receiving and exchanging stories of COVID-19 lockdowns with business and government leaders from around the world since June. As the third wave of the pandemic handcuffs some nations and borders, I turn my attention to you - readers and followers of Affluent Society - and your emails and feedback to me these past months. While I continue serving my sentence in Melbourne, I will try my best to tell your story.
This Human Stories Series is a cumulation of stories shared with Affluent Society by its readers and followers from around the world.
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