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Acid attack survivor inspires Kingston students with tale of how she held on to hope to rebuild her life

James Giles

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Acid attack survivor Katie Piper spoke to Kingston University students, revealing how she has learned to love the scars that saved her life. Addressing an audience of more than 200 students, the television presenter and charity campaigner opened up about having to rebuild her life after the horrific 2008 attack in north London, when she had sulphuric acid thrown in her face leaving her in need of pioneering surgery.

During the event, the 32 year old spoke passionately about how people who were disabled or disfigured in some way shouldn’t feel limited and, with the right support network, could go on to achieve everything they wanted from life.Ms Piper explained how she managed to hold on to hope despite having her identity “literally burned away”.

She said:

“This is not a story of misery. As horrendous as it sounds, this is actually a story about how strong the human mind can really be when using the power of positive thinking… For me, I have now accepted my injuries. A scar on somebody’s body means they’ve survived something and I’m proud to say I’m a survivor.”

In a wide-ranging talk, the Channel 4 presenter, originally from Andover, Hampshire, spoke about the effect the attack and lengthy recovery has had on her family. She also talked about the difficulties of dealing with abuse in the street from strangers because of how she looked and the healing experience of forming her charity, the Katie Piper Foundation, which supports those who have suffered severe burns and scars.

Ms Piper spoke of how disabilities and disfigurements shouldn’t hold people back, saying:

“You don’t have to fit into a narrow-minded description or have limitations placed on your life. With the right support structure you can move forward – be a CEO, a leader, be attractive, get married, be a parent.”

Ms Piper urged students not to get caught up in envying what others have, but instead encouraged them to focus on their own lives. “It’s so easy for our generation, with Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, to look at other people’s lives and think ‘I want that’,” she said. “But if I’m always looking for what someone else has got, I’m never going to be happy.”

Ms Piper, who became a mother for the first time to daughter Belle earlier this year, also spoke of how she had started putting her anger and fears down on paper as a coping mechanism on the advice of a psychologist – filling journals with her thoughts and experiences. This writing formed the basis of her first autobiography, Beautiful. She has now forged a successful career presenting documentaries for Channel 4 and has penned a second autobiography and two self-help books. “Self-help isn’t about ‘here’s the answer to it all and it will be okay’,” she said. “Life changes are exactly that – we have to adapt and sometimes it’s about creating a new life rather than trying to get the old one back.”

Taking questions from the audience, Ms Piper explained to one student how waiving her right to anonymity to share her story had helped her reclaim her identity and gain acceptance from strangers – something she credited as an important part of embracing her new life.

She spoke of her hopes that her messages would resonate with those in the audience. “Being a student is a turning point in your life – you’re thinking about your future so it’s definitely really relevant to the messages in my story,” she said. “It’s so important that while you’re at university you grasp everything available to you with both hands.”

James Giles is the Editor of the Kingston Enquirer, covering local news and events in Kingston, New Malden, Surbiton, Tolworth and Chessington.

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Events in our Local Community

B&Q to reveal new look store with family fun day

James Giles

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B&Q

B&Q will soon open the doors to its newly revamped home improvement store in New Malden. To celebrate, B&Q New Malden will host a day of family fun on Saturday 14th January, including a special guest appearance from local rugby legend Nick Easter, who played No. 8 for Harlequins and England in international rugby union.

At the launch event the local sports star, known fondly by fans as “Minty”, will be testing out his DIY skills against B&Q New Malden’s store team. Customers will get the chance to see the sporting star getting mucky off the pitch for a change as store staff challenge him try his hand at potting plants in the garden centre, tussle with wallpaper and cause a ruckus with a paintbrush. He will also be on hand to meet, greet and sign autographs for fans. Plus, there will also be plenty to keep the family entertained throughout the day, including a balloon modeller, face painter, stilt walkers and a craft station.

B&Q New Malden has been completely revamped to offer customers a variety of new products and features, including a new paint desk, a new kitchens and bathrooms display, more visual ranges of flooring and tiles, and a new café with windows overlooking the A3 and Burlington Road.

Lee Bayliss, Unit Manager at B&Q New Malden, said: “We’re all looking forward to welcoming customers to our newly revamped store. We’re ready to show off our new look to New Malden’s residents and inspire them to start a new home improvement project under the guidance of our expert advice. We’re all really looking forward to Saturday’s family fun day and, of course, testing Nick with our DIY challenges!”

Nick Easter added: “I’m really looking forward to helping celebrate the launch of the newly revamped B&Q New Malden store. I’m not sure that my DIY skills can beat the in store experts but it will be great to get some advice from them to make my own home improvement projects easier.”

The B&Q family fun day will take place on Saturday, 14th January from 10am to 3pm, with Nick Easter in store from 10:30 -12:30pm, at B&Q New Malden, Shannon Commercial Centre, Beverley Way, New Malden, Surrey, KT3 4PT.

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