While former nursery teacher Lisa is known throughout the UK for the bravery she showed during a random violent attack in 1996, during which she shielded several children from a machete-wielding man, her kind-hearted achievements both before and after the event are just as humbling and impressive.
Now, 26 years after that day and following her achievements in charity work, nursing, and counselling, Lisa has been awarded Freedom of the City of Wolverhampton – the highest honour its council can bestow.
Lisa says: “It was a bit of a shock to be honest because it came so unexpectedly, but then it is also a true honour. I still live and work in Wolverhampton, so it was really special to be recognised by the city, and the whole event where I received the award was overwhelming.”
...it was really special to be recognised by the city.
"I was just thrust into the limelight after what happened, and I had to learn how to deal with it. At that moment I felt like
I needed to do something to create some light out of such a dark time."
Even before the terrible attack that almost severed Lisa’s arm and catapulted her to nationwide fame, Lisa had always made charity work and helping others a part of her life. Prior to that day in 1996, Lisa had worked voluntarily at the crèche in her local church, was a Brownie leader from the age of 17 and later became the troupe’s Brown Owl, and more.
Despite having always been involved in fundraising events, it’s a fact that Lisa’s charitable work increased after the events of 1996. With her newfound public image, Lisa was given the opportunity to visit Romania to help raise money to build an orphanage for abandoned children, then worked on a project in Vietnam with Oxfam, and was able to continually expand on the good work she was doing.
Lisa continues: “I was just thrust into the limelight after what happened, and I had to learn how to deal with it. At that moment I felt like I needed to do something to create some light out of such a dark time.
“When I came back from those projects abroad to Wolverhampton, I did numerous other pieces of volunteering work for different charities, and I thought, I’d love to set up something myself in Wolverhampton.”
This line of thinking led to Lisa founding the Believe to Achieve project, which is based on the idea of helping children to better believe in themselves and achieve more in their lives as a result.
Lisa says: “Back then, times were very different to how they are now. There wasn’t as much counselling and therapy available in schools, so that was the kind of thing I wanted to be at the heart of the project. “We went on to include art therapy, counselling, mentoring, and work around sports, dance, drama, and various other activities.”
Lisa is especially proud of the work her charity has done in the area of play-based counselling for children, and encourages youngsters to open up about their feelings.
Closer to the present, Believe to Achieve found itself drastically impacted by the pandemic, halting all of the charity’s in-person counselling services. While online counselling via webcam is possible for adults, it’s more challenging when it’s with children who tend to respond better to counselling through games. However, now that schools and the nation have opened again, Believe to Achieve is back up and running.
Away from her charity work, Lisa’s career has enabled her to do further good for those in need, and began with her studying counselling over two decades ago.
Lisa says: “I started in about 1998 by studying Level 2 Counselling. I’d taken some time out for myself after what happened in 1996, then progressed through Level 3 and Level 4 Counselling qualifications too. This is how I came to work in areas such as teenage pregnancy, children’s centres, and various kinds of counselling and support work.
“I’d had my children by then, who were 15 and 18, and decided that I’d like to do something in the community and study a different kind of qualification. This time, I wanted to make it something specifically for me, and not connected to that day in 1996."
Lisa chose to study Adult Nursing at the University of Wolverhampton, which she says was at first “quite scary” due to her awareness of being such a recognisable face. Despite feeling nervous before starting, Lisa “loved” and “really embraced” the three years she spent at the University, which she says were hard work but very rewarding. Lisa then returned to the University of Wolverhampton to complete a BSc in Specialist Public Health Nursing (Health Visitor). Lisa says: “When I was young, I knew that I loved people and that I wanted to make a difference. At first, I wanted to make a difference in a big way, but actually, you can make a difference every day, just by putting yourself out there."
“If you can find the passion in your life and realise that it’s your whole reason for being alive, then when you make it into your profession it isn’t just your job – it becomes your whole life, really.”
When Lisa is asked if there are any particular goals she would like to achieve in her charity, counselling, or nursing work, she reveals a remarkably philosophical approach to her life: “I don’t really ever have a goal-based thought process, really. The older I get I just think that I’m doing what I do, every day, and I feel like I’m moving along the path that I’m meant to go. What will be, will be.”
Considering her lifelong achievements and her recent awarding of the Freedom of the City of Wolverhampton, it seems like Lisa is still on the right path.