Busy times for charity ambassador Trishna Bharadia
PUBLISHED: 15:32 03 February 2016 | UPDATED: 15:36 03 February 2016
Ilaria Petrucci Photography
What a year that was for the bubbly charity ambassador who danced the light fantastic across our screens – and 2016 looks just as busy
We all have our ‘impossible’ dreams. For Trishna Bharadia close to the top of her list for many years was the fantasy of gliding across the floor in Strictly Come Dancing. Glued to the set for each series she could see herself in the midst of all the glamour with the lights, beautiful outfits and, of course, a handsome professional partner.
But for Trishna her own personal fairy tale came true in 2015 when she was asked to be one of the six contestants in The People’s Strictly for Comic Relief.
Suddenly she was transported from her home in Marlow and full-time job as a translator for a Reading-based information services company to the TV studios for four episodes of the show. And it was a very special series, for alongside the dancing (Trishna was teamed with Aljaž Škorjanec) the show told the stories of the non-pro dancers, all inspirational people.
In Trishna’s case she was selected as a Multiple Sclerosis fundraiser and awareness campaigner, which only tells a small part of her tale. Trishna was diagnosed with MS in 2008 at the age of 28. Three years later her identical twin sister, Manisha, discovered she too had MS, the debilitating condition of the central nervous system which can leave sufferers with a huge range of symptoms including vision and balance problems, fatigue and spasms.
Before we get to that, and the accolades, she’s received, it’s worth looking back to the Strictly adventure. Trishna recalls the build-up: “I knew something was going on, but had no idea what it was. Actually I got a bit paranoid because family members, including my youngest sister, Anisha, would disappear out the room to take phone calls.
“Then my dad seemed unusually cross with me about my own phone. He said ‘Look, you’re always on that phone, put it down and leave it alone for a while’. The family was trying to ‘borrow’ my phone because it had all my contacts in!
“Then came the big reveal when I discovered I was one of six people chosen from 11,000 nominations to be on the show!”
Trishna was sworn to secrecy by the producers and found herself at the centre of national attention as it was revealed she would be taking part alongside contestants including a former Royal Marine medic who lost his right leg below the knee during a tour of Afghanistan, and other charity fundraisers who had overcome adversity themselves or within their family.
For Trishna it was a chance to fly the flag for the MS Society. She’s carried out MS-related charity work and helped to support others with the condition since diagnosis. A particular interest has been raising awareness and understanding within the Asian community, where that can be fears and stigmas attached to disabling conditions. Trishna didn’t win the show, but that wasn’t the point for her – as she says, there aren’t many high profile MS sufferers, but now far more people have a better idea of the challenges it causes.
“It’s funny feeling a bit like a celebrity,” laughs Trishna. “People spot you out and either recognise you from the show or say ‘Don’t I know you?’ Doing Strictly was the best thing of my life and you have to accept that without the MS this, and other things ,would simply not have happened.”
Those ‘other things’ include the fact that after her diagnosis Trishna went snowboarding, something she’d often thought about but never got round to until then. And there are bigger ‘other things’, such as being named a Woman of the Year 2015 by the Women of the Year Foundation, and appointment as one of MS Society UK’s new Ambassadors. She was a awarded runner-up Volunteer of the Year by Windsor & Maidenhead Voluntary Action in 2013, was the MS Society’s Volunteer of the Year 2013 and also gained a Sue Ryder Southern Women of Achievement Award this year, all as a result of her charity work. She’s also an ambassador for Sue Ryder in Nettlebed, Reading and Wokingham and is involved in the East Berkshire branch of the MS Society.
So what will 2016 bring? It starts this month with tea with Mayor of High Wycombe followed by a guest appearance on the BBC3CR Asian programme. February includes a role as panellist for an ‘Evening of Inspirational Women’ event at Wycombe High School, where she was once a student.
As an ambassador for Sue Ryder their Southern Women of Achievement Awards in March are on the calendar, as are April’s MS Awareness Week and judging in the MS Society Awards 2016. May sees World MS Day and we expect she’ll fill her summer calendar before MS Life 2016 in September, the largest lifestyle event for people with MS in Europe, which is run by the MS Society and will be held in London.
“Your life isn’t ended when you have MS,” says Trishna. “It’s just going to be a different one, so make the most of it!”
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