Leaders’ List winners!

Meet Crystal and Ben Fai, two of our Campaign 4 Change members who are winners in the Learning Disability and Autism Leaders’ List Awards.

Stop Press!  Crystal Higgins and Ben Fai Lankshear are officially Learning Disability and Autism Leaders in the 2024 Leaders’ List. What an fantastic result!

Crystal and Ben Fai are people we support who are achieving amazing things. These highly prestigious accolades are further recognition of their outstanding accomplishments. Crystal is named as a Local Communities winner in the Leaders’ List, while Ben is a winner for Sports, arts and entertainment.,

Both are members of self-advocacy groups Campaign 4 Change and Unity. With Campaign 4 Change, they raise awareness of issues important to people with learning disabilities and autistic people. Unity promotes co-production and people being equal partners in the support they receive.

Women’s focus

Crystal is an inspiration to other women, using her own difficult experiences to help other people and make the world a better place. Through her life traumas she has learnt how to be brave, kind, generous and helpful to others who have also suffered.  She has created a ‘Keeping yourself safe’ board in her supported living home to help her housemates stay safe, recognise abuse and where to get help. Having completed safeguarding training, Crystal now plans to become a Safeguarding Champion and peer trainer.

She has set up and runs a group for women with learning disabilities and autistic women in her area. The group is a safe space for all to share their experiences and any issues or topics important to them. They focus on making relationships better and helping women feel part of a sisterhood and community. Crystal organises birthday parties and events and edits their newsletter.

In addition, Crystal regularly organises charity events in her community such as a sponsored sports day and walk for domestic abuse victims.

On receiving her award, Crystal said: “I’m happy and proud to be a winner. I’m in shock and disbelief and can’t believe it’s true! My advice for other people is: no matter  what other people think or say, keep confident and keep believing and achieving your hopes and dreams!”

All sorts of sports

Ben Fai is a talented sportsman – he is a professional cyclist, plays cricket, football, snooker and pool, plus pilates and martial arts.

He rides 30-50km most Sundays in all weathers with his cycling group. Once every 2-3 months they ride on a cycle track. Ben loves this as they go much faster!

Ben has ridden in both Sheffield and Manchester for the Nationals, where participants can qualify for riding for the Great Britain team. Through a very competitive selection process, he qualified to represent Great Britain as a cyclist in Special Olympics twice – in Scotland in 2018 and Berlin in 2023. Ben earned one gold and two silver medals at Special Olympics 2018, and a bronze and a team silver medal in 2023. Consequently, he  visited 10 Downing Street meeting dignitaries in celebration of GB team’s success in Berlin.

When not busy cycling (or participating in other sports), Ben volunteers at the YMCA gym, helping others use the equipment. In his work with Unity, he is an expert by experience and quality checker.

Ben said: “I was very proud to receive the award and happy that my Mum and Dad were there to see me get this award and be with me.”

The pair were nominated by Co-production Manager, Elmi Terjavjainen, who commented: “I am very proud of Crystal and Ben’s incredible achievements. They are an inspiration and proof that hard work, standing up in the face of adversity and believing in oneself will lead to success. Their support teams should also be very proud of the unwavering and meaningful support they have provided to empower people to achieve their dreams.”  

Well done to both of you – you really are an inspiration and role model for others!