My name is Susanne Rees, I am best known in my role as Founding Director of iDID Adventure, a social enterprise improving physical and mental health through access and participation in adventure sports. I love wakeboarding and rock climbing, and if you give me 5 minutes, I’ll have persuaded you to have a go!
I enjoy being involved with charities that empower deaf and disabled individuals – I am a Trustee for Deaf Unity and passionately believe in the work this fantastic charity does. Inclusive education has always interested me and as a previous deaf learner myself, I wanted to support the advocacy of more deaf people thriving in education. Furthermore, I am an advisor to Common Purpose, helping to select participants and offer feedback on the Frontrunner for Disabled Students course.
My experience in education was somewhat unconventional, as was my experience of deafness. Like many of my peers, I became deaf later in life due to illness. When I was 19, I was diagnosed with a rare genetic condition called Neurofibromatosis Type 2. It causes tumours to grow throughout your spinal cord and brain. Since diagnosis, I’ve experienced brain surgery, spinal cord surgery, paralysis, liver failure, meningitis, Facial Palsy, radio-surgery, complete hearing loss, countless eyes surgeries, depression/anxiety, epilepsy and lumbar punctures. I have to regularly manage my health with blood tests and MRI scans and live knowing that I still have numerous tumours that could grow at any time. My experiences in life have completely mapped out my interest in how we build resilience and how, with the right support, we can achieve anything that we put our mind to!
Belief, passion and social enterprise
People say that money is power, but actually belief, passion and strategy are the main ingredients to success. Obviously, there are a few additional traits that add to make our recipe much stronger but the most powerful innovators in the world are usually the ones with belief, strategy… and no money!
My journey with iDID really started when I lost my hearing. I wanted to get back into rock climbing and was told that I couldn’t because I was deaf. After a period of accepting that, I began to realise that if I wanted to climb, I would blumming well climb!
I started to develop methods of communicating in different ways and wanted to show other people they could do the same. My aim was to create an information based website that taught deaf and disabled individuals how to adapt different adventure sports to their needs and following an investment from the University of Northampton and Young Foundation, iDID was born.
I love everything about iDID and although it is not a long-term career goal for me, it is actively and positively changing lives and I am hugely proud of what has been achieved. I know through my own experience what it is like to feel as though you are not capable of something. Low confidence is a really powerful enemy and I am passionate about anything that promotes resilience and personal growth – whether that is education, sports or business.
When I work with iDID, I see first-hand the effects on people when they achieve something they never thought possible. It makes the last 2 years of hard work worth it. I KNOW the benefits that improved confidence can bring to a person’s life and my enthusiasm is driven by my belief that working for and with society, our world will become a better place.
I believe education is the place to start. Our educational institutions fail our students by not promoting resilience. Instead, we choose to breed a population with the belief that high attainment figures, speed and money are the labels for success… really?!
What happened to a society where success meant that you put every effort you could into what you were doing? What happened to social standards? It seems that socially, everyone is out for their own gain. This cut throat culture breeds hate, laziness and tramples on our well-being. Anything that promotes a social good and supports people to achieve their best has got to be a positive thing.
To me, a successful nation is one that works collectively towards social good – with and for society. One of my biggest inspirations is Jon Bird, Founder of The Big Issue, who is usually quoted saying that we should be operating as one big social enterprise… so true.
I hope to continue my work in social enterprise and thanks to the incredible campaigners in this field; the government is now paying attention.
Susanne is the founding director of iDID Adventure CIC, a leading provider of inclusive sports opportunities for deaf and disabled individuals. Working on both a national and grassroots level, Susanne has worked tirelessly to advocate inclusive adventure sports. As a consultant to the Common Purpose Frontrunner course, Susanne actively promotes leadership skills to disabled individuals and has experience in enterprising, market strategy, events management and disability awareness. Susanne is passionate about empowering deaf people and campaigning for equality.