"The secret of change," wrote Socrates, "is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old, but building the new." George Wyndham has certainly taken this philosophy to heart. A para table tennis player from Sierra Leone, Wyndham lost his ability to walk at 11 due to polio. Always an avid athlete, Wyndham continued to compete in track and field events. At 16, he happened upon a table tennis club and was mesmerized. "I saw people playing table tennis through a window," recalls Wyndam, now 30. "The coach who was training the team saw and asked me to go in and play. I clearly told him no, as I had seen the people moving from one place to another and as a disabled, I didn’t think I could move like them. He encouraged me, promised to teach and help me." Wyndham has gone on to play around the world, winning an array of medals for his homeland. Upon qualifying for the Paralympics, he was the lone Sierra Leonean athlete competing at Rio 2016. For Wyndham, this is both a point of pride and concern. "My biggest worry is, who will be next after George?" he confides. "Where will Sierra Leone be in terms of representation? And will that be the end of Sierra Leone in para-table tennis or wheelchair athletics? This is what bothers me." A man of action, he has constructed the change he wants to see by coaching up-and-coming para table tennis players. "I now have three people with disability who have left the streets and joined me so that I can train them to play table tennis," he says. While Wyndham has never had it easy, the COVID-19 pandemic has added a sadistic degree of difficulty. Now, his meager government allotments for tournament expenses have dried up, as has his coaching income. Luckily, he has found a way to support himself by fighting the common enemy facing not only Sierra Leone, but the world at large. Wyndham now works for Sierra Leonean Emergency Operation Centre (EOC), educating his compatriots about the dangers of COVID-19 and how to avoid them. "They were looking for people to help spread awareness and knowledge about the coronavirus throughout the country," explains Wyndham. "As the saying goes, don’t ask yourself what your country has done for you but what you have done for your country?" Wyndham muses. "I have a genuine love and heart from my country." Building the new, George Wyndham has taken the Socratic ideal and made it real.
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