It is in their early teens that most young people start to take an interest in their appearance, and it was at this crucial time in his life that Leo was involved in a petrol fire which left him scarred both physically and emotionally. Sustaining full thickness burns to his hands, face, and legs he wasn’t expected to survive the three hour journey to the nearest burns unit.
He did survive and spent the next four months undergoing many operations, plastic surgery and associated treatments before being allowed home for Christmas. It was only then that he began to realise the full impact that his changed appearance was to have on himself and on others.
Leo now shares his personal story with young people, relating how he coped with the trauma of the accident and his subsequent treatment and how he adjusted to the impact that his changed appearance had on himself and on others. He explains how he learned to deal with the curiosity, the staring, and the name-calling that occurred on his return to everyday life.
Leo went on to become a successful engineer, manager, businessman, husband, and father. However, he recognises that it took him a long time and a great deal of perseverance to become comfortable with his disfigurement. It is through telling his story to young people that he seeks to illustrate how, in a modern world where individuals are increasingly assessed on their looks, an acceptance of individual difference and a true tolerance of diversity are important components of a civilised society… and that the bad guy isn’t always the one with the scars!
"It has been a complete honour to have Leo working with us in our school. Never before has a speaker been so open and honest with us about their story. Our pupils were spell bound by Leo's positive approach to life and were inspired by him on many levels, so much so that we have decided to repeat the session with this year's Year 10 cohort.Leo's willingness to answer questions from our pupils encouraged even the most disengaged of our pupils to participate.The lasting impact that Leo's talk has had upon our image-conscious girls especially, has been invaluable and we would welcome him back to our school with open arms anytime."– Mrs. J Goulding, Citizenship and Enterprise Coordinator, Wade Deacon High School
"To say his visit was a success is an understatement. His quiet, unassuming manner,engaged the pupils immediately, and they were intrigued by the story he told them. His visit enabled the students to see people with facial disfigurements as just that,people; whereas before his visit,through ignorance,they judged people on appearances first. I have no hesitation in recommending Leo as a speaker in schools."– Mrs. A. Parnell, Head of English, St. Mary's Roman Catholic School, Stockton-on-Tees
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