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Carrying the flame

HONOUR: Wendell Raphael with his hammer

TWO PEOPLE chosen to be among 8,000 individuals who will carry the Olympic Flame this summer, have told The Voice how they feel.

The torch will pass through 1,024 communities across Britain before arriving at the Olympic Stadium in Stratford, east London, to signal the start of the Games.

The world’s premier sporting event takes place in London from July 27 to August 12. It will be followed by the Paralympics, which run from August 29 to September 9.

Wendell K. Raphael

Olympic torchbearer Wendell K. Raphael told The Voice he is delighted to have been chosen to carry the Flame this July.

“I find the whole thing about the torch inspiring,” he said. “It’s like something I have been working towards for a long time and… it finally came true.”

Raphael, an eight-time blood donor who donated a kidney to a friend in 2007, said he is looking forward to carrying the torch 500km from Haringey to Hackney in east London on July 25.

Last week, the Trinidadian-born IT consultant, affectionately called Raph, chuckled as he told The Voice he had already had some practice by carrying a torch of another kind, a toy hammer.

Donation

It is his tool, he said, for opening conversations about the importance of blood, bone marrow and organ donation while advising people on ways they can support his favourite charity, the African Caribbean Leukaemia Trust (ACLT).

“I go to work with the hammer. I go to the shop with the hammer. Everywhere I go, I take my hammer. People just see my hammer and ask me what it’s about, and I tell them it’s because I am a living donor.”

As captain of a team of living donors – meaning people who donate organs, blood and bone marrow while still alive – Raphael has carried the toy hammer with him over the last nine months as he participated in several challenges to raise funds for the ACLT under the UK's first Olympic sport based charity, the Gold Challenge.

Through participation in charity events, including the London Marathon, he has also achieved his Gold Challenge goal of completing 2012 kilometres by the London Olympics.

“I have been carrying my Olympics training sports hammer running around the country,” he said. “The Olympic torch has inspired me through sports and, hopefully, what I am doing will inspire others as well."

“As a living donor, I show people that, in fact, my whole team of platelet donors, bone marrow donors, all are healthy and are getting more from life.”

Raphael, who will also get the chance to attend the London Olympics opening ceremony, said he was feeling slightly nervous about performing the once in a lifetime duty, but he is determined to do it well.

In addition, Raphael has now added toy ‘flames’ to his hammer in honour of being confirmed as a torchbearer. “Now, when I walk on the Tube and I get these funny looks, people don’t have to ask what it’s about,” explained the BT employee.

He added: “Every year since my (kidney) donation in 2007, I have done something to celebrate, and now I am like ‘oh my gosh, how am I going to top this next year?”

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