National Storytelling Week: Our fearless colleagues

Written by Martin James Admin

Within the Network, all of our teams undertake amazing work, contributing to a better society for all. Last year we officially launched our first Fearless Employees Awards to recognise these outstanding contributions in a meaningful way. The awards were introduced to recognise employees and teams and how they have embodied our SEED framework: Self-reflection, Empathy, Empowerment, and Disruption. 

In line with National Storytelling Week, we want to share the inspiring stories of how our winners act fearless and contribute to a fearless future. 

Below are the fearless stories from our award winners: 


1. Mandy Miranda, Lead VR Trainer and Facilitator at Antser

“I am happy to share with you that whilst working as an NGO for the Tamil Rehabilitation Agency in Sri Lanka, after the terrible boxing day Tsunami, I did lots of what appeared to be ‘fearless activities’. May have looked fearless, but I was always scared as mistakes could have cost me my life.

The act I am most proud of was rescuing a child who had been stolen from his parents to join the Tamil fighters as a child soldier. When we saw them, very distressed at side of the road, whilst driving north, we stopped to find out what was the matter. The driver of my van, a Tamil soldier, retired due to losing a leg from a landmine explosion, was reluctant to help me find the child, but agreed to drive towards where the parents said the vehicle had gone.

We eventually caught up with the tractor pulling a cart that the little boy was being held in. The Cart stopped and the soldier jumped down with a massive gun. With the child’s mom, we ran to the cart, I held my arms open to the child and he jumped down and clung to me. The soldier pointed the gun at me and I turned on my heel thinking ‘he won’t shoot me…please god he won’t shoot me’, and we ran back to van.

Thankfully, we got back in van and drove off. We reunited mom, dad and child, giving them money so they could escape to another area, as we though soldiers may return. Very happy days.”


2. Leanne Stant, Head of Mental Health at Talkout

It’s interesting, we talk about fear a lot during our mental health training programmes. That being fearful is something we are anticipating, of which contributes to poor mental health. Have you ever heard the term “sometimes we fear, fear”? I am sure that’s because we foresee something, which we often have no control over, thus promoting anxiousness.

I don’t really see myself as fearless although its usually me that’s first at the scene if someone is in distress. I believe this is because in my previous career, my role was airline cabin crew. Professionals who are prepared for any eventuality. Crew who cannot ignore a potential safety related situation. I also believe that’s why I smile a lot. I am outwardly positive and enthusiastic in pretty much everything I do. It’s in my character yes, however being in the airline industry definitely enhances this behaviour.

My passions collided in 2001 when the aviation industry was met by the terror attacks of September 11th. Following this I realised I needed extra help and support for my own mental health. I campaigned constantly for the equality of hidden disabilities, resulting in a career that focusses solely on mental health education and awareness.

Joining MJN and Talkout. My role was to build relationships with clients and promoting our product. Quite a sale driven role, of which was never my forte. My passion for enhancing the wellbeing of others, always shines however you are quite often met by organisations who have other priorities on their agenda than mental health. Once met with this behaviour, I passionately promote the benefits to influence the decision in our favour. Many times, I have felt out of my comfort zone, however that did not steer me. I always use a feeling to manage this conversation. As human beings we are so similar in ways. We experience similar sensations and feelings and I often connect with people this way.

Fearless, am I fearless?

I am fearless in protecting my family and the people I dearly love. This includes my work colleagues.

I am fearless in protecting our brand and will continue to do so.

I am fearless in reaching for the stars, living each moment and hopefully be a role model my family can be proud of.

So yes, I believe I am 😊


3. Jon Hughes, Managing Director at UK Fire Training

There comes a time every now and again in life when you have to be truly fearless. But what does that look like and what is being fearless? For me, it’s when you are faced with a decision, not any old decision, but a decision that feels like you are on the edge of a cliff. If you take the leap and it goes wrong, there’s no way back. When not taking the leap and turning back is the easy and safe decision.

The odds of going for it and being successful might seem like backing the rank outsider in the grand national but the rewards could be plentiful. Having the courage to take the leap, to back the outsider and to have the conviction to stick by your decision, this for me is being fearless.

I found myself in this position in 2020 when a new role at UK Fire Training became vacant. I was already in a comfortable and secure job role, so from an outsider’s perspective it seemed crazy to be thinking of switching jobs especially during the pandemic. Yet I really longed for a new challenge in my working life, and this role would bring me into contact with some new and empowering individuals.

After agonising over the decision for a few days, I took the leap and applied for the vacant role. My application was successful and less than 2 years on I am now head of one of MJN’s leading businesses, imparting my ambition on my own team to help them become the best version of themselves. I haven’t regretted the leap once.


4. Ailsa Laxton, Charity Manager at MJF 

My fearless moment arose at a time when I needed to be very self-reflective, it was a career-defining decision.

After school I studied for a bachelor’s degree in Chinese and History of Art, following this with a master’s degree in Buddhist Studies and a job as an Asian Art Museum curator. I was fortunate enough to have been awarded a scholarship to study for a PhD. It was an incredible opportunity, but I felt as though other people and circumstances had directed me towards it. After much self-refection, I realised it wasn’t something that would make me happy.

After warily turning the PhD down without any alternate options, I wanted to do something more hands-on. Watching the response to the devastating earthquake in Haiti made me realise that I wanted to work in emergencies. I did a diploma in humanitarian assistance and decided to get more experience by moving to Liberia for 3 months.

The work I was doing was so fulfilling that 3 months turned into 3 years. I worked in refugee camps coordinating emergency response programmes and then went to the Middle East, working on the Syria response. This was a job that would see my relocation to where my journey began, and I worked from the UK HQ side of the operations for many years. I learnt skills that I would later use on global projects at The Martin James Foundation.

The most important moment in my career was turning away from a set path of academia without having a backup plan. It seemed that my life was going in a direction that had a lot of momentum, but it was one that someone else would make better use of. The PhD scholarship was awarded to someone that truly wanted it, and I embarked on trying something new.


5. AlFahed Ahmed, Assistance Management Accountant at MJN

I got the fearless employee award for helping a new starter and supporting them on complex tasks until they were comfortable with it. This was alongside my own responsibilities. I had ensured they were comfortable with their new role by streamlining and simplifying processes, e.g. using formulas in excel. As the new starter had a massive task of paying thousands of pounds each week, it was vital that all figures and processes were immaculate. Initially, they were anxious when taking on this huge responsibility but I had tried to make it as easy as possible for her by going through errors and showing how they are fixable – my motto to ease her nervousness was to make her aware that there is a solution for all problems. I believe the new started is getting on well now and is a lot more confident in her work