A CARING Cerebral Palsy sufferer is fundraising to achieve her dream of educating and supporting others with disabilities.

Aisling Gill-Dougherty, a student at The University of Reading, suffers with Athetoid Cerebral Palsy (CP) with dystonic features.

She said: "[CP] is basically damage to the brain prior to, during, or soon after birth, affecting movement and co-ordination - this is normally caused by a bleed in the brain or reduced oxygen to the brain, an infection in the mother, asphyxiation during the birth, meningitis, or a serious head injury.

"In my case, I have severe CP, meaning that my gross and fine motor skills along with speech are severely affected.

"As a result, I require 24/7 assistance to do basic day to day tasks."

Aisling, who lives in Winchester, volunteered throughout 2016 or 2017 as a public speaker and disability activist for multiple charities, and became interested in the idea of reaching further afield.

She said: "Unfortunately for me, volunteering abroad would prove more challenging than the average 20-something year old.

"As a result of my CP, I have to rely on 24 hour support from a team of personal assistants

"During my 23 years, I have managed to scrape the funds together to finance myself and my personal assistant wherever we go.

"I hold very strong ethics regarding employment and so I do not believe that my employees should have to self-fund the activities which I wish to participate in.

"Therefore, I choose to attempt to self-fund any trips, meals, flights or accommodation which they may require to not only accompany me, but also to enable me to get the most out of every experience."

Aisling was finally able to fulfil her aim of a trip to Thailand to volunteer with disabled children.

She added: "Whilst on base there, I was assigned the task of producing a sustainability program for the students at the Camillian Centre.

"Now, having produced this program, I long to go back to present and implement this work with the other support workers at the centre, and perhaps witness at least a part of its genesis."

Aisling said her trip to Thailand was an eye-opener: "Although I have experienced discrimination during my lifetime, having seen the societal perceptions towards disability in South East Asia, I realise how far the equality still has to go.

"In South East Asia, having a disability is seen as a punishment for a sin committed in a past life, therefore, individuals with disabilities are largely neglected and discriminated against within society.

"As a politics and international relations undergraduate, I believe that it is my responsibility to relay my knowledge and experience, in the quest to build the foundations for a bright future."

As a severely disabled person, it is difficult for Aisling to get a job or volunteering experience in the UK, and she said that after volunteering with GVI, she finally felt like she had found a purpose.

"Therefore, although I would love to support individuals within my local community in the UK, I feel that volunteering abroad is more fulfilling given the quality of life especially in South East Asia," she said.

"For me, volunteering at GVI or any other organisation which benefits inequality is a long term goal, however, this comes at an extortionate cost.

"Despite what people may think, this type of voluntary work does come at a cost and is not free.

"I require 24/7 assistance, and as my personal assistants are usually students or graduates, I believe that it is unethical to expect them to self fund their trips.

"Given the costs of two sets of flights, accommodation, activities and the trip itself, I am unsure if I can financially sustain this goal on a long term basis."

When asked what advice she would give to any other disabled people who face similar challenges, Ailing said: "I always go by the motto that anything is possible, and with open mindedness and time you can achieve whatever you set your mind to.

"Always remember it is possible to overcome any barrier, to make the impossible possible."

To donate, visit Aisling's Go Fund Me page here.