Dema Aktaa is our latest Lionheart, after inspiring England's Ellen White last week

Monday 28 Sep 2020
Dema Aktaa receives her Lionhearts shirt and a new pair of Nike running shoes from Ellen White

Dema Aktaa was urged to keep on running, as she was welcomed into the Lionhearts squad by England ace Ellen White.

After helping to raise over £70,000 for the Help Refugees campaign during the COVID-19 lockdown, Dema became the tenth member to be inducted to our squad after meeting Lionesses ace White at St. George’s Park.

Originally from Syria, where she was the victim of a bomb attack in her home village of Salqin back in 2012 which caused her to lose a leg, Dema arrived in the UK in 2017.

A keen runner before the tragedy which changed her life, she now has use of a prosthetic leg and is awaiting surgery to treat remaining problems with her leg.

But that didn’t stop her hitting the streets in her adopted hometown of Flitwick, as she joined 100s of people around the country who pledged to walk a chosen distance in a group effort to cover the circumference of the earth, all 24,901 miles of it.

 

And while getting used to her new prosthetic leg, Dema pledged to complete a mile towards the ‘Around the World in 40 days’ target, before going on to tot up almost double that and raise over £600 for the cause.

The complete distance now amassed for the campaign stands at over fives times the initial target, with money raised going to help prevent and treat COVID-19 outbreaks in refugee camps in Greece, a cause close the Dema’s heart.

"When I saw the campaign, 'Choose Love' to help refugees in Greece, I decided to offer my help with my prosthetic leg,” explained Dema, who now works in a primary school.

"I did it to help people and see people with a smile on their face so it's meant a lot to me.”

The Lionhearts initiative, supported by BT, will pay homage to 23 inspirational individuals who have gone above and beyond during this challenging time for the nation.

Our panel of judges all agreed on Dema being named, with shirt number 18 presented to her by Manchester City star White who was left “in awe and inspired” as the pair met during the Lionesses’ recent training camp.

Dema has become the tenth member of the Lionhearts squad to be called up

"It was in 2012 and I was at home with my family, when suddenly the bombs came to our house when I was in the room,” revealed Dema, about the moment which transformed her life.

“I went from the living room to the balcony and straight away, I lost my leg.

"But it's life and I'm happy now because I'm unique.”

And as Dema also has an incentive to keep on running - she hopes to one day run at the Paralympics - she was also presented with a new pair of Nike running shoes to help her on her way.

"Since I lost my leg, it's been a big challenge for me to go for the Paralympics with a prosthetic leg to see how it's different and to challenge myself,” she revealed.

"The running, it’s a life for me.”

The squad so far...

1.Captain Sir Tom Moore – Record-breaking centenarian who raised more than £32million for NHS Charities Together

2. Ranjit Singh – The wrestling coach from Wolverhampton helped organise daily meals for 300 people and the distribution of PPE equipment

5. Betty-Leigh Allinson – Football shirt enthusiast aged five who has raised over £27,000 for a Hertfordshire hospice through a cycling feat

9. Tobias Weller – Nine-year-old inspired by Captain Sir Tom Moore to raise almost £150,000 for Sheffield-based charities

10. Joe Wicks - The YouTube fitness coach led the nation and beyond through a daily exercise class for 18 weeks during lockdown.

15. Hassan Akkad – Award-winning film maker who answered a call to be a cleaner in his local hospital before raising awareness of NHS bereavement fund

16. Akbar Khan - Bradford-based volunteer for a charity for people with disabilities who brought their community together during COVID-19 lockdown 

18. Dema Aktaa - Syrian refugee who helped raise money for COVID-19 outbreaks in refugee camps by walking on her prosthetic leg.

19. Tony Hudgell - Celebrated young fundraiser who raised £1.6m for the hospital which saved his life as a baby

22. Daniel Sukula – Community leader from Bolton who, after being saved from deportation back to DR Congo, founded a centre for disadvantaged youths

By Nicholas Veevers