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‘Clearing was the best thing that ever happened to me'

CARSON Harte, chief executive of Exceed Worldwide, speaks about his inspiring journey from Lisburn to Cambodia, and making a genuine difference to people with disabilities in impoverished areas of South and Southeast Asia. Exceed Worldwide provides Prosthetic & Orthotic (P&O) education and training at five specialist institutes across the region.

Carson was recently presented with the FESCO (Foundation for Encouragement of Social Contribution) Award in Tokyo by Mrs Akie Abe, the wife of Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. A student of the University of Strathclyde, he says the process of clearing helped pave the way for him to equip, enable and empower.

How did you get to where you are now?

After completing my A-Levels in 1976, I studied at University of Strathclyde. I worked for a number of years at Musgrave Park Hospital and moved to Cambodia to become director of the prosthetics orthotics school. I was international director and strategic lead, based in Singapore, before becoming CEO of the Cambodia Trust in 2002. I helped establish training schools based on the Cambodia model in Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Philippines and Myanmar. 

What is the most rewarding aspect of your work?

The instant gratification that comes with watching a recent amputee stand for the first time and start walking.  It’s also fantastic to see our own graduates take leading roles in their own country and internationally.

Why did you want to help people in South and South Asia?

I had a desire to offer something back to the world - the excitement of being able to achieve something on a regional and global scale.  A strong sense of ‘doing the thing that was right for me’. To quote Mary Chapin Carpenter, ‘to be alive, is to know your purpose’.

What are the qualities and qualifications you need to succeed in your line of work?

Being a people person and having the ability to engage. An interest in tinkering  (all my successful colleagues were once children who dismantled their toys to see how they worked) and a passion to see people develop and succeed.

What career ambitions did you have when you were young?

I was aiming for medicine, but it was a very difficult challenge. I discovered something that suited me, or it found me. I was effectively a student from clearing. It was the best thing that ever happened to me.

How did it feel receiving the Foundation for Encouragement of Social Contribution Award in Tokyo from Akie Abe, the wife of Japan’s Prime Minister? 

A bit embarrassing to be honest! I would have preferred if our Asian colleagues had been on the stage and not me.

What advice would you give to anyone looking for a career helping vulnerable people?

I would tell them to stop seeing them as vulnerable and set forth with the notion of unleashing their potential. See the possibilities and not the limitations. Create hope and not pity.  Pity is unsustainable for the long term.  People need independence, tools to live with, hence our strap line: equip, enable and empower.

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