Awards for Sarah the gardener



Within weeks of each other, Aka Aka’s Sarah O’Neil has been awarded not one, but two prestigious awards, which has been described as a huge achievement for the local gardener.

Not only was Sarah awarded Esme Tombleson Award for the Person with Multiple Sclerosis of the Year at the beginning of October, she also took out Brightstar Emerging Speaker of the Year award from the National Speakers Association of New Zealand three weeks later.
The Emerging Speaker Award was presented to Sarah on her birthday, at the annual Gala Dinner which was held at the Auckland Yacht Club.
“I was completely blown away, as I was up against top competition. It certainly was a great way to celebrate my birthday.”
The Brightstar Emerging Speaker of the Year award isn’t given to just anyone. It is judged in Australia, and if the judges feel that the nominees are not of the right calibre, it isn’t awarded.
Sarah believes both awards have helped authenticate her goals and ambitions.
“It feels like I am on the right track. When I was first diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, I didn’t want people to know. We then moved to the country for a better life, which I believe has been instrumental for healing.”
Due to fatigue and the other problematic symptoms, it didn’t seem like returning to the workplace would be possible. Sarah began a garden, with the aim of providing her family with fresh food.
As a result, Sarah now has a successful writing career and has authored two books about gardening.
One documents the journey from city slicker to country bumpkin, while the other encourages people to create gardens of their own and grow fresh food together.
Sarah also regularly writes articles for the NZ Herald, Bite and Plus supplements once a season, has a monthly column on the Go Gardening website and also contributes to their paper magazine. Sarah also speaks to various groups about the benefits of growing food, which has seen her take to the TV screen.
“I always wanted to be accepted for being an accomplished gardener, who has MS, not the other way round. After a very busy year, both awards have been incredibly rewarding.”

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