We are delighted to announce that Sangeeta Bhabra will be joining the charity as our newest Patron. Sangeeta has a busy job in her role as ITV News Meridian Co-Presenter and is also a carer of her brother Manish. Having understanding around what it's like to be a sibling is so valuable and we are excited for her to be a part of what we are doing at Swings & Smiles.

Below is an article that Sangeeta recently wrote as part of Carers Week.

I have never had a life that truly felt like mine and that’s why I have always thanked my lucky stars that I do a job that I love at ITV. A company which perhaps does not get the credit it deserves for the way it supports people like me. My career though is the one thing that does feel truly mine. I’m grateful to so many people at ITV News, from the top down, for always being kind and working with me to achieve my best.

This has been my life from the age of seven, since the day my baby brother Manish was born.

He was a much wanted baby - after me and my sister, finally, a baby boy.

I quickly knew something wasn’t right, my parents were stressed all the time and although they tried really hard to shelter us from what they were going through, I knew my baby brother wasn’t like everyone else. He wasn’t doing the same things that cousins the same age were doing and there were countless appointments with medical professionals.

Manish had cerebral palsy, he’s autistic, he has no speech but makes loud sounds, which vary when he’s happy or sad or needs something. He needed help dressing, toileting, bathing, feeding. Doctors told us he would never walk, but one of my best childhood memories was him standing up next to the bath and my mum shouting at me for making him do dangerous things. She lowered him down and he got up again and again and eventually he started walking.

In many ways Manish is responsible for who I am today - blame him! I quickly realised I couldn’t be a shrinking violet where he was concerned. I always knew that I had to be his voice.

So when he was called names, stared at, when old Indian aunties told us his ‘sickness’ was karma for sins in a previous life (we are Hindus), I challenged people at every single stage and I still sadly have to do that today. Manish is now 38. 

As a family we have worked hard to help empower Manish, not taking no for an answer from the so called ‘professionals’, making sure he pursued the things he liked at college, not being put in that special needs box. He’s got a brilliant personality, a wicked sense of humour and the love he shows me is hard to put into words. It’s the best feeling. 

Guilt is an emotion that I feel all the time, and most carers do. It’s the same struggle that mums and dads have all the time, but when severe disabilities are involved you realise no day is ever predictable. There’s guilt about not doing enough at home. Guilt that I’m having to excuse myself from a meeting because I’ve got another medical appointment or I’m running late because the carers didn’t arrive today. This doesn’t mean I’m an unreliable employee, far from it. I always hope to do more than the next person because I value the trust that my ITV managers and colleagues have in me. I’ve also learned the importance of good communication and reaching out when I need support, and that people don’t judge in the same way that we perhaps used to. 

Dealing with a disability does not equate to liability and if I had one piece of advice, apart from being as organised as you can, it would be to trust those around you.

Today I’m proud to use my experiences to support other sibling carers, many of them children, by being patron of a charity called Swings & Smiles, based in Berkshire. 

Every day is a challenge coping with care and a career, but now I realise this is just all part of my story.