It is my theory that you can meet the most interesting people on public transport, but David Stuttard is by far the most memorable person I have been lucky enough to meet.
When he sat next to me on a train from Manchester to Congleton last month, he told me: “It’s pretty boring what I do.”
Apart from being a massive understatement, this was also wholly untrue.
David, 65, received an MBE for his charity work in Ghana a couple of weeks after our conversation, an all the more amazing achievement considering he is blind.
It is a testament to David’s modesty that he did not mention his pending trip to Buckingham Palace until the end of our 45 minute journey.
He said: “I don’t think I deserve it because there are people who do a lot more than me, but I’m very happy.”
However, friends, relatives and colleagues have all testified to how much David, originally from Moss Side, deserves the honour.
Marea Shaw has been friends with the former soldier for many years and along with her husband Robert, helps David raise money for his clean water charity, MyUbique.
They became friends through a Methodist church in Biddulph, Staffordshire, where David now lives with his family.
“He is just the most wonderful person, I haven’t got the time to tell you how wonderful,” Marea said.
“When he found out he was blind, he could have just sat down and let it defeat him, because disability is horrendous at any age, but he was just determined to do something.”
David became blind as a result of diabetes in 2003, which he admits finding very difficult at first, having had such an active life and career in the Royal Engineers.
But in trying to find something to keep him busy, David began MyUbique, a project which has provided clean water access to over 50,000 people in Northern Ghanaian townships since it began in 2005.
The clean water project is so important because of the guinea worm parasite that hatches in unsanitary water and, when ingested, forms a virus for which there is currently no vaccine or treatment.
Amadu Moses Yahaya, one of MyUbique’s voluntary technical advisors in Ghana, knows the communities in which David works intimately and so advises people of the advantages the sanitation improvements and encourages them to embrace them.
Moses said that while he takes the first step to initiate the project, David is very much the architect. Laughing he added: “The man power!”
He is adamant that the whole project is dependent on David to mobilise the funds and volunteers from the UK and that his constant trips to Ghana are much appreciated.
“He is actually a very nice person,” Moses said. “I work with him, I joke with him, I live with him.”
David’s wife, Dorothy, nominated him for the MBE without his knowledge and said he was completely shocked when he received the news in the post.
She said: “He thought it was something to do with his tax, but I knew what it was before he did, it was quite emotional I can tell you.”
Despite his surprise, David said: “It’s been the most enjoyable rollercoaster since it was announced in July.”
“I’m not really the sort of person who goes cock-a-hoop for these kinds of things, but I’ve enjoyed it from start to finish.”
The ceremony itself was at Buckingham Palace at the beginning of October. David said: “So many things were so nice about it, but the best part was the Queen clipping the medal on my lapel.”
He and Dorothy then held a private party at their home three days later, for all the friends and family who have supported him along the way.
“That rounded off the whole weekend and my MBE really,” he said.
Having spoken to David numerous times over the past two months I can personally testify to what a truly lovely man he is and cannot think of anyone who deserves the honour more.
You can find more information about David and his charity at http://myubique.info/
David also gives public talks, which can be arranged via email on firstname.lastname@example.org
Guinea worm or dracunculiasisis is a parasite ingested through drinking unsanitary water and grows inside the human host for approximately a year.
After this period, a blister forms and the mature worm, by which time is one metre long, tries to emerge, this process causes extreme pain and can lead to loss of limbs.
There is no cure current y, the only treatment is to remove the worm over many weeks by winding it around a small stick and pulling it out a tiny bit at a time.
Sometimes the worm can be pulled out completely within a few days, but the process usually takes weeks or months.
While the disease is rarely fatal, it can cause crippling disabilities. The disease can be avoided simply through drinking clean water, which is why the work of David and his team is so important.