The founder and President, Mark Mathews, is someone special on our planet. At the age of 14, was asked to leave the school he was attending due to his rebellious behaviour. His behaviour was due to his anger and frustration at falling behind with his schoolwork so his Quaker aunt arranged for him to be seen by a psychologist, who diagnosed him as being "word blind" but not stupid - there was no such diagnosis as dyslexia in those days!
Mark's aunt enabled him to attend a private school after many other schools had refused him. He started in the remedial class but after working hard, was moved into the A stream of the year below. Mark thrived and became Head Boy and obtained his A Levels, enabling him to attain a 2:1 in Ecology, Wildlife Management & Tropical Development at Edinburgh University.
Obtaining a scholarship, Mark undertook a study in Kenya of the Masai in the Cagiodo District. He went on to travel the world and came to admire people who improved their standard of living in ways that were in their own control and that did not destroy their culture or the land in which they lived. Taking inspiration, Mark wrote an academic paper and sent it to people of influence where a newspaper picked up on it and he was contacted by a small charity, The Society for Environmental Improvement.
Mark then helped to set up The Centre for Alternative Technology in Machunlleth in Mid Wales, becoming the manager. He soon realised that, being dyslexic, he did not have the organisational skills to manage such a centre so he trained to be an Osteopath, qualifying in 1984 and becoming a member of the Society of Osteopaths.
Mark went on to set up the London Natural Health Clinic with Graham Wilson of ‘Mind Body Spirit' fame. The objective of the clinic was to get osteopaths, nutritionists, homeopaths, acupuncturists and psychotherapists to work together as a team to give a patient the right mix of what they needed all under one roof. As far as Mark was concerned, they were all useful tools in the natural medicine tool kit but none of them was a panacea. Mark was way ahead of his time – different professions working together in an integrated way just did not work. So, he studied their craft!
Mark was one of the first people to study Applied Kinesiology (AK), Clinical Kinesiology (CK) and Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP). However, being right-brain dominant and dyslexic he has no memory for names, numbers or spellings, he thinks in terms of pictures and how things fit together. He put the Sunflower Programme together like a plant and it is depicted as having roots, a trunk , branches and leaves, all of which denote a hierarchy of needs. There is no point in treating the branches if you do not first get the roots and the trunk in place. It is stupid to fuss about the leaves if the branches are not intact. Like a pyramid and the triangle of health, there is little point in addressing the top if you do not first get some good foundations in place to support it.
As a child with learning difficulties, Mark knew how tough, sad, frustrating and confusing it can feel to be saddled with learning problems in a world governed by writing and restrictive rules. Due to the generosity and support of his aunt, Mark felt that he had been given a gift to do something with his life and felt that it was his responsibility to hand it on to others.
Mark and four other people were responsible for setting up the Sunflower Trust in 1996 to help other children with challenges.
Liz Thomas, a respected local Educational Psychologist, saw some children Mark had treated and was amazed by the improvements that she noticed.
Daphne Bell, who was the Head of the Centre for Special Educational Needs in Guildford, paid for some of the children under her care to be treated by Mark and invited him to talk to some of her special needs teachers.
Canon Telfer, who worked at Guildford Cathedral, thought a charity should be set up to allow the programme to be more widely known and available for the benefit of those in need.
Richard Allen, a chartered accountant and the then Trust's Chairman, had the knowledge and skillset to make it happen.
Along with thousands of doctors, professors, osteopaths and chiropractors throughout the world, Mark became a member of the International College of Applied Kinesiology (ICAK). Over the years, Mark has had a number of papers published and has given many presentations about his research and work in Germany, Italy, France and to various conferences in the UK.
Wishing to know more about his work, some of Mark's colleagues in ICAK persuaded him to teach them aspects of it. Through this experience and with their co-operation, a more formal training programme was developed and Clive Lindley-Jones, a fellow ICAK professional, became a co-trainer for the Sunflower Programme with Mark. About 100 Osteopaths, Chiropractors, medical doctors and consultants within Europe have now undergone the training under the auspices of the Sunflower Trust.
The charity takes the view that all children who need help, no matter what their financial situation, should be able to take advantage of the Sunflower Programme. It provides funding and support for desperate parents when they do not know who else to turn to.
Mark was awarded Charity Innovator of the Year in 2015.
For the first time in her life, she's being streamed into the top sets. Angela still recognises she has problems in some areas, like spelling, but with the techniques taught by the Sunflower Programme, she's now become master of her demons.