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ITV News Central Editor, Gary Newby shares the inspirational stories of the unlikeliest of individuals, who, despite their differences have joined forces to make a difference.

It’s sometimes easier to feel empathy and compassion for the plight of complete strangers than it is for people we know well, because with the latter it’s personal and our view can be distorted by a perceived hurt or hidden prejudice.

In world that often seems full of conflict and hate we can still witness nations and communities striving for peace and reconciliation – a willingness to forgive if not forget.  Personal arbitration is more difficult to achieve.

Photo Credit: Pukaar News

It’s remarkable then when two people so diametrically opposed find a way not simply to co-existence but to become friends and to work together with the sole ambition to better our world.

We can all probably cite examples of where political, cultural and religious barriers have set two people asunder but when hostility has come to a head those same two people stepped back from conflict and found commonality instead.

My own recent example is of two of the speakers at a forum I attended.  Rod Carter used to be a policeman and spent 15 years tracking down criminals.  One of them, Matthew Norford, was groomed into a life of crime at the age of 13 and went on to lead a notorious gang before being jailed.

It was while in prison a family tragedy changed him when he learnt that his brother had been stabbed to death.  Matthew vowed never to return to gang life and with Rod’s help, turned his life around.  The pair pledged to help others avoid making the same choices that Matthew and his brother made. They take his story into schools to help children steer away from crime.

It must have once seemed impossible to imagine how these two men could ever have shared the same platform, to deliver the same message in pursuit of an identical goal.  More unimaginable is that they would become close friends.

Another speaker at the same forum was Dany Cotton, the first woman Commissioner of London Fire Brigade that she joined as a teenager when many of her male colleagues were hostile to women joining the service.

Having fought and risen above such prejudices to lead the Brigade, Dany’s a passionate advocate for more women to join the ranks.  She also campaigns on awareness and, importantly, openness on issues around mental health of which she has personal experience.

It’s clear these are people making positive impacts on others’ lives.  When modern life is adept at keeping us in our place, it’s helpful to be reminded that individuals still have the power to bring about change.

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