Children don’t come with a manual. All children are unique and have their own strengths and areas where they need encouragement. We love them, we protect them and hopefully they thrive. We then have to give them the skills to cope on their own. My Tommy D is four next month and starts school in September. I’m heartbroken, he’s my Tommy, he’s too little, he’s too young … and breathe grandma! We’ve given him confidence, he’s been surrounded by love and now it’s almost time for him to be in situations where we can’t protect him from stares and occasional cruel or unthinking words.
We’ve been stressing the positives. We talk about his little arm and always have done but I think he now understands that he is ‘different’. Yesterday he said ‘LJ hasn’t got a little arm she’s got 2 big arms’.
On one of his school visits a child asked what was wrong with his arm and his parent replied ‘he’s poorly’ – we don’t want him to think he’s ill or not normal so we stress how he can do anything but he has to find his own way to do it. My friend Nina (@musicmind) talks about #tommydcan and he really can, he’s inspirational. I think maybe we have overdone the positivity as on meeting new friends at the playground yesterday his opening gambit was ‘I’m Tommy, you want to see my little arm? Shall we build a tunnel’ Long may his confidence last.
Nursery told us last week that when filling his water bottle another child had gone over to Tommy to do it for him. Tommy explained that ‘I can do it myself, I can use my little arm look’ I love his ‘can do’ attitude (just as well as he know we won’t do things for him that we know he is capable of doing himself)
I’m heartened greatly by the young people I meet and those who have chosen to support LimbBo foundation (@lbofoundation) – Darton GCSE Art students who illustrated our book, the pupils at St Catherine’s in Sheffield where the student council are looking at our book and working out how to share it, Pupils at Hoyland Common primary who were amazed at the videos of Tommy and working out how his 3D printed arm works. Students at Flamborough Primary who have chosen LimbBo foundation as their Summer project. We want to spread the word that it’s OK to ask, that Tommy is ‘differently abled’ rather than ‘disabled’
He is the most loving child and as his grandma (mamma) I’m incredibly proud of him and his little sister who I think will be lost when he starts school.
The LimbBo foundation continues to develop. 3D printed arms, a planned day out in August and a growing number of people following us and supporting us.
Our book is now in print!! Huge thanks to the year 10 GCSE group at Darton and my friend Amie, their teacher, for their illustrations, Photobox for agreeing to a bulk deal and various people who are ‘testing’ these out in schools.
I took Tommy into Darton to deliver their copies and for 10 minutes we experienced what fame must feel like. Tommy’s photo has been literally plastered around school for weeks and so as we walked down the corridor (lunchtime – major error on my part!) pupils from all years ‘high fived’ Tommy or just shouted ‘Hiya Tommy’ – he was as bemused as I was but it was wonderful. We went into the Art room where Tommy was greeted with ‘his’ display – ‘Look Mamma it’s me’ – what a day – priceless. If we have done nothing else we have educated pupils here that Difference is OK and something to be embraced.
The book is for sale on our website and hopefully we can get this into as many schools and nurseries as possible.
When we started this charity we had no idea how much support we would gain – friends, family, colleagues and people who were strangers a few weeks ago.
A special warmth for me is that my son (who started the charity with his wife) was a pupil at the school where I taught so many of the people helping us are his friends, people I taught years ago – good to see the #Kingstonespirit lives on.
We have a lot of work to do but these are exciting times – if you want to follow us we are on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook too.
Sometimes you know you need help. You know what your skill set is and, more importantly sometimes, what it isn’t. I have never been able to draw or paint – it’s one of the main reasons I took up photography.
The LimbBofoundation has come a long way in a short space of time and we have many projects ongoing. The book for children was an idea that we needed help to achieve. I’ve written the story and I have friends helping me to shape it. We put out an appeal for an artist to help us. Amie from Darton asked the question ‘why don’t you get pupils to illustrate it?’ Never one to miss out on an opportunity (and we love a good project!) I went into Darton College to ask for help.
I was encouraged that the pupils all said yes of course we will help but had no idea what I would get. I left them with lots of photographs and the story outline.
I walked into Darton College today and burst into tears! Look what greeted me.
Look how amazing and how thoughtful. A whole range of skills, ideas, understanding and a sea of smiling faces. These pupils are year 10! What can I say? Education is about educating the whole child – not a cliche in this case, these pupils have empathised and offered their skills.
I’m not sure yet how or where we will get this book edited – but I do know that we WILL.
(any offers of help gratefully received!)
Don’t be afraid to ask for help, often people will help willingly but don’t know what you need. Thank You Year 10 x
April is limb difference awareness month and combined with this photo of Tommy from yesterday I’ve been spurred to write. Tommy is a mischievous, bubbly two year old who meets life head on. He bursts into our kitchen with the door rattling on its hinges and announces gleefully ‘I’m back’. He is a confident and happy child for whom life is an adventure. Yesterday I took hundreds of photos of him and his sister LJ as they played in the garden. Although there are loads of images of Tommy this one really struck me. Not because of any technical quality in the photo but because it shows a child who is happy in his own skin. He’s content, he’s holding his bucket with his little arm, life is just what he makes it. It’s not a struggle it’s just the way he does things.
The quote below is from the inspirational Molly Stapleton founder of the Lucky Fin Project Lucky Fin Project
A child being born with a limb difference is not tragic. It’s extremely important to show our children how capable & wonderfully made they are. If we treat them as flawed or limited that is who they will believe themselves to be- and that would be the tragedy.
I’m so proud of my son and daughter-in- law for the way in which they have always supported Tommy. He’s never mollycoddled he’s just loved. Each week brings a new challenge, toilet training is different as Tommy has to learn to leave time for him to take his trousers off, planting seeds is fun but he wants to wear grandma’s gardening gloves, riding his bike means leaning forward to hold the handle bar, spreading butter on his toast is a bit hit and miss at the minute but it’s all a learning curve.
His little sister copies him, they are inseparable and he is alternately her protector and tormentor – it’s ok she’s a feisty little thing!
This post is meant as a celebration for all those who have limb differences and for their families who give them the self belief they need. The photo below is from a Lucky fin meet up last year – these three are a force to be reckoned with 🙂 #luckyfinsrock
The run up to Christmas is always busy but this year everything feels very strange. It’s sad that mum isn’t here and dad is struggling. Its wonderful that Layla-Jane grows a little every day and that Tommy is just so amazing.
…you encounter an amazing group of people. This morning I had the privilege of thanking a group of around 1,000 pupils who had ALL, along with staff, parents and the community, raised £5,600 to build a classroom in Kakuma Refugee Camp.
The classrooms such as the one above are in a desperate state and often house classes of anything up to 200 children.
The morning was a mixture of reflection, pride, celebration and empathy. The concentration on the faces of all throughout the assembly was inspirational. I went with Simon Devine who thanked the school on behalf of the WorldWide Education Project and spoke about how this school is putting their value words into action. These are not random words to make walls and planners pretty they are a set of values to live by! The values of determination, inclusion, enthusiasm were what had lead to this amazing achievement.
I am proud of all of them and felt very emotional. A special thank you to Ben @thebenhorbury who had the vision and determination to see this through. The spontaneous singing of Happy Birthday to a valued member of staff just reinforced the sense of community. There will shortly be a ‘Dearne ALC’ in Kakuma and these young people have really made a difference – thank you all x
I’ve tried to ignore the impending chaos and panic that Christmas inevitably brings. Yesterday my neighbours decorated the outside of their house with lights. I am groaning – it’s too early! It will however, shortly be December so I wanted to propose an alternative to Christmas cards. I won’t be trying to remember who lives at what number, sending cards from ‘Number 2’. I won’t be sitting up late writing cards to catch the last post. I simply am only going to send cards to grandchildren, children and parents. I will wish everyone a ‘Happy Christmas’ and make a donation to the #classroomchallenge instead.
You are more than welcome to download this and use it too!
The video below is a clip of the children singing to us as we left the classroom x
Six months ago I was invited into the Dearne ALC to talk about my experiences at Kakuma refugee camp.I was hoping that they would support us in our bid to raise money for classrooms there. We had witnessed appalling conditions and taught classes of over 200 children.
I’ll be honest though I didn’t Know how much these pupils could raise as I knew it would be hard for them. How wrong I was! These kids and staff are awesome. They listened in silence – I knew they were hooked. I just didn’t know how far they would take it. I’m sitting here awestruck literally having received a text today that said ‘we’ve done it’
Fund raisers, soaking teachers, summer fayres, cycling in reception and a current total of £5608 will build a whole classroom. This is life changing not only for the children in Kakuma but also for the children at the Dearne. What an achievement, pupils, staff, parents and community all working together to make a difference.
I hope that this is one of their ‘lightbulb moments’ a moment of pride, a sense that they can make a difference.
This is a classroom that was built following donations since our return from Kakuma and thanks to these amazing people there will shortly be a Dearne classroom In the middle of Kakuma
Thank you from the bottom of my heart you amazing people xx
The 14th Nov has been ringed in my calendar for months! The Big i Foundation Ball and the launch of ‘There is another way’. Sleepless nights, spreadsheets, food allergies, seating plans, last minute changes, table decorations, auction prizes, invoices, daily e mails from Ian, Nina and Crista (all mixed in with the imminent arrival of my granddaughter) meant my stress levels were high. But do you know what I really did have a Ball. The reason? People! The people who are part of the ITL family are amazing. Support, hugs, smiles and sheer energy from people who want to make a difference. I don’t know yet how much we raised but I do know it will make a difference. Having been to Kakuma earlier this year I know how much is needed.
As well as raising money it was the launch of ‘There is another way‘. If you are feeling even slightly jaded or worried about education then read this – it is so refreshing. Uplifting!
I’m feeling my age this morning – too much dancing I suspect but so worth it! Thank you to everyone who helped, donated prizes, bought auction lots (even genuine copies of newspapers 🙂 ) sang, decorated and basically made me realise that yes – there is another way x