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.
…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
The start of a new term is always one of mixed emotions. The excitement of new classes, the blank page – the new stationery mixed with the wistfulness of missing family and the slower days of Summer.
For many children school is the one place that they have security. Following our visit to Kakuma refugee camp the first classroom from our fundraising is now built and will open shortly. http://www.janehewitt.blogspot.co.uk/2015/08/the-first-of-many.html
Hopefully this is the first of many – we will keep you posted. I’ve been doing some editing today and looking back over my Kakuma photos – these are a few that I haven’t shared before.
This collage is of a workers’ cooperative where the people there were making bags both from the amazing material you can see here and also the plastic UNCR heavy duty plastic sacking.
The resilience we saw there was second to none. The people were welcoming, friendly, determined, parents and teachers just like us who only wanted the best for their families and children.
Enjoy your first days of term and remember Education can make such a difference to peoples’ lives x
I spent the morning doing a ‘photo session’ for a local primary school in their foundation outdoor learning space. The children were delightful. They were happy, polite, friendly and self sufficient. I then spent the afternoon editing images from Kakuma refugee camp where the contrast could not be more marked. – We are all living our lives, due to a total random ‘accident of birth’ and we are the lucky ones. x
It’s now just over a week since we returned from Kakuma refugee camp. It’s been a harrowing time due to family circumstances but it has also really made me think. We had Tommy for the day yesterday and despite the challenges that he has to face with his little arm he also has to have an operation on his hips which will result in him being in plaster BUT we are so lucky – he is seen by medical professionals, his care is covered by the NHS, he is surrounded by support. Mum is now in a residential dementia care unit but again, her every need is catered for.
Last week I saw children who didn’t have material possessions, many didn’t have parents around as they had been ‘sent on’ to Kakuma as unaccompanied minors. I did however, see lots of children who were loved, they might have been hungry, dirty and without shoes but there was evidence of real love.
I saw a young teacher sit with a very small child asleep next to him as she was lost and didn’t know how to get back to her mother.
I think that one of the hardest things as a parent or grandparent is to be unable – never unwilling, just desperately unable to provide what your children need. We saw a woman battling the authorities to get her children into a school, we saw a child with ‘my first bag’ which broke my heart as it was torn and dirty but had the words ‘my first bag’ written in felt pen. We saw children begging for water, waiting in line for a cup of watery porridge. Don’t get me wrong I’m not criticising these parents or the NGOs working with them – far from it – I’m in total awe of their resilience and the love that is show. BUT no one – should have to live like they do – it’s cruel. Not to mention those children who are ‘unaccompanied’.
It’s impossible to sum up the harsh realities of life in a refugee camp, all that they have is each other and hope. The day to day struggle with everything they have to face is one that is impossible to describe. Imagine if this was your walk to school everyday.
I’m not apologising for yet again asking for your support – these people need it. If you can spare just a couple of pounds we can build another classroom – we have £3800 but need £5200 – we will keep working for this and welcome any support. (link to Just giving site below) I’m happy to work with schools, talk in assemblies, send you images – we just need to do something. We aren’t asking for huge donations just a couple of pounds will help. Thank you to all of you who have already supported us. I will have a stall selling postcards and images at The Barnsley Teaching and Learning Festival at Darton College on 13th April so hope to see some of you there.