Well, what an amazing afternoon I had to finish off my week of Dementia ACTION!
I’d been contacted by email by the village school headmaster, Chris Bullough, a few weeks ago. The children had been asked by Dementia Friendly East Riding if the school children would like to be involved in the colouring of forget me nots for Dementia Action Week.
However the headmaster didn’t just want it to be a colouring exercise without the children understanding why they were doing it , which is where I came in.
I went to talk to the headmaster and told him my ideas of making all the children Dementia Friends, from the youngest to the oldest. We agreed that I’d run 3 individual sessions, changing the session as the children became older. Beginning with a simple ball of wool to explain to the youngest, adding fairy lights and Q&A as the children got older.
Well yesterday was the day…..and oh, what an amazing afternoon I had.
I couldn’t have imagined in my wildest dreams how wonderful it was going to be.
I arrived to find Mr Bullough, the head, putting the finishing touches to an inspiring wall of forget me nots. Every child had their forget me not displayed
The school then earned one of my much prized brownie points by immediately asking me if I wanted a cuppa tea⭐
I got everything out of my bag, including wool, scissors, ACTION slips, Dementia Friend stickers and most importantly, my notes!
The first group of children then filed in……the youngest……so small, so smiley so wonderful. Little sponges waiting to fill their heads with knowledge …..
“I want everyone to point to their legs……..if you break your leg, it’s very hard to walk isn’t it?
Now point to your ears…………..some people have a problem with their ears and find it difficult to hear
Do you know where your brain is?………..well we can’t see our brain as it fits snuggling inside our head
Hands up if anyone has heard of dementia? Does anyone know what it is?
Some people like me, have a brain disease called dementia. It’s not catching like a cold so you can’t catch it from me or anyone else.”
They all were desperate to answer my questions and hands were going up everywhere….
And then I asked for 3 volunteers to help me with the wool…….well all their hands went up….❤
I got 3 of them to hold out their hands while I wound the wool round and round until we had a spiders web……..this was their brain, I said, working perfectly with no breaks……
Then I took my scissors out and I could see their eyes get larger😳……I told them that when they run, their brain helps them whereas…..SNIP…….that bit of my brain is broken and my brain doesn’t talk to my legs properly if I want to run…….
And so it went on until I asked for my brain back, while my volunteers sat down……..we finished their session talking about what they can do to help people like me, and about their action cards leading to them to a sticker to take home and show their family and friends.
They were wonderful for ones so young. We’d agreed beforehand that the school and me could take photos after each session, first making sure any who didn’t have their photographs taken were out of shot.
Here are the youngest
Then a slightly larger variety entered the school hall! I went through the same process, using different words and example and this time I also had fairy lights around my neck to show them how sometimes my brain remembers things and sometimes it doesn’t – a loose connection and how some lights don’t work at all, like the ones that mean I can’t run or cook………
Again, their concentration and little comments were fascinating to watch and hear.
Another wonderful photo in front of the Forget me not wall……..although they were so tall, you can just see me at the back!
So finally, the last group walked in. After the first group, these appeared to be giants…..😳
I used the same format but used different words. Even when I asked the same question that I’d asked each group:
“Does anyone know what dementia is?” the answers were informed and accurate – ‘Diseases of the brain’ said one😳 I wasn’t expecting all their answers to be so spot on – wonderful🙏
With the eldest, I spoke at the end about the challenges in life when things don’t go to plan, but thinking positively about what you CAN still do helps. We had a Q&A session. Well, they staggered me and I was blown away by their questions. Asking when I was diagnosed and do I live alone or have help………
I’d been asked to bring in my book and they asked the most fascinating questions , one in particular asking if I had any help writing the book. So I told them about my relationship with my co-writer Anna, and how, even when bad things happen to any of us, there’s still things we CAN do and with a little kindness from others can achieve great things.
I remember being impressed by their interest, their intelligence and their compassion.
The last photo of the day and we’d learnt from the last one that I needed to stand in the middle to be seen! And Mr Bullough joined in this time..
And one with thumbs up for all they’d learnt
I was left feeling hopeful, hopeful for the future, hopeful for the village that these young people would grow up not afraid to talk about dementia and what a wonderful blog to end the week…..
The most poignant moment of the day? Well that was at the start, when the youngest ones walked in and one small girl had been clutching a posy of forget me nots she’d brought in specially from home…………😍☺
A WOW ending to a WOW week……..