Much has been written about how the pandemic has led to many children and young people feeling lonelier and more anxious.
Dr. John Patterson, the Principal of St. Vincent’s School, which is a specialist school for children with sensory impairment and other needs, says that the pupils at St. Vincent’s could teach us a lot about dealing with isolation, explaining that visually impaired children have, on average, five or six fewer friends than their sighted peers. He added that our current experiences of isolation give an insight into the challenges that blind children can potentially face if they don’t receive the right support, saying that rather than offering pupils advice during the pandemic, “visually impaired children can lead us”.
To empower their pupils to express their creativity and to build their confidence as leaders, St. Vincent’s, which has a global reputation as a creative hub, has joined forces with respected Wirral children’s author, Natalie Reeves Billing.
Natalie will be working alongside local comic book artist and teaching assistant at St. Vincent’s, Eevee Fox. Natalie will be asking children to research famous Liverpool statues and write about them, promoting peace around the world for ‘Bird’s Eye View’. As an author and social entrepreneur, she is passionate about supporting children’s mental health and creativity, saying: “Everything I do has child and family mental health at the core.”
The ambitious ‘Bird’s Eye View’ project is aimed at supporting 2020 visually impaired children and young people into employment by 2030 and is part of #LiverpoolWrites (a celebration of writing in all its forms). Dr Patterson explained that at present the vast majority of visually impaired people struggle to gain employment, something which hasn’t changed for a decade, and this is an imbalance that he’s particularly keen to address.
Starting in Liverpool, ‘Bird’s Eye View’ aims to bring people together via their school communities, with the common goal of supporting and investing in visually impaired young people around the world. As part of the project, pupils will raise funds to support Sightbox UK (an initiative by The Rotary Club of St. Vincent’s) providing technology and sports equipment for children around the globe, alongside design ideas from St Vincent’s pupils.
Natalie said: “Within this project, children will learn to research their own local history through the statues they discover. They can make up their own minds. They can create a work of fiction or non-fiction, or it can be a piece of art – the main thing is to inspire the children with a topic they can really get invested and anchored in, and then watch their imaginations fly. By having this #LiverpoolWrites network, and that of St Vincent’s and Rotary Club, children can become part of a growing global community.”
She added: “John and I have worked together on lots of things over the year, and are members of the same Rotary club, looking at fundraising for the school and worthy projects around the world. We have been looking for an opportunity to work together creatively for a long time, and I’ve always admired the artwork of Eevee Fox (who has created a series of comic books for ‘Journey For Peace’). It’s going to be great working alongside her on this project.”
Natalie concluded: “I am never happier than when I’m creating and working with others, and when I get to do that for such a great cause, that makes it even more fulfilling. It’s never work, it’s a life mission. I feel education together with a healthy mind and spirit is the best start we can give our kids, to ensure they grow into responsible, well-rounded people, and make the world a fairer place. We need a level playing field for everyone; education needs to be accessible and high quality for all, regardless of socioeconomics… I’m looking forward to seeing how the children interpret the world around them, and what a beautiful body of work for the city it will be when we compile these entries.”
Dr Patterson added that he was delighted to be joining forces with Natalie Reeves Billing and Eevee Fox for a project which will ideally boost employment prospects for visually impaired people, spread a message of peace, and will empower children to tap into their innate creativity, concluding: “We’re showing how creativity links with enterprise and exporting hope and peace around the world, and we have some exciting plans brewing in Germany. Watch this space!”
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