We were delighted to welcome lots of visitors to our club meeting on Tuesday 22nd October. Our guest speakers were Tony and Lynn Churchill from OK Our Kids and they told us about the book that they have developed and that they hope will ultimately be used in all primary schools across the country and beyond, to educate children of everyday dangers, and to encourage them to talk about these dangers with parents, teachers and their friends.
Lynn and Tony have lived in the UK for a long while but are originally from New Zealand. Tony told us about the high rates of suicide and domestic abuse in New Zealand, that surprised many of us.
Tony has worked as a Police Community Support Officer in Amersham, and Lynn trained as a teacher.
The book was developed in partnership with children who have provided art work to show their interpretation of the issues discussed. It is championed by a few head teachers as well as receiving strong endorsements from the Chief Constable of the Thames Valley Police.
Tony explained how they focus on getting children from the age of 3 to 7 to talk. He suggested that for many parents today it might be difficult to change their mindset and that many people have grown up unable to talk about some of the dangers described in the book. He and Lynn believe that young children should be targeted – to help them to talk and learn to become good citizens. While the book is pitched at school-aged children, 5 to 11 years, it is important to believe that 3-year olds can also learn and speak about these issues.
Tony was asked if this book “encourages awkward conversations before their time”. He emphasised that it is for parents to use and refer to, as questions come up at home and as they see fit. In some schools, the books are used for classroom discussions, in others, the books are sent home with the children for their parents to use.
Some of the topics are more difficult than others: the page on bullying has been extended to include a page for the bullies themselves; the page on family danger has also generated some concern. Others in the room noted that in the UK, child deaths are far more likely to be committed by a family member than a stranger, and that 1 in 20 children in the UK are subject to abuse. Tony and Lynn are happy to take on more issues and create new pages in future editions of the books. An example would be extending the conversations around mental health and well-being, and area of particular interest for some of our Rotary Scholars, studying psychology, and at the meeting with us.
Rotary clubs across our Rotary District in Oxfordshire and the Thames Valley are supporting this initiative. The book costs £1 to buy and the hope is that clubs will buy the books for their local schools. Burnham Beeches Rotary is the lead club supporting the book and they are working with Lynn and Tony to promote the book and help with the distribution. Tony and Lynn spoke at our District Conference in March 2019 and were both presented with Paul Harris Fellowship awards, in recognition of their community service with this initiative.
You can see two videos about the book and the project on the homepage of the District 1090 website (scroll down the page quite a bit!).
We were also visited by Frank Quinn, our current Rotary District governor, with Maurice Franks, also from Thatcham Rotary. Frank told us about his plans for his year as Governor, and reminded us of Rotary’s End Polio Now campaign. He told us about one particularly moving presentation by Carl Chinnery at the international Rotary Assembly for all incoming District Governors, back in January 2019. Carl spoke about how his family was affected by the polio disease when he and his brothers were all young. His mother wrote a letter to him, decades later to tell him what happened.
Rotary clubs across the globe support the End Polio Now campaign. This is Rotary International’s biggest campaign and you can read updates on the Rotary in Great Britain and Ireland website including the news that Nigeria will shortly be declared polio-free and that wild polio virus type 3 has been declared eradicated.
Frank is also supporting Hope and Homes for Children in his District Governor year. He and his club have supported this charity for a long time, and the founders of the charity will be speaking at our next District conference, in March 2020 at Newbury Racecourse. Read more about Mark Cook founder of Hope and Homes for Children.
We have a few pictures of the evening. Just to note, that where members and visitors are looking at the tables rather than the speaker, it’s because we all had a copy of the book in front of us as Lynn and Tony were telling us about it!