CHAR­ITY AP­PEAL ‘We’re all dif­fer­ent in some way – and that’s a good thing’

*** CHANG­ING MINDS Ahead of Anti-bul­ly­ing Week, Boudicca Fox-leonard learns about a char­ity help­ing chil­dren to look be­neath the sur­face

The Sunday Telegraph - Sunday - - Property -

Mon­day morn­ing in New Eltham, south-east Lon­don, and years one, two and three file po­litely into the school assem­bly hall. “Good morn­ing,” says Phyl­l­ida Swift. “Good morn­ing,” cho­rus back the cross-legged stu­dents of Wy­borne Pri­mary.

To­day’s is a spe­cial assem­bly. The colour­ful art dis­plays around the hall hint that the theme isn’t an un­fa­mil­iar one to the young stu­dents. This term they’ve been study­ing Won­der, the best­selling book by R J Pala­cio about a boy born with a rare facial con­di­tion and what hap­pens to him when he goes to school for the first time. But this will be the first time most of the chil­dren have met some­one who has dealt with the is­sues raised by the book. Swift looks like any other 25-year-old, ex­cept she has a scar across her left cheek, eye and fore­head.

In 2015, Swift, from Cheshire, trav­elled to Ghana and planned to spend the sum­mer vol­un­teer­ing. On the first day of her trip, she was in­volved in a bus crash, which left her with a bro­ken spine, hips and ribs – and a deep wound from her hair­line to the side of her nose. Now as cam­paigns man­ager for Chang­ing Faces, one of three char­i­ties rep­re­sented in this year’s Tele­graph Christ­mas Ap­peal, her mes­sage is that she is just like any other young woman.

The char­ity was founded in 1992 to sup­port and rep­re­sent chil­dren, young peo­ple and adults who have a vis­i­ble dif­fer­ence to the face, hands or body, whether present from birth or caused by ac­ci­dent, in­jury, ill­ness or med­i­cal episode.

“I want to live in a world where I don’t fear that my nieces, neph­ews and per­haps even my chil­dren might grow up to be scared of me be­cause they’ve been ex­posed to the me­dia’s ar­chaic por­tray­als of dis­fig­ure­ment,” Swift says.

Her visit is timely. Next week is An­tiBul­ly­ing Week and more than half of peo­ple with a vis­i­ble dif­fer­ence have di­rectly ex­pe­ri­enced bul­ly­ing. While the char­ity sup­ports thou­sands of peo­ple of all ages, there are 86,000 chil­dren of school age in the UK to­day with a vis­i­ble dif­fer­ence and it is of­ten those un­der­tak­ing the dif­fi­cult tran­si­tion to sec­ondary school that will en­counter bul­ly­ing be­hav­iour.

Re­search by Chang­ing Faces has shown that only three in 10 young peo­ple say they would like to be friends with some­body who has a vis­i­ble dif­fer­ence. Early in­ter­ven­tion to stop harm­ful at­ti­tudes de­vel­op­ing is vi­tal, which is why Swift is here to­day.

“How many of you have birth­marks?” she asks the assem­bly. Hands shoot up.

“Don’t you think we’re all dif­fer­ent in some way? We all have dif­fer­ent coloured skin, hair and eyes, right?” Lit­tle heads nod. “Isn’t it good then to be dif­fer­ent?” “Yes!” comes the an­swer.

The char­ity hopes that by get­ting chil­dren, aged from five up­wards, to think about how they might re­act when they see some­one who looks dif­fer­ent they can change chil­dren’s re­ac­tions – and help ed­u­cate their par­ents – and nip bul­ly­ing in the bud.

So far the results have been pos­i­tive. One school last year sent 60 let­ters to Chang­ing Faces af­ter a sim­i­lar school assem­bly, many of which ex­pressed how the chil­dren had never re­alised what it would be like to meet some­one who looks dif­fer­ent.

But for Swift there re­ally shouldn’t be any dif­fer­ence be­tween meet­ing some­one with or with­out a vis­i­ble con­di­tion. She wants to find the com­mon ground; some­thing she suc­cess­fully does in a work­shop with year six pupils where they watch a video fea­tur­ing in­ter­views with Chang­ing Faces’ cham­pi­ons, and then prob­lem-solve some case stud­ies.

“I’ve been bul­lied a lot in the past,” says Zac, a 10-year-old with a sparky per­son­al­ity. “Peo­ple don’t have the right to call other peo­ple weird.”

His class­mate Aurora is re­minded of the time their head teacher Mr Sear­jeant came into assem­bly eat­ing a can of dog food. Ex­cept it was ac­tu­ally a can of peaches with the la­bel changed. “Peo­ple make as­sump­tions. You can’t judge a book by its cover,” she says.

Swift is impressed by their re­sponses. “They’ve done a great job of putting them­selves in the shoes of oth­ers and hope­fully now they’ll have a clearer idea of what to do if they are bul­lied, or en­counter oth­ers be­ing bul­lied. Ul­ti­mately, it’s about how we treat each other.” Sun­day 11 November 2018

tweed, is warm enough to last a full day at the races. I pair it with fine knitwear, a trilby and Stu­art Weitz­man boots (£450, stu­ar­tweitz­man. com) for a smart, sharp look. There’s far more tweed at Chel­tenham than at other race­courses, and hem­lines are lower than they are at Ain­tree. But the dress code doesn’t mean that you can’t stand out. I’ve ac­ces­sorised Hol­land Cooper’s red tar­tan Wind­sor jacket (£ 399), left, with thigh-high Bal­main boots and my favourite Cé­line sun­glasses (£330, match­es­fash­ion. com) for a look with fash­ion cred­i­bil­ity that ticks all the dress code boxes.


Cas­tle Crag is tiny in stature but gi­gan­tic in charm – the ideal moun­tain for an in­trepid out­ing with the fam­ily. From the vil­lage of Grange, an easy stroll through wood­land is fol­lowed by a lit­tle climb over scree to the sum­mit, be­fore a de­light­ful river­side walk back to the start. This moun­tainin-minia­ture is an ideal train­ing ground for ad­ven­tur­ers – and, best of all, ice creams are avail­able in the vil­lage.


Lake District guide­book writer Al­fred Wain­wright de­scribed this walk as “mild ex­er­cise” on a route with a “gloomy start” but “an ex­cel­lent fin­ish”. From the top of Hon­is­ter Pass, it takes less than two miles of hik­ing to get up and down Grey Knotts. But there is more than 1,000ft of as­cent to con­tend with. The re­ward for your ef­forts? Glo­ri­ous views across Lake­land from the grey


Great Gable is un­ques­tion­ably one of the great Lake­land fells. It is a tow­er­ing, rugged mass of rock and crags and cliffs; an ad­ven­ture par­adise for hik­ers and climbers alike. Many be­lieve the view from its West­mor­land Cairn over Wast Wa­ter is the best panorama in all of the district. Climb Gable from Was­dale Head and it’s a sure bet for a fine day in the fells.

it could be a type of ob­ses­sive be­hav­iour, linked to stress. Speak to your vet, aim­ing to get a spe­cific di­ag­no­sis by rul­ing out one cause af­ter an­other. You can only give ef­fec­tive treat­ment once the pre­cise cause has been pin­pointed.

My six-year-old fe­male Cav­a­lier King Charles spaniel has sy­ringomyelia. She was on steroids but they just made her gain weight and didn’t help the prob­lem, so we stopped giv­ing them to her. How else can I help her?


Sy­ringomyelia is a com­plex, painful con­di­tion caused by an in­her­ited mal­for­ma­tion of the back of the skull that ob­structs the flow of fluid around the brain and spinal cord. Cor­rec­tive surgery is pos­si­ble but it is costly, with a suc­cess rate of less than 50 per cent. A re­fer­ral to a neu­ro­log­i­cal spe­cial­ist is the best way to find the treat­ment pro­to­col that’s most ef­fec­tive for her.


Bernie, be­low, is a young lurcher who was a fright­ened stray when he was res­cued. Con­tact Na­tional An­i­mal Wel­fare Trust Hert­ford­shire on 0208 950 0177 or visit

To view out­comes of res­cued pets, see pe­teth­­cues.

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