Louisa and the gift of confidence
Louisa was five when I first met her a year ago.
She turned up looking small and terrified. In fact, I'd never seen a child so nervous before.
Children often get a bit teary at their first session but Louisa was distraught. Her mum was in a similarly panicked state and told us that Louisa rarely talked at school, would never put her hand up in class, had huge separation anxiety when going to school every day and found it impossible to form friendships.
Her Headteacher was so worried that she had suggested she see a child psychologist because she felt that Louisa's problems were ruining her school experience.
Well, the first week she spent in the lobby barely daring to watch through the window. And the second week was the same - except that, this time, she did look through the window. Progress!
On the third week, she walked to the door, came in...and then spent the session quivering in the corner. This all seemed to be taking a long time but we could see a gradual improvement so we let her be and, two weeks later in the ?Listen, Speak & Sing? section, she astonished us by joining in with the words to our ?Dolly Dolphin? song (still from the corner but hey...).
Bit by bit, she started joining in more and more and, after two more months, she was participating fully in a whole class.
I saw Louisa this week and I could not believe it was the same girl.
She walked with her head held high, looked me the eyes and said "Hi, Lucy! How are you?" without any prompting.
I asked her how she was getting on and she told me her favourite games and songs at Perform in detail, fluently and with an impressive vocabulary for a girl who barely spoke 12 months ago. She said how excited she was that she's been chosen to play PF (our mascot and main character) in the end-of-term show. According to her Mum (who also looks a lot happier BTW), her school teachers are staggered with her transformation. She has lots of friends, frequent after-school play dates, embraces new experiences without fear and is generally a happy, confident little girl.
So much...so heart-warming. The reason I wanted to write specifically about Louisa is that she would never have been able to come to Perform if it wasn't for our Bursary Scheme which we set up in 2009. It's an independent not-for-profit body founded and run by local Perform parents. In fact two of the three mums who help us with it are parents who came along to Perform's first class on January 8th 2000.
As a company we've always given free places away to children who haven't been able to afford Perform but a while ago we wanted to open it up in a more official way. And now we have 180 children attending our weekly classes absolutely free each week.
I am aware that Perform isn't something which everyone can afford and I make no apology for that. The best teachers, great venues, recruiting and training are all expensive and I'd rather do something as well as I think it can be done than cut corners to make the prices cheaper.
However, the Bursary Scheme means that Perform isn't just for better-off families. First and foremost, we are passionate about helping the children who need it the most, so if you are reading this and recognise a child similar to Louisa then please pass this on and encourage the parents to apply. You can download a form from the website. http://www.perform.org.uk/resources/bursary-scheme.html
And, of course, if you can offer a donation or some help with fund-raising so that more children like Louisa can undergo a similar transformation, please contact me