Facial disfigurement is a topic you may never have discussed when the opportunity arose. Unlike other conditions, facial disfigurement can make people feel quite uncomfortable at times. Maybe its because we are intrinsically curious about differences and the urge to look conflicts with our understanding that it is rude to do so. Maybe its because we don’t want to say that people are more or less attractive than we expect, for fear of looking judgemental. Maybe we simply don’t want to talk about the things that we don’t understand for fear of sounding insensitive.
More Than a Face charity was founded to try to address these issues with people from a young age.
The message is clear. It is natural on a physiological level, to feel startled if you see someone who doesn’t fit our pre-wired expectations of what a typical face looks like. BUT, it is what you do in those seconds afterward that defines the person you are. By the end of the assembly and workshops, it is hoped that children and young people will have a better understanding of what can cause facial disfigurement, how people may feel who have a visible difference and both the positive and negative ways that we as a society respond to those who look a little different. The sessions are aimed to give practical skills for reacting, responding and building relationships with those who have a facial disfigurement, people like my own son Harry.
The hope is that children and young people will feel more comfortable and less nervous when they see someone who looks different. That they will remember the messages learned and simply smile if nothing else. That when I die, my son will stand a better chance of living the life he deserves and not become vulnerable prey to ignorance and abuse.
Those are my hopes but I am a realist. I know that this will be the reality for some and not for others.
I know that most of the children will have gone home full of love and admiration for Harry. They will have told their families all about us and even watched a few of Harrys youtube clips showing what a mischief lover he is. They will explain why he looks different but will be more excited to explain how they are similar to each other.
And then over time, some of them will forget.
Some will see a person with a facial disfigurement and their default setting will be to react in the way that I explained can be hard to be on the receiving end of. Some of them will instantly remember the lessons learned with me and feel bad for a moment as they reflect on their actions. Some children will never think of us again.
But there will be a few who will remember. There will be a few children and young people who I speak to who will always remember my boy and the person he is. They will be the ones who remind their own family or siblings to be kind in the moments that count. They will be the few who go one to have their own families and instill in them the importance of acceptance and the power of a smile.
So although I know I can change the opinions of everyone in the world, I know for sure that I can change the future of a world for a few and in time, they will pass on the baton of love and understanding and the ripple effect will make a much bigger impact than even I imagine now.
So the mission continues. Building ‘Harrys Army’ of children who will stand up for and importantly, stand beside those who may be finding socialising a little tricky. Finding the ones who will always remember to see people for who they are and not what they look like. The ones who will go on to teach their children and their children’s children that we are all wonderfully unique and that each of us is more than a face.
Thanks for reading. For more information on what we offer please check out the ‘what we do‘ section of the website.