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US Acting Deputy Consul General welcomed as our newest Buddy!

Signing our Triangle of Hope photograph

US Acting Deputy Consul General Mrs Penny Wilkinson reaffirmed a longstanding friendship with The Buddy Bear Trust in its’ campaign to provide conductive education for children with cerebral palsy.

Mr Brendan McConville Chairman of The Buddy Bear Trust, addressed an audience of business and community leaders including US Acting Deputy Consul General Mrs Penny Wilkinson, highlighting the work and life changing impact of the school over 25 years for children with cerebral palsy and their families.

Mr McConville said “It is a tragedy that, despite backing from political leaders and an Assembly resolution for funding, this unique special school has to rely on donations from the public and businesses to provide an opportunity for children to be able to confront the daily challenges of cerebral palsy. We have made changes to the lives of children and their families. We have given hope and help. Some children who were given little hope for the future are now able to play an active role in their community”.

Guests were shown extracts from the new Information film produced by Barbara McCann video journalist showing the progress that children have made and the positive benefits of Conductive Education, not only experienced by the parents and extended family members but also how it has helped unify the community and project a positive image of Northern Ireland.

US Acting Deputy Consul General Mrs Penny Wilkinson received a copy of the film to be made available to President Obama in the hope that he may receive a small deputation from the Trust and its’ supporters in the business community. We are particularly keen to engage with Irish American companies, philanthropists and key stakeholders in the development of Northern Ireland.

Terence Charles from Enniskillen, who was one of the first children to receive conductive education at the school, told the guests that conductive education had changed his life forever and urged the business community and educationalists to invest in early intervention so that it would give greater life opportunities in later life. Terence said “Without conductive education I would have been totally dependent on careers but now I work as printer and am able to lead a full life including lobbying for children with disabilities. We are not asking for hand outs, just the opportunity to become independent and be able to repay the community by our own efforts in our working life”.

Caleb from Portadown area who has cerebral palsy and is learning to take his first steps at the school, was able to lead Mrs Wilkinson and fellow guests as they were given the opportunity to tour the classrooms and meet with parents and their children to see first-hand the work done by Ms Ildiko Veres Conductor and Principal and her dedicated team.

Ms Veres is quoted in the film stating “For these children, it is their basic human rights, they deserve to be given every opportunity available to them”.

Not all children may become fully independent but they will make varying degrees of progress depending on the severity of the cerebral palsy, early intervention and learning opportunities by specialists. And Ms Veres explained that “for some of our children success can mean the ability to walk into their primary school and for others it can mean simply having the ability to eat independently rather than to have to be fed for life”.

Property developer and Television Presenter, Gary McCausland said “the community needs to protect this school, if it closes not only will hundreds of children loose the opportunity of greater independence but thousands of parents and family members will be affected as they will have to become carers. It makes good sense for businesses and individuals to support this school while we try to convince the Assembly to follow up on its’ resolution to fund and support it. The Buddy Bear School should be available as an option to children with cerebral palsy”.

US Acting Deputy Consul General Mrs Penny Wilkinson praises parents

US Acting Deputy Consul General Mrs Penny Wilkinson took the time to listen to the individual stories of each parent and marvelled at their dedication and determination to give their children every opportunity to succeed. Mrs Wilkinson posed for photographs with parents, children and supporters from various communities across all of Northern Ireland, and had a special word of praise for Ms Veres and her dedicated staff.

US Acting Deputy Consul General Mrs Penny Wilkinson said “The children are so marvelous and I was pleased to meet all the parents.  What a challenge they face on a daily basis, and with such love and courage”.

Mr McConville, “It was a great opportunity for local businesses particularly those with Irish / American contacts to meet Mrs Wilkinson and to learn more about the Buddy Bear Trust School. It is important that those in the business community responsible for corporate social responsibility can see at first hand how their dollars / pounds can make a life time of difference and is real value for money”.

This visit by the Acting US Deputy Consul General reaffirms the long standing friendship between successive American Consuls and the school, and the Consulate’s continued interest has helped to raise awareness about Conductive Education on the island of Ireland.

US Ambassador Jean Kennedy Smith held the first garden party for our children at the Ambassador’s residence in Dublin.

Dean Pitman US Consul General helped to launch our first website and can be pictured on our website with Daniel Murphy who, after graduating from The Buddy Bear School went on to study IT at a Further Education College and also to represent Ireland in swimming at the Special Olympics.

Kevin Poland Deputy Consul launched our 'a Lifetime of Difference' project in Belfast City Hall with the president of the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce - we have been their nominated charity for the last 2 years.   

Conductive Education  

Conductive Education was pioneered in the Peto Institute in Budapest which had been extended with the help of a £5 million investment from the UK Government to train Conductors for the UK and to educate children. Parents of children in NI wished to have the same options.

The Trust opened the independent Buddy Bear Trust School in 1993 which is recognised and inspected by the Department of Education. Education Boards are entitled to place children in the school but they prefer to use their own schools which do not have specifically trained Conductors.

It is the only Conductive Education School in Northern Ireland, whilst there are many similar schools in the UK - The Prime Minister, David Cameron is on record as saying that Conductive Education for some children and their families has had life changing consequences.

For pictures of the event please visit - http://www.buddybeartrust.com/websitepublisher/galleries/us-deputy-acting-consul-general-visit/


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