Inspiring stories of recovery
THIS newspaper was kindly invited by the Caldecott Foundation to see how it helps put back together the lives of broken children.
These young people are not simply disadvantaged or unfortunate. They have been put through abuse, violence, neglect and betrayal – the sort of horrors that would make any parent reading this wince with revulsion.
The abuse is then compounded by failure, mostly unintended. Be it foster placements, the courts, education or the police, the child in question emerges the loser every time. Some of the stories one hears there are absolutely heart-wrenching. One wonders how any child could climb back from such terrible beginnings. But they do.
Caldecott sets out with the aim to fix the children up, rebuild the trust that has been destroyed and prepare them for a return to mainstream education and then "normal" society.
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So the mission statement "We succeed where others fail" is a courageous one. Yet one fancies the staff and management have to be very confident in their ability to deliver the promise to have made it in the first place.
To wander around the houses where these children live, to witness the ordinariness of their day-to-day lives or to see how structure is bolted into their routine, will be in marked contrast to the chaos and shambles they have been rescued from. Drug abuse, needless to say, is nearly always in the backdrop to these children's tragic lives.
About 35 residents are at Caldecott, near Smeeth, at any one time, and they come from all over Britain.
Clive Lee's story about how one lad – who presented many challenges to the foundation's staff – met a senior public servant on a private visit says a lot.
The visitor had himself been in care as a child, and the lad asked him: "How did you end up in charge of all those people, then?"
Came the reply: "By starting out in a place like this."
It is a wonderful story – inspirational. That the boy in question wants to be a pilot is a measure of the ambition a place like Caldecott can instil in its charges.
The Caldecott Foundation's centenary has been marked with a series of high-profile events, including a thanksgiving service at Canterbury Cathedral, a garden party at Doddington Place, and a charity art auction at Lincoln's Inn, London.
By the end of 2012 it is hoped the appeal fund total will be £750,000. There are plans to build two new vocational training centres – one at Smeeth, and another at an industrial unit in the Ashford area, where older children can learn workplace skills such as car mechanics and hair and beauty.
This is a wonderful organisation that does not get any Government funding towards its work.
To donate or for information, see www.thecaldecottfoundation.co.uk