Whoever you are, wherever you are, you always have a story- and the incredible people who have shared their stories with me recently have opened my eyes, made me sit up and pay attention. I have begun to look at the world through a different lens-through their lens. This is what made The World Forum on Early Care and Education different from any other conference. Every person invited to speak was asked to share their message through their story.
I heard stories of learning and play, of how privileged, private schools shared their opportunities through taking a play bus out into underprivileged communities; of how early years settings took their resources, practical and human to places of need and places of crisis. When the world is a cold and hard place, these people made them a warm and safe space - for parents and for young children.
There were stories of sustainability for staff, of strategies that support them to support their children- the holistic picture. ‘When adults thrive, children thrive’ was the title of the group of four settings from across the world I was proud to chair. Staff wellbeing and retention, across the world are crucial to ensure we have the right people in the right places at the right time- for the children.
There were stories of sustainability for the environment, again, all with a focus on how we make a difference for the children. Recycling and the incredible Gecco charity supporting others to be sustainable. Natural corridors for wildlife to thrive, introducing children to nature and, in Mozambique, showing the children the creatures of their own country and helping them to raise money from their natural resources to sustain the animals, the local communities and again, the children who will determine the future.
I heard stories of war-torn places in Ukraine and Syria and the people who put the children first. I heard stories of lives in turmoil in Malawi, where illness causes children to suffer but the hope that my colleagues across the world bring by bringing songs, and games to the places where the parents regularly received their life-sustaining drugs. Mothers with HIV were gently, supportively shown how to talk to their children, to play with their children and gradually the dads began to come too.
Changing childhoods and making a difference, one little life at a time is what we all had in common, and even as I write this it feels so humbling. It feels like a dream, now I have returned, but the World Forum was and is real and I am so honoured and humbled to have a small seat at this big table.
The most empowering message for me is that, however small, my work too is part of that bigger picture. I was proud to share my story, of how the FingerTips® talking tool was born, through working with trainee teachers, parents and children themselves.
If children are able to grow up with the confidence and skills to reflect on their own learning through such a simple, accessible strategy and with the words that work they will feel empowered to have their voice, to share their stories of what it really important to them. They will have oracy skills which will support them in life and have the agency to speak out, to speak up and, wherever they are, wherever in the world, wherever their little lives take them, the next generation will be empowered, and equipped to share their story.