Lessons from those who have overcome trauma are helping pupils confront their own personal challenges.
hen the IRA bomb exploded, Darren Swift, an army dog handler in Belfast, had several split-second decisions to make. One of his legs had been blown off; the other, along with two fingers, was hanging by a thread.
His first instinct was to shoot himself, he now readily admits, but unusually, as he was feeding his dog at the time, he was without a weapon. The second was to rip off his remaining leg to enable him to drag his body more quickly to safety.
It is gory, vivid and explicit material to present to a class of 11- and 12-year-olds on a crisp morning in the home counties. But Swift’s story is part of a new project, Making Generation R, where limbless veterans help build resilience in young people. It was getting involved with the Drive Project, which uses the arts to promote mental health, that took Swift in a new direction and into schools all over the country.
The Drive Project’s collaboration with Blesma, the limbless veterans’ charity, involves giving veterans professional training in theatre and storytelling to ensure their sessions have the maximum impact.
Blesma, which was founded after the first world war, raises funds to ensure the programme is free to schools. More than 23,000 pupils have already taken part, and Making Generation R has a target of reaching a further 30,000 young people by the end of this year. (The Guardian, 8th Jan 2019)