Sometimes, there’s no need for words. Especially when you’re seven years old, trying to explain how helping other people makes you feel. “Well,” begins Madelyn Lapensee from St. Catharines, promptly placing a pointer finger on each side of her mouth and pushing upwards into a giant grin. She holds it in place for full impact.
“Here’s an easy peezy question: How did it make me? HAPPY,” says Madelyn.
“It just makes me smile a lot.”
Madelyn has ADHD. She is a Grade 2 student at Applewood Public School and struggles with making and keeping friends. Every Wednesday night, she spends an hour and a half at the B.E.S.T. — Better Emotional and Social Times — program, run by the Learning Disabilities Association of Niagara.
It’s a huge confidence boost, says her mom, Julie Lapensee.
Through play and activities, she gets to work with other kids who support each other as they learn coping and social skills.
Here's an easy peezy question: How did it make me? HAPPY— Madelyn, student
Part of that involves a blue cloth doll called Nobody.
Who is Nobody? is a literacy-based character building project that encourages kids to do a good deed for their community and then report back with details about what they did. Nobody is eventually turned into a Somebody when each child dresses it with something that represents their positive action.
It’s all about building self-confidence, cultivating a sense of responsibility and helping kids realize they can play an important role in society, says Sarah Farrell, program co-ordinator.
While a learning disability can affect a child’s ability to read, it can also affect them socially. The program helps them with issues of organization, managing impulsive behaviours, sharing, developing problem-solving strategies and learning to advocate for themselves.
So, on this night, it’s Madelyn’s turn to report on her project.
She begins by showing the class a video she made with her school friend, seven-year-old Ava Farewell. They pretend act an advertisement for a winter clothing drive that Madelyn started at her school.
“People out there are cold, freezing,” she says.
With just a little help, she called Community Care and explained her idea of collecting warm clothes for the needy. Two big bins arrived recently at her school.
Madelyn used money she was given to make the first donation. “I bought beautiful red boots,” she says. “And a hat.”
She spent the week calling friends and family to make sure they dropped items off too.
“This thing is going to go big so I think we’ll need three bins,” says Madelyn.
She gave the Nobody doll a black mitten to represent her efforts.
Meanwhile, 10-year-old Sydney Battel from St. Catharines decorated the Nobody doll with a hard hat she made from toilet paper and tape.
Her project involved helping her father renovate a relative’s basement.
And eight-year-old Cole Bujan from Port Colborne organized a neighbourhood cleanup with his buddies. They collected three garbage bags of trash. He made a necklace of garbage for Nobody, complete with red plastic fork and twist tie.
The importance is obvious: “Our earth won’t be stinky and make all the animals be alive and not eating garbage,” says Cole.
“It will make the earth healthy and not dirty. It will make it all clean.”
Who Is NOBODY? is a literacy-based bullying prevention program for Grades 1 – 12 that applies the curriculum to real-life experiences. Students build self-esteem by discovering their strengths and using them to help others.