During her time as a teacher – almost two decades – Joyce came into daily contact with children who were struggling to deal with life outside of the classroom. Home was not the safe, secure, supporting haven that many assume it is. Parents with life-challenging, life-threatening illnesses reverse the role of carer – the child assumes a heavy responsibility, often not recognised by official services.
Joyce noticed that these children would turn up to school with poor personal hygiene, they would struggle with uniform, homework, finances and feeding themselves. They would be picked on, targeted by other children who would see their tiredness and mistake it for weakness. They would become isolated, would fail to achieve their potential, and would often match this with behavioural and social issues within the school – which should have been their sanctuary.
Joyce understood these children – they are not at risk, unhappy, abused – they were struggling to support those they loved. They were not equipped to fight their battles and needed support to meet their challenges, to meet their potential and to flourish again.
Taking on the task of working with these children, Joyce realised that some of the needs were simple – and could be achieved. She offered her own time and resources to help with cleaning, decluttering, ironing – all offered on a non-judgemental, no cost basis. She often found her offers declined as she was a teacher – and that was not what they believed a teacher should be doing. In order to do her job as a teacher, the lives of those she taught needed to be cleared, so that a pathway was available to them. Without some order being restored to their chaos, they would be frustrated in achieving their full potential.
As her offers were being declined, Joyce set out to find a charity or support organisation that she could work alongside to meet this need. None existed. Joyce had her own moment of clarity – if none existed, she would have to be that innovator. Her aim was simple – to provide a support service for children who were working as unseen carers, who were holding their own dreams and potential back because of their love for their parents. To find a way of supporting these heroes and giving them their smiles back.
Grant A Smile© recognises these daily heroes, now more than ever. Her mission has strengthened as she has sought to find new ways to help in increasingly challenging times.
To support the children and the parents to live their best lives, with the best opportunities, to realise their potential and exceed their aspirations.