I became involved in AboutFace when I was 7 years old, and it was the best thing that could have happened to me. Through AboutFace, I learned to become more comfortable in my own skin and love myself for who I am. It gave me the chance to meet peers who could understand the struggles I was facing when it came to dealing with a facial difference. Being a part of AboutFace has been a life changing experience, allowing me to see the world in a different perspective. The organization has provided me with the support I needed when I hit low points in my life. Just knowing that support was available when I needed it has helped me to be successful in my life. Throughout the years I have taken part in many AboutFace activities such as Family Days, bowling, roller-skating and Camp Trailblazers. Going to camp was one of the best decisions I have ever made and the memories will stay with me forever. I have also taken part in many activities through Sick Kids, such as Girl's Stuff and Film 101. Most recently I spoke on the panel at Sick Kid's Jaw Surgery Information Session.
I was an attendee the year before and found it very helpful in preparing for my jaw surgery. I felt it was very important to offer my own experience with the surgery as others had done for me. Presently I am doing leadership training, which will enable me to return to Camp Trailblazers this year as a volunteer. One of the tasks for working on my leadership skills was attending a dental conference and helping to run a table. I will be attending the Adult Retreat this month and I am very excited. I hope that by staying involved in AboutFace, I can give back everything that they have given me.
In addition to AboutFace, I have been involved with Girl Guides of Canada. Through Girl Guides, I have taken part in many different activities, camps, and competitions. Some of my biggest accomplishments were winning a national photography competition, receiving the Chief Commissioner's Gold Award, and becoming a Junior Leader this year. Through Girl Guides, I have participated in various community service projects including volunteering for both international and environmental projects. I have also taken part in numerous City of Brampton events, which has given me the opportunity to volunteer in my home community. The many environmental projects I have done in Girl Guides sparked my interest in the environment and lead me to get involved with the Credit Valley Conservation (CVC). I have been volunteering with CVC for the past few years; first in the Conservation Youth Corps (CYC) summer program, then as a Frontline member and now as a part of their Frontline Executive Team. This semester I am at CVE for my co-op placement and it has been an amazing experience. I am now looking forward to attending York University in September for their Environmental Studies program.
A special moment from one of our scholarship winners:
Hayley & KISS
So thanks to the amazing AboutFace team, my dream came true last night and I finally met KISS. A dream of mine has always been to meet Paul Stanley (frontman, the Starchild of KISS). Paul is a spokesperson for AboutFace, an amazing organization for those with facial differences. I have been attending their events for the past few years and I have met some of the most amazing people. Paul and I have the same ear microtia, except I have bilateral (both ears have the microtia), while Paul has unilateral (only one of his ears has the microtia). We also have the same unilateral jaw deformity. Therefore, Paul Stanley and I are twinning with our facial differences! We're pretty cool! and when I met Paul, I showed him my ears, and he said "hey! They're just like mine!" And showed me his :') and I got a hug. It was pretty much the coolest day of my life.
I have always been a bit of a different person. When I was in Elementary school, my family lived in a small town in Saskatchewan. When other kids were going to hockey practice I was going to theatre class. When other kids were watching TSN, I was practicing violin. The biggest difference between my school acquaintances and I was the fact that I was born with a cleft lip and palate. From about grade two to grade seven I was bullied continuously because of my slight facial difference. There are two things that got me through that time in my life: theatre, and the access I had to AboutFace. Both of these things gave me the message that I was not alone. When I was born my mom became a member of AboutFace. The access to newsletters and the website gave me hop. All of the inspiring stories and exposure to the lives of other kids with facial differences showed me that there were many people out in the world who looked like I do. The information was also a huge inspiration for me when I was in and out of the hospital for surgeries, and I know it helped my parents get through it too.
Later on in my elementary school life when the bullying had reached a peak, my mom gave a presentation to my entire class about facial differences and why it was not acceptable to make fun of somebody because of it. AboutFace was a big inspiration to her and she used several of the newsletters and materials from the website to present to the class. After she did that, my entire school life changed dramatically. The education that my classmates got was invaluable and made my school life a lot easier. I don’t know where I would be without that presentation.
Theatre, the other lifesaver, has had a profound effect on me. Performing in the theatre has been a difficult, taxing, satisfying endeavor. I love performing but it took me a long time to get over my fear of having people see my cleft lip and palate on stage. When I finally got over it, it was very liberating. I perform all over the city now in improve shows, musicals, and plays. Theatre has taught me to face my fears and has given me some of the best experiences of my life. Recently I began teaching it through the Conservatory of Performing Arts in Regina. This opportunity has let me give other kids the same freedom I had to get up in front of people and who them who you are. My favourite moment was having two kids who had been in and out of the foster system perform a rap, which they had written about their experiences in life. One of them described that it was “so cool” to be able to express their frustrations and hopes through art. I totally connected with how they felt.
Next year I plan to begin a theatre career by taking fine arts classes at the University of Regina. I could not be more excited. I would not be embarking on this career if it hadn’t have been for the confidence and support that AboutFace has given me over the years. Stephen Sondheim wrote: “Believe me, no one is alone.” AboutFace has shown me that is true.
Written by: Ruaridh
Youth with a facial difference often require extensive dental and medical procedures. Many of these take place during their adolescence which consequently means that youth have to spend time away from school and their peers to make various appointments and often require some recovery time after surgeries. This can make it difficult for them to keep on top of their studies and with challenging curriculums it is easy for students to fall behind on their coursework. It also makes it challenging to commit to extracurricular activities which is often expected for other scholarships. It also means time away from friends and peers which adds another element of challenge for our youth. We want to support them in their academic endeavours while recognizing the challenges they might face.
While some of the associated costs with having a facial difference are covered by healthcare there are significant financial obligations that are not covered. This includes time off work (youth and parents) to attend various appointments, in face many of our youth are also unable to maintain their own job, due to surgeries and recovery times. There are also the added costs of travel, accommodation, childcare for sibling…these extra financial burdens are rarely recognized and placed on the youth’s family to cover. By providing some financial support for education youth have a better chance of being successful during their post secondary education.
"My involvement with AboutFace and SickKids Hospital have both played a huge part in the development of my character and my future career ambitions. I became a patient at SickKids Hospital soon after birth, as I was born with Bilateral Microtia and slight Goldenhar Syndrome. I've had multiple surgeries for my hearing aid (bone anchored hearing aid) and to have my jaw reconstructed (at SickKids Hospital). As I have spent so much time as this hospital, as well as so many of my close friends and family members, I have been inspired to devote as much of myself as I can to give back. I have just completed my first year on the SickKids Council, and got a volunteer position at the hospital for the full month of July. I am incredibly excited about volunteering at the hospital every morning in July as this will be my first experience in the career I hope to have when I am older. I hope that with my past experiences, I am able to find the right ways to help the children at the hospital and inspire them to push on and stay strong. Along with this, I will be working towards my goal career of being a child life specialist (dream job at SickKids Hospital), where I can hopefully inspire and help patients, as well as hopefully provide the same comfort, friendship and trust I received from my child life specialist.
While SickKids Hospital has helped me through my medical struggles, it has also helped me find others like myself, struggling with similar challenges, which has made my journey a lot easier. Along with SickKids introducing me to all these new friends, AboutFace has done this for me as well. I started attending AboutFace events a few years ago, and it has introduced me to so many beautiful friends whom I can related to and share common experiences with. AboutFace has taught me that it’s okay to be different, and that I no longer had to be ashamed because I have my AboutFace family with me. Seeing that there are so many people like myself (as well as those with other differences) has opened my eyes to the fact that not only am I not alone, but through my experiences, I can help others and impact their lives as much as they have for me. Through AboutFace, I have met such incredibly strong people who have inspired me to be strong and share my story with others which has also inspired me to further help others in the future going through struggles similar to my own."
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