A Horsham mother and her two daughters are going to Kosovo to help disabled and disadvantaged children this Saturday.
Annabel Tidey, 40, and her daughters Tess and Nell, aged seven and nine, will, with Christ’s Hospital volunteers and pupils from Kosovan state schools, spend a week integrating with three special schools in Pristina, the country’s capital and largest city, by doing arts, crafts, music and sport.
The international citizenship project is running for the first two weeks of this month and will bring together 20 volunteers from Christ’s Hospital, 20 volunteers from Kosovan secondary schools and 50 children from Perparimi Special School as well as teaching staff and other participants.
Annabel, a teaching assistant at Queen Elizabeth II and volunteer at Brighton Road Baptist Church, said disabled children are not socially integrated and are hardly known about in Kosovo.
She said: “It’s something that I’ve always wanted to do but never did.”
She added: “It’s a need to help somewhere, and it’s an opportunity to see special children in a different part of the world.”
The schools specialise in teaching children with autism, Down’s Syndrome and deafness.
The Horsham family are bringing 145 pairs of shoes for Roma children who attend a ‘make-shift’ school at weekends.
St Mary’s School, Horsham, which Tess and Nell attend, helped collect them.
On the disadvantaged Roma children, she said: “It’s such a contrast isn’t it? They are desperate to go to school but have terrible shoes with holes in them and they just go to a little shack on the weekends.”
Nell and Tess came into school wearing Kosovan traditional dress on Wednesday.
Nell said: “We shouldn’t be frightened because they are normal people just not having the ability to do all things.
“We want to help them to have a normal life and get a job.”
And Tess said: “I’m looking forward to meeting new people and seeing different things.
“They have different sorts of food and I want to see their breakfast.”
Their mother said: “They love helping younger children themselves.
“They often are quite frightened of people with disabilities that look and sound different.
“As a parent I’m very keen to see children not as privileged as ourselves.”
She added: “You go out there, and think it’s them learning from you but I hope we learn from them as well - patience, understanding and acceptance.”
She hopes her daughters will share their experiences with their friends at school and in the wider Horsham community.
She said: “When they come back I hope they tell children in assembly and their friends.
“It starts from there - building an understanding of how the children live and accepting the differences.”