Bathford C of E Primary School welcomed a very special anti-bullying campaigner this week – Jono Lancaster. Jono has Treacher Collins which means not all the bones in his face are fully developed. Despite being terribly bullied for the way he looks and suffering from very low self esteem as a child, he now travels the world talking to schools about self-acceptance and being kind.
Jono explained to Bathford pupils, “I am different, but then we all are and that is what makes this world so interesting. Every school I go to, there are children who feel left out, children who struggle with being different. If I can help them discover some confidence, well that is what I wake up for.”
The 33-year-old from Wakefield, Yorks, shared his moving story in an assembly and spent time in every classroom answering the children’s questions. Jono spoke about how he was given up for adoption at 36 hours old, because his birth parents couldn’t accept him. He shared how his adoptive mum, Jean, saw only a cute baby who needed a family.
The Bathford children heard how he was terribly bullied at school, in the streets and is even trolled on social media now. But Jono explained how he has gone from wanting to hide away, to learning to love the way he looks. He has has now launched his own charity, Love Me, Love My Face Foundation, to support families dealing with Treacher Collins, and to educate children about the condition and the wider issues of bullying and self-acceptance.
No question was left unanswered during Jono’s visit to Bathford Primary, and he encouraged the children to ask about his face, the condition and the bullies. One Year 4 boy asked if Treacher Collins affected Jono’s whole body, while another Year 4 girl asked if he had considered plastic surgery.
Walking around the school, the children mobbed Jono, high-fiving him and firing questions at him. Jono remarked, “I have been so impressed with Bathford. What a lovely group of children. They are so open and accepting. I would love to come back.”
Jono’s visit particularly resonated with Year 6 who have been studying Wonder, a book about a little boy with Treacher Collins who is starting school. The book, which has just been made into a Hollywood film, explores how society treats those who are different. And the central message of the book is ‘choose kind’.