Ellie-Mae, 13 years old

When Ellie-Mae was born thirteen years ago, her mum Jane still remembers the horrified look that the midwife gave her.

ellie_01Ellie-Mae had a bilateral cleft lip and palate and at 6 months she had the first of many operations. Jane remembers the rude remarks whenever she took Ellie-Mae out – “I went shopping for baby clothes and another mother in the shop told me that I shouldn’t bring Ellie-Mae out in public. I was so shocked and upset.” Jane says it was very hard and people would stare at Ellie-Mae when she went out because she looked different. “People need to be more accepting of difference, no-one’s perfect and just because you don’t look like other people doesn’t mean you are any less capable. When she was born I just looked at Ellie-Mae with her sparkling blue eyes and thought how beautiful she was.”

When Ellie-Mae was eight years old she was bullied by a couple of older girls at her school. Ellie-Mae says she remembers them telling her ‘you’re not nice, you’re not normal’ and feeling scared. “She went from being a happy little girl who was doing really well at school to a girl who would cry, who didn’t want to go to school and was really unhappy”, says Jane. Although the school intervened, Jane had to prompt them to take action and the bullying went on for a couple of years. Jane heard about Changing Faces and contacted them for help. Changing Faces were able to offer counselling and support to Ellie-Mae and Jane, while also working with the school. During this time Ellie-Mae grew in confidence, building a strong group of friends. This support continued as Ellie-Mae prepared for the move to secondary school and included helping the family to win an appeal over her school placement.

While secondary school has been a challenge, especially as it has meant going from a school with 100 pupils to one with over 3,000, Jane is incredibly proud of how Ellie-Mae has coped –“She’s had a tough journey but she’s now got a good group of friends and she’s proud to talk about who she is. I think she’s a much stronger person because of everything she’s been through.”

Ellie-Mae says, “I like being me and I try and just brush it off if people are mean or if they stare. It used to make me upset but now I want to change how people are and make them understand why they shouldn’t stare or laugh behind my back.”