Smiles at playgroup make it all worthwhile

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  • <B>Friends have fun:</B> Bermuda High School student Georgia Rego spends her spare time playing with young friend Serena Van Putten at the BASE play group.

    Friends have fun: Bermuda High School student Georgia Rego spends her spare time playing with young friend Serena Van Putten at the BASE play group.


Operation Smiles is a Bermuda High School (BHS) playgroup every Saturday mornings for children with autism. Since September, a group of 20 to 25 BHS students (Year 7 to International Baccalaureate) have given up three hours of their Saturday morning to come to BHS and play with the children.

Anu Chandrasekaran, Rachel Soares and Ashley Lombardi are the main leaders involved with the group along with Monica Willcott, an English teacher at BHS.

Ms Willcott and Anu (IB) established the group at the start of the school year. Ms Willcott has a nephew who has autism, giving her the idea of organising a group of her students to play with children with autism. Susannah Cole, the “Bermuda Autism Support & Education” (BASE) Autism consultant offered the opportunity to Monica Willcott, if she would like to play with the children with autism at the BASE programme. Ms. Willcott agreed gladly and thus, Operation Smiles began.

For many Saturdays since September, many of Monica Willcott’s students have attended the IB centre, bringing smiles to the children’s faces. The students arrange many activities for the children to play. These include making a fort, playing with parachutes, having scavenger hunts, playing on the playground at BHS, which possesses slides, monkey bars, swings and many more things. Once the playgroup ends, the children are very exhilarated and are always asking their parents to come back the following week. This confirms to the students and Ms Willcott that they have fulfilled their job at being comforting, warm-hearted and playful for the children with autism.

In the future the group hopes to welcome more children with autism to come and play in the amusing environment the students have created. Hopefully, the group shall continue the fun-filled Saturdays in the new school year, bringing bright smiles to faces of the children with autism.

“The feeling I get when the children laugh is indescribable,” said Alison Lamb, an Operation Smile member, “I can’t help but smile when I am around them.”

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Published Apr 5, 2012 at 12:00 pm (Updated Apr 12, 2012 at 8:06 am)

Smiles at playgroup make it all worthwhile

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