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New school bus is smiles better

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Students at a special needs school were given a new minibus yesterday by a reinsurance company.

Validus Re donated the “Smiley's Bus” to the Dame Marjorie Bean Hope Academy to replace its ageing vehicle, donated 11 years ago in memory of a pupil who died at an early age.

Margaret Phillips, principal of the Devonshire school, said: “It is likely that many of you have seen our bus out in the community — with its distinctive blue colour and yellow smiley faces.

“Our original Smiley's Bus was named for a young boy, Jack Silvester, who tragically lost his life at a very young age.

“His father, Chris, is on the board of Friends of Hope Academy and was instrumental in us receiving funds for our original bus.

“Smiley was his son's nickname, hence our bus was named Smiley in his memory.”

The minibus, equipped for disabled access, will be used to transport pupils around the island for out-of-classroom activities.

Jack's brother, Peter, was at the handover ceremony at the academy yesterday to present the minibus keys to the school as he did in 2007 when he was aged only three.

Ms Phillips said: “Accessible transportation for persons with disabilities is a huge challenge on-island, and for some of our students.

“Smiley's Bus is their only opportunity to get around the island and enjoy the everyday experiences that most of us take for granted.”

Peter, now 16, said: “Twelve years ago, I was here as a three-year-old presenting the key of the first Smiley's Bus to the then minister of education. I am delighted to again be visiting this great school for another bus presentation in memory of my late brother, Jack.

“We want to thank Validus Re and their charity committee from the bottom of our hearts for their wonderful, generous donation.”

Peter added: “To my little brother Jack, ‘Smiley', we miss you every day. We are proud that in adversity, you brought us together as a family and community by motivating us to help others.”

Tinée Furbert, a government MP and “a member of the Hope Academy family” also attended the ceremony.

She said: “Our students require direct natural environment experiences in order to cement learning and the bus allows them to access these experiences.

“There is a mutual exchange in learning that occurs as our students are able to learn more about the island and the community around them and, at the same time, the community at large has an opportunity to learn more about our students.”

All smiles: Toccara Burch-Waldron, 9, and para-educator Richard Evans test out their new school Smiley's Bus, donated by Validus Re, at the Marjorie Bean Hope Academy (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)
Key moment: principal Margaret Phillips; Tinée Furbert, a government MP; Peter Silvester, brother of the late Jack Silvester; PTA president Dawn Peart; and Kean Driscoll, chief executive of Validus Re, show off the school's new minibus (Photograph supplied)
All aboard: students and staff at the Marjorie Bean Hope Academy are thrilled with their new school bus, donated by Validus Re(Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

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Published November 22, 2018 at 8:00 am (Updated November 22, 2018 at 8:11 am)

New school bus is smiles better

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