It’s been a privilege to care for the children of Aurora Meldreth Manor School
By Emma Nelson
In just a few weeks my time at Aurora Meldreth Manor will be over – and I still can’t quite believe I’m saying that!
For just over 20 years I have had the privilege to support and care for some of the most remarkable children and young people anyone could meet. And it truly is a privilege.
The children at Meldreth lead incredibly challenging lives and yet their attitude towards life has never ceased to inspire and amaze me. Some of these remarkable individuals face a daily battle with their health and simple tasks for you and I require a herculean effort. And yet they never give in.
People ask me what I will miss most about working at Meldreth and the answer is simple – the people.
Over the last two decades we have bonded as a team in ways it’s hard for people outside of our world to imagine. This place has a way of getting under your skin like nowhere else.
We have been on some incredible highs, and lows, together and this has just made us stronger as a team.
It’s a sad fact that not all the children we are lucky enough to support at Meldreth reach adulthood, but that just makes us even more determined to make the most of every single second.
When a parent comes to us and asks us to help care for their beloved child I know that they are trusting us with THE most precious thing in their life, and that is a responsibility none of us takes lightly.
Over the years I have built wonderful relationships with parents and families, understanding their needs and how they would like us to support their child.
And what I’ve learnt in my time, formerly as a support worker, and latterly as the care manager, is that trust and transparency is everything if you want to develop strong ties with families.
As I said we have been asked to care for the most precious person in the world to that parent, who is often already dealing with overwhelming feelings of sadness or even guilt, the very least we can do is be honest and open in all our dealings with them.
That means celebrating the successes and the positives but also owning up when things don’t go as planned from time to time. These are individuals living with very complex conditions and things are not always straightforward.
But in my experience if you are open, honest and crucially provide a new way forward, families will respect and trust you for that.
When I think back to my first few weeks at Meldreth - and yes I was only supposed to stay for six months! - I remember writing to a friend and telling her I had no idea how I was going to communicate with young people who are often non-verbal, it seemed impossible to me.
What I couldn’t have known then is that when you live in this world day in day out you start to develop an instinct, almost a sixth sense, for what these children want. Their passion, desires and needs.
And then you realise that these remarkable young people are communicating all the time, you just need to learn to speak their language, then there is so much joy to be had helping them to achieve their goals.
There are far too many moments from the last two decades to include in this short piece but I do want to remember a remarkable boy who lived with us five years ago.
This young man was profoundly disabled, both his parents were deceased and only his brother was around to look out for him.
And yet despite these challenges he brought so much joy to the school every day.
We successfully nominated him to carry the Olympic torch in 2012 through the streets of Cambridge but tragically he passed away just a few months before his big day.
His brother carried the torch in his place with his brother’s ashes and it was honestly one of the most profound things I have ever witnessed.
You see, that’s what makes Meldreth and the people so special. The immense capacity to care and look out for each other.
I don’t think of myself as particularly special, but I do regard the time I have had here at this wonderful school as truly magical.
I will miss it in ways that I can’t yet imagine, but I also know that the time has come for a fresh challenge and for someone else to take on this wonderful opportunity.
Aurora Meldreth Manor school is like nowhere else and I am proud beyond words to have played my part in delivering transformational education and care to these young people.
I want to sign off by saying a huge thank you to everyone I have worked with over the years since I arrived from Liverpool not knowing what to expect!
You have all made my time so special and I wish you all the very best for the future – I know you will go from strength to strength with this important work.
Emma Nelson is the outgoing Care Manager at Aurora Meldreth Manor School