Meet Sharon Doughty & Neil Evans
When Sharon almost died in a head on car crash in 1997 on her way to the BBC and literally lay trapped in the car, not knowing whether she was alive or dead, she knew with startling clarity that if she was still alive she had to change her life. Although she was a news presenter and journalist and had a great job, in that moment she knew that the purpose of her life was to make the world a better place for children.
Three months before that her husband Neil, a Metropolitan Police officer, had almost died in a riot against the Criminal Justice Bill in London. These traumatic experiences gave them the drive and determination to spend the rest of their lives doing what they both felt was important. They pledged to do more with the skills they had and make a difference to the lives of children.
Sharon says, “Together we decided because of our life experiences that giving children the skills to lead happy and safe lives and learn good values was most important to us. This was because growing up between the ages of 3 and 7 I lived in a very abusive environment and experienced extreme violence in my home.
When my Mum managed to escape I couldn’t read or tell the time because of the trauma I was suffering and I had always been labelled as a ‘remedial’ pupil in school because of what was happening at home. Literally nobody knew what was happening to me and I had no way of understanding how I could escape from the nightmare. I just kept wishing that some grown up would help. In school I couldn’t understand why nobody knew and I didn’t know how to tell.
My husband’s desire to help children came from his experiences in the police. During the course of his job he had to tell parents that their child had died either through crime or accidents. Often he could see that if the child had been better informed about the risks they might not have made the mistakes that lead to their death.
Because of this we decided we wanted to help keep children safe and so began by setting up a homeless hostel for vulnerable children and families. However in this setting it was very obvious that children badly needed help in school to learn about good values and the risks they might meet in life, because many of the parents were themselves vulnerable.
It was then that I came up with the idea of a friend for children who could help them learn and would provide a safe mechanism for teachers and police officers to communicate with children about values and making safer choices.
I was asked by the Police to advise them on how they could communicate with children who had suffered trauma and also to train officers about the effects of trauma on a child. I came up with the idea of a cartoon character who could be a friend to children and a learning programme with Dot speaking to children in their own language about how to stay safe. I worked with the Metropolitan Police and Chief Constables nationally to create the Dot Com programme. I went on in 2014 to become a consultant to the Home Office.
It was clear to me that there needed to be a mechanism to help the next generation learn to speak up about issues which worried them and learn how to stay safe no matter what home they grew up in.”
The mechanism created had to be affordable for schools to purchase and sustain. At £150 per class of 35 children for one year the Dot Com programme is a cost effective way to reach every child in the country with strategies to stay safe and to give children the emotional vocabulary and emotional intelligence to know how and when to ask for help.
The programme gives children the knowledge and confidence to make safer choices and this emotional intelligence will make a difference to the lives of the decision makers of the next generation. It is a simple way to the change the world.