A teddy bear from a charity shop has proved the key to helping refugee toddlers from Syria settle in Milton Keynes.
And it’s all thanks to students from Bletchley’s Bridge Academy South, a pupil referral unit for youngsters facing exclusion from mainstream schools.
The pupils, all aged between 12 and 14, decided as part of their project-based learning scheme to help Syrian families living in MK.
They hit upon the idea of a developing a talking teddy bear as a way of teaching younger refugees to speak English.
Teacher Amelia Hemmings said: “First they went to a charity shop and chose a teddy. Then they researched and went to eBay to buy a voice recording device to put inside the bear.”
The youngsters then took their project idea to the Build-A-Bear store, where they were helped to build the finished product.
At the press of a button the bear says common phrases such as “How old are you?”, “What time is it?” and “My name is....”
The students contact the Red Cross in MK and arranged to meet refugee workers to present them with the cuddly toy, which they christened ‘Moana Cuddles’.
This month Moana was ‘adopted’ by a four-year-old girl, who spent the first three years in a refugee camp before coming to live in MK.
When she arrived, the little girl could only say ‘hello’ and ‘bye’. Now, thanks to Moana cuddles, she can say a whole string of English phrases.
“It was an amazing project, and we’re really proud of our students,” said Ms Hemmings.
Student Emma Wright, 13, is pictured with the talking teddy
The group Refugees Welcome, formed two years ago, has helped 10 Syrian families - consisting of 63 people - settle in MK. You can donate or offer help via www.rwmk.org.uk