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Retrak Patron Lemn Sissay Sends Message of Hope

Lemn Sissay, poet and Patron of Retrak, has taken his one off-production, The Report, to the Royal Court in London. The brave two hour, one-off production opened last week and was a reading of and his reaction to his psychologist’s report about the abuse he suffered over 18 years as a child in the care system. Directed by John McGrath, The Report also featured Julie Hesmondhalgh who played Sissay’s psychologist and created not just for Sissay, but for all the victims of the care system who don’t have a public voice.

“This production has given me a voice to articulate what was always meant not to be articulated and should give hope to the millions of children in care and institutions all over the world. Children are the most valuable asset to our society and a child in care is no different and should be viewed as a solution and an opportunity for families and communities,” commented Sissay.

Lemn’s story is well known; born of an Ethiopian mother who had come to the UK as a refugee, he was taken from his mother and given to foster parents who later put him into the care of the local authority. There are many links in his story to the work of Retrak: his Ethiopian heritage; his separation from his mother and rejection by his foster parents; his difficult time in the care system and the feeling, like so many children on the street experience, that he was an inconvenience. And then the realisation of his enormous potential as a poet.

Sissay added: “My work with Retrak helps to raise awareness of the work they are doing in providing a beginning-to-end approach for street children that have been exposed to a way of life that they should never have been part of. Retrak supports child victims to reintegrate them back into their families and full time education.”

Sir Peter Fahy commented: “Working with Lemn, we are tackling some of the most endemic challenges facing children in some of the poorest parts of the world. This production sends a strong message to all carers and children and helps to educate and change perception about how we view vulnerable children.”

Lemn Sissay’s’ The Report’ sends a strong message of hope for institutionalised children. We hear his story and the range of emotions he has had to deal with, how he has had to overcome potential resentment and anger and yet is so full of joy and laughter and optimism. As Lemn says: he wants to be characterised not by his scars but by his ability to heal. As patron of Retrak, this powerful example will be shared with young people whose emotional scars are in desperate need of healing.