Grantham Journal Big Interview: Open Junior Eyes to the community

Neighbourhood watch chair and police volunteer Helen Bill with a copy of Junior Eyes.
Neighbourhood watch chair and police volunteer Helen Bill with a copy of Junior Eyes.

In 2012, Chair of Grantham and District Neighbourhood Watch and police volunteer Helen Bill had an idea to create a booklet with safety tips and which encourages a sense of community among children.

Not only has this now gone into 21 schools across the district, but there are plans to take it further afield. Helen told the Journal more.

How did the booklet come about?

It was a little seed in my mind that has grown. Two years ago I decided to form a community project Junior Eyes with the idea to produce a booklet for children. I then personally approached agencies like anti-bullying and internet safety at the county council, the British Red Cross and RNLI, as well as the police and fire service, to ask each of them to write some text. Most of the agencies go into schools to talk on their specific subjects and I thought if we could get the information together in one place it was all to the good of the children.

How was it produced?

After the agencies sent me the text it went to the graphics department at Lincolnshire Police headquarters who I was very lucky to have working with me. Some of the artwork has been done by students at King’s School. I went into lessons and worked with them as they created fun characters for the booklet and the middle page which gets you to flip over. I know from having children and grandchildren that the action of turning it around will encourage them to read on. Then part two is all my own work from the experience I’ve gained working with children and generally across the community.

And the booklets are now in schools?

Yes, myself and PCSOs are going into school assemblies. Although we’ve only just started we’ve already got it into 21 schools. I’ve been working closely with Grantham police and the neighbourhood beat manager. Their PCSOs have packages with guidance on how they can refer to the booklets when discussing issues like stranger danger and playing safely outside. The booklets are free and given to every child aged between seven and 11 at the end of the assemblies. We encourage them to use it like a library book, so they can take it home and show their parents with information for them as well. It could be an opener to get children and parents to discuss any issues, such as bullying. Then they can bring it back to school and teachers can refer to it for class work. We hope it could even become part of the curriculum.

Why focus on children?

We’re really trying to get them to reconnect with the community. You need to catch them at the right age for this. Youngsters just want to absorb information and are very keen to take part. They also get information from so many different sources nowadays so I feel it’s important to have it in one place for reference.

What are your ultimate hopes for Junior Eyes?

When I first put the idea out there some people put it down, but I thought ‘no I’ll show you this is going to work.’ We got funding for 5000 booklets from the county and district Neighbourhood Watch and the police and crime commissioner who is attending an official launch in Grantham on November 12.

We’ve already allocated 3,000 of the booklets and that’s just in three weeks, so we are looking to print more for this year and to replenish books for new pupils next year. To achieve this though we need support from other groups within the community, and anyone who wants to get involved can contact me by emailing junioreyesbooklet@gmail.com or by calling 861399.