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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 16 February 2019

UAE teacher taking on daring challenges to help children face their fears

Liam Kelly, who is preparing to publish the second book in a series focusing on children's mental health, is out to show that worries should never hold anybody back

Liam Kelly, a teacher at Diyafah International School is undertaking a series of challenges to show children they can overcome their fears. 
Liam Kelly, a teacher at Diyafah International School is undertaking a series of challenges to show children they can overcome their fears. 

A UAE teacher behind a series of books raising awareness of children’s mental health issues will face his own fears this year to prove to young people they can overcome any obstacle.

From singing in public to leaping out of a plane for an adrenaline-pumping sky dive, Liam Kelly is out to show that no challenge is too big to overcome.

He is determined to complete a bucket list of activities he has previously never dared to try after being shackled by anxiety in his younger years.

Mr Kelly, who is preparing to publish the second book in the Worried William series this March, will this week sing in public for the first time – a deep-seated and long-held fear.

“Last year around November time I was noticing, especially as I was walking around the school, at how confident children seem to be now,” said the head of year five at Diyafah International School in Abu Dhabi.

“I was seeing children as young as three, four and five being able to recite the prayer here on stage at the school and sing and dance. And I was thinking to myself when I was that age there was no way I could have done that.”

That got him thinking about when his worries started. His earliest childhood fear was about the chimney going on fire, which was a worry that used to consume him.

“I brought those worries into school and I hid them and it definitely affected my performance,” said Mr Kelly.

And then he started thinking about all the things he never managed to do because of his worries. Singing in public was top of the list.

“I couldn’t do that because of the way I was feeling. I was more interested in everyone looking at me. And I worried more about them than I did myself. So I decided last November that I was going to do a series of events.”

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He is currently rehearsing with the youngest pupils in the school for a performance in the school concert on Wednesday.

“I want people to see that no matter how old you are, you can overcome your fears and anxieties,” said Mr Kelly.

“It’s how you go through that process. It’s opening up, getting people on board with you and saying I’m really nervous. Can you help me through this?

After that he plans to tackle some of this other big worries, which range from roller coasters, to heights and spiders – cataloguing his feelings in the run up to each event and after.

To overcome them he aims to ride the world’s faster roller coaster at Ferrari World, meet a tarantula, ride a zip wire and sky dive over Dubai.

“I feel I have missed out on a lot in my life because of the worries I have had from a young age. But I want people to know if you help people through things it will help them get through it,” said Mr Kelly.

“The whole aim of the event is to show parents how you can help your child overcome their worries. It’s not just a case of saying, get up there and do it. Or why can’t you do it? It’s opening up that conversation about how they can help.”

Updated: January 22, 2019 12:49 PM

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