Manawatu kids learn to love and accept those with cystic fibrosis

Terence, 3, and Heba, 2, catch bubbles at Alphabet Academy early childhood centre.
DAVID UNWIN/STUFF

Terence, 3, and Heba, 2, catch bubbles at Alphabet Academy early childhood centre.

By blowing bubbles and wearing purple clothes, children are learning about accepting those with cystic fibrosis.

About 20 children, aged between two and three, discovered the similarities between their lungs and balloons at the Alphabet Academy early childhood centre in Palmerston North on Friday.

They also learned how the lungs of children with cystic fibrosis were a bit different.

Alphabet Academy early childhood centre holds a Dress in Purple and Bubbles Day for cystic fibrosis. Mia, 3, dressed in ...
DAVID UNWIN/STUFF

Alphabet Academy early childhood centre holds a Dress in Purple and Bubbles Day for cystic fibrosis. Mia, 3, dressed in purple is held by Olivia Tutaki.

Alphabet Academy supervisor Niki McMillian​ said it was important to teach young children about such disorders and how to accept differences among others in their peer group.

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Maddy Stuart, living with cystic fibrosis, makes the most of her time

Although the young Christian education centre has supported many charities and fundraisers, McMillian said cystic fibrosis was close to her heart.

Her niece Maddy Stuart died in 2016 at the age of 17 after a long battle with the disorder.

Known as CF, the genetic disorder damages the lungs and the digestive system.

People with the disorder often get a build-up of mucus in their lungs.

For Maddy it meant that she was a frequent visitor to Palmerston North Hospital and Auckland's Starship.

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McMillian said her whole family spent Christmas with Maddy in Auckland's Ronald McDonald House when she was hospitalised over the festive season.

CF was genetic and about one in 25 people carried the gene, she said.

If two parents were both gene carriers, there was a chance their child could be born with the disorder.

On Friday, the academy's teachers and children wore purple and made gold coin donations to New Zealand's Cystic Fibrosis charity.

The day was also about raising awareness of the disorder and encouraging children to accept those with it, McMillian said.

It was important children understood why some people were in a wheelchair, or had an icky cough, or needed medicine, she said.

"Children are much more open to be accepting when they are young."

Teacher Kaaren Stewart said she taught the children how their lungs worked and tried to make them understand how other children found breathing harder.

McMillian's father Terry Wilson is also fundraising for charity by walking an 800 kilometre Spanish pilgrimage in Maddy's memory.

 - Stuff

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