A gift given to a disabled Ancrum youngster by villagers there has proved a big hit – literally.
That’s because Maia Russell uses the £100 communication device given to her by members of Ancrum Community Cafe by hitting it to respond to messages sent to her.
Maia, 11, has been left unable to communicate due to a chromosome disorder and severe learning difficulties, but she is now able to make herself understood better since being presented with a BigMack communicator.
The communication box allows for messages of up to two minutes to be recorded onto it and played back at the hit of a button.
Maia and her family had been raising money to pay for the device by holding a bring-and-buy sale at Ancrum Primary School when the community cafe found out about here efforts and stepped in to help by footing the bill.
That meant that the money raised by the bring-and-buy sale was no longer needed, so it was put towards the cost of a school trip instead.
Maia and her mum, June Russell, were presented with the device by members of the community cafe at their bring-and-buy sale.
“It was a shock. I was totally gobsmacked when they came to the sale to surprise us,” said Mrs Russell.
“Maia suffered as a young child as she spent most of primary one and two at the Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Edinburgh, but she’s much stronger now.
“She is a very happy child who is always laughing.
“People are always asking after her, and she’s very popular at her school.
“This now gives Maia a way to communicate with her classmates. The children will speak into the box, and she will respond by hitting it, so it is really amazing.”
Maia attends Ancrum Primary three days a week and Wilton Primary School for the other two.
Katie Warnock, principal teacher at Ancrum Primary, said: “Maia has been using the box for a while now at Wilton Primary, and it seemed a good idea for her to have one to use here too.
“Since she has had it, she has been laughing away and you can really see how happy she is with it.
“The device gives Maia a way of communication with her classmates.
“We sometimes sing songs that get recorded into it, and sometimes we will send messages for her to take home to her parents. It really gives her a bit more independence.
“Now we are going to take Maia and her classmates on a trip which will be something for everyone and something that all the children will enjoy.
Aileen Dryden, a member of the community cafe, said: “We had a craft and coffee morning in October and the funds raised this year went to several local good causes chosen by the group.
“After hearing of the project through a leaflet drop the school did around the village, one project was Maia’s BigMack, which the school were keen to purchase for her personal use.
“Maia is very much part of the community, and we were delighted to fund this.”
“From a personal point of view, seeing Maia interact was not only joyous but a very humbling experience.”
Mrs Russell added: “Katie Wornack has been great, and I’ve never met such a lovely bunch of people as those at the school and at the cafe.”