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Alara's Tribute from New Swannington
The following tribute was given by Rachel Rees Jones, Head Mistress at New Swannington, at Alara's funeral:

Why did such a beautiful young child have to have such a short life? Where did she get her strength and her determination from?
How come Alara made such an impact on everyone she met?
How was it that she could say things and get away with them in a way that most of us can't?!
Why is life so cruel sometimes?
All these questions and more besides. At school we are used to answering questions - but these fail us.

When Julie phoned and asked me to say a few words about Alara's life at school I felt both honoured and anxious. Honoured because it feels a privilege to share with you some aspects of her life with us at New Swannington and anxious because I want to give you the fullest picture I can of a little girl doing the most normal of things - going to school.

The staff at school have shared their memories with me to help paint this picture for you.

Before Alara started school we knew she had been very poorly and so expected to see a rather frail child. Far from it! In bounced this lively, chatty, and sometimes stubborn 4 year old, with a mop of curly brown hair who took the school by storm! From that day on she had a very clear view of what was what at school and wasn't afraid to share her opinions with us.

At the end of her first year she was crowned the May Queen at the annual Dance Evening. Her King was Quaid and she took him in hand and made sure that he was where he needed to be and at the right time!

They made a most handsome pair.

At lunch times she was often seen in the playground, with a book and a pen in her hand. She would be taking names down, writing numbers and generally sorting out the children. Alara was a born leader. She liked to be organised and to know what she was doing. She loved learning and loved being with her friends. In fact when she had to stay in at lunchtime because she was not well enough to be outside, there used to be a strident competition from the other children to stay in her with her. She also always had her sister Enola looking out for her. Alara had many good friends across the age ranges - she was never alone.

In Year 1 she lost her hair again after a course of treatment and so decided that a hair piece was the right way forward - not a wig as she pointed out to Mrs Bradbury! She had a blond bob and a luxurious long brunette style and would alter them according to her mood. Staff remember when she was fed up with her hair piece one day and a close friend said "Oh take your wig off Alara - it doesn't matter." She promptly did and I don't think we saw it many times after that. She took to wearing a rather fetching red headband and other girls wanted to have hair like hers so they could ring the changes too.

During the latter part of Year 2 she was not in school as much. She would come in for an hour or two as she could manage. But her determination to be there with us, never failed. The children had been making Joseph's Coat as part of a design and technology activity. They had been looking at coats, designing their own, practising their sewing and sticking skills ready for making their own version of this famous coat. Alara had missed out on these preparation weeks but was in school on the week when the serious business of making the coat started. Well, she got stuck in and made it that week without the need for any preparation!

As she moved into Year 3 her friendships deepened. The children knew she had cancer and that she would come to school when she could. You should have seen their faces when she walked into the room! They would call out " Alara's here" with such joy and honest delight in seeing her. She was part of their class and their lives. She would instantly settle into what ever was being taught. No fuss, no bother - just normal school life.

Alara was a very intelligent girl with a great aptitude for learning. She learnt despite school. Somehow, she didn't really need teaching, she just soaked up everything that was going on around her and learnt from it.

One of my earlier memories is when she needed her hearing aids put back into her ears after PE lessons in the reception class. It was a bit sore for her and not something she liked having done. When Alara didn't want to do something - it could be quite a challenge! But she loved the Russian dolls I had in my room and she would play with those whilst the necessary task with the hearing aids was completed.

I could go on and on sharing memories. We spent time in our assembly a week last Monday thinking about different memories of Alara and we used these stones to represent them. These stones are sharp and hurt when you squeeze them in your hand like some memories which hurt when you remember them . Then there are the ordinary memories - these smooth stones. Finally, the precious sparkly memories. This vase is full of thoughts and memories of Alara from the children and the staff and they have written them in a book or on cards for Alara's family to have.

The sharp ones:
The smooth ordinary ones:
The precious sparkly ones:

"It's not the same without you."
"She had a beautiful smile"
"I miss you and I can remember when you brought in the big tub of sweets."
"I remember when Alara and Ellie were playing tig and Alara said I could play with her."
"I remember Alara for the huge smile she always had on her face."
"One thing I remember about Alara is that when we went home she gave me kiss on the cheek and she gave me a hug."

At school, we are so glad we knew Alara. We wish she could have stayed with us for much longer. We miss her deeply yet we know our loss is nothing compared to her family's. We feel for all of them today and in the future.

Julie and Neill, your daughter, Alara was a joy to have at school. A beautiful, feisty, intelligent, sparkly, child. Thank you for letting her come to our school so that we were a part of her life.

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