Imagining fear

Continuing my reflections on the PULSE mission to ‘Change Communities; Change Yourself; Change GSK’.  This week I have been hearing about the horrors facing children in conflict, and the work of Save the Children to end the war on children.

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Imagining fear sketch_full size“I don’t know when my dream ended. It could have been the whiter than white flash of light? Or the blackness that followed? Maybe it was the ear-piercing explosion that reverberated from wall to wall, or the moment of silence that came after? Or maybe it was the smell? The burning, acrid smell mingled with someone’s blood and tears.

I jolted; the fizzy knot plummeted down my belly, merging into the warm trickle that I couldn’t stop from running down my legs. Daddy would be cross. Needles seemed to pierce my eyes, an imaginary rope tightened around my neck.  I heaved, my heavy tongue attempted to wet my lips.  I lurched into the blackness and tripped in my confusion. My hands hit the floor, breaking my fall.  That’s when I felt it; still warm, sticky and scarlet beneath my fingers. In my despair I clutched at the limb as if my life depended upon it. My soundless voice mouthed ‘mama, mama, maamaaa’ over and over.  

Still … I was still. Was it for a minute, an hour, maybe a day? Am I awake?  Is this still a dream?

Another crackle of gunshots, I jerk to my knees. Where am I?  My legs run and run into the nothingness, I look around but I’m still here.  My thumb instinctively moves to my wobbling lips. It’s little comfort; salty, sandy. I must be a big boy; so I drop my hand back to my side.

I want to go home. Where is home? 

I collapse lifelessly onto the floor.  My leg stretches out and I curl out my toes. That’s when I felt it; soft, yet cold … comforting, familiar. I reach; reach out as far as I can. Teddy, it’s teddy!  I clutch him close and suck in his smell. I have something.

I don’t know when my dream ended. I just imagined it didn’t hurt anymore.”

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Last night I cuddled my son much longer than usual, grateful that he can suck his thumb and cuddle his beloved stuffed dog without fear or worry. Millions of children in the world are not so lucky.

My imagination was inspired by this Save the Children / BBC image and story from 2017.  Since I didn’t have my own photo to do the story justice, I sketched the imaginary little boy I can’t get out of my head – this could so easily be my boy in another time or place.

#endthewaronchildren #protectchildreninconflict #savethechildren #centenary2019 #changingcommunites #gskpulse #ivolunteer #bethechange #doingnothingisnotanoption

Protecting children in conflict is the global mission for Save the Children’s Centenary in 2019.  Read more about the harsh reality in Save the Children’s War on Children Report.


The views expressed in this post are those of the author, and not of GSK or Save the Children. 



  1. Beautiful sketch Kathryn good luck on your PULSE assignment. I am sure you will have many memorable images in the coming months, perhaps you should start a collection to capture your experience.

  2. Hi Kathryn! I wish too that their would be no war or conflict for children and for this world. Thanks for the reminder & sharing the report on such an important issue that is affecting us all. P.s. You are quite an artist and a story teller!

  3. Woe Kathryn. What a blog! I have finally started reading volunteers blog. I am inspired by your writing!

  4. Fantastic writing Kathryn – so inspiring and your sketch is so professional, it shows just how vividly your imagination has been captured by this story. I am glad you can hold your son tight at night as you make the most of this amazing opportunity to help children not as lucky as your own. I look forward to reading more as your journey unfolds….

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