The Magical T Shirt

              Book written by Adam Bushnell and illustrated by Karen Thompson.                      

I was proud to be asked to illustrate the book for Great Lumley Infant School. After my paintings were handed over the school paid me £100 which I immediately donated back to them in order that they could give the money to Julius's Mam. I have a lovely video of her receiving it and I believe she bought land.

CHILDREN living 4,000 miles apart but united by the amazing and mysterious journey of a “magic T-shirt” came face to face via Skype

The Internet video call between pupils of Great Lumley Infant and Nursery School, in County Durham, and St Stephen’s Kamuge-Olinga Nurseries, in Pallisa, Uganda, brought together Kate Holmes and Julius – two nine-year-olds who might never have been aware of each other’s existence had it not been for Kate’s old school uniform. Having outgrown the T-shirt two years ago, Kate donated it to her school, which put it in a charity clothes bin.

From there, the story switches to Uganda last summer, where parish priest Deo Eriot is conducting a church service. A small boy kneels in front of him, wearing a distinctive T-shirt. Intrigued, Fr Eriot asks where the youngster, Julius, acquired it and is told the boy’s mother bought it from a local market specially for his first Communion.

That prompted the priest to search for the school named on the T-shirt’s logo online and, last July 29, email the headteacher, Tracey Wilson. So began a heart-warming partnership between Great Lumley and St Stephen’s nursery, where Fr Eriot is a director, which has seen the exchange of letters, photographs and experiences.

Today (Friday, May 15, 2015), Kate and Julius came face to face for the first time; Julius, a few classmates and Fr Eriot having driven 30 miles to the nearest Internet connection good enough to allow Skype conversation. In a moving exchange which reduced Kate’s mum Deborah to tears, the Ugandans sang their national anthem, the North-East youngsters sang their school song and children exchanged questions.

Kate asked Julius his favourite animal – “pussycat”; his favourite food – bread; whether he liked school – yes; and whether he had any toys – no. She said: “I was excited. I asked if he would be my friend and he said yes.”

The long-anticipated meeting almost didn’t happen – Julius having taken ill on the trip. But the bright-eyed youngster left hospital just in time to make the cross-continental call. Both sides hope the link will continue and grow, possibly leading to visits in future.

But the details of how Kate’s old T-shirt reached east Africa will surely remain a mystery.

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