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Romain: Mend Hardships With Friendships

Trevor Romain “Please, sir, can you hold me?”

“I put down my pack and my rifle, and I put my arms around that little guy — I’ve never been held so hard,” said author and illustrator Trevor Romain, recalling a child he met in war-torn Angola, where frolicking children often triggered buried mines.

“What we’re going to learn today is how to connect with other people,” said Romain, standing in a gymnasium packed with sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders May 13 at Falcon Middle School in District 49.

Romain was serving in the army of his native country, South Africa, when the Angolan child tugged on his trousers. His unit was responding to a civil war. As the two embraced, the child’s blood-covered legs staggered. The soldier would find himself constantly consoling children caught in the chaos, suffering from injuries and losses, their own and others.

Inspired, Romain started volunteering at orphanages in Zimbabwe, Uganda, Burundi, Congo, Kenya and Malawi. He became known for his unique personification of creativity, empathy and wittiness.

After living in England and Australia, he moved to Austin, Texas. The slender, energetic traveler has published dozens of self-help children’s books—selling more than 1 million copies—as well as designed animated videos and visited schools, camps and hospitals.

Woody Englander, The Trevor Romain Company chief executive officer, said they’ve met more than 150,000 children in 16 countries. They’re completing a teen tour program May 11-14 in Colorado Springs, where they’re scheduled to visit six middle schools.

Trevor Romain In District 49, other than Falcon Middle School, he had visited Horizon Middle School, and was preparing for upcoming discussions at Skyview Middle School.

As part of their USO-sponsored “With You All The Way” tour, Romain and Englander are helping students from military families connect with nonmilitary children, while encouraging collaboration about what it means for a child to support a parent’s service.

“How many of you have been in a room full of people but felt so lonely?” he asked, watching arms stretch at various speeds. “Well, that’s what we’re here to figure out.”

After Romain asked how many students had a mother or father serving in the military, almost half of the children’s hands rapidly rose from across the audience.

“A big thanks to you military kids, because you put up with so much for all of us,” he said. Everyone watched a video Romain created to encourage military children to share their experiences, hardships and comforts.

A student revealed that his father’s calls to service around the world were difficult, but they led him to meaningful explorations. Another talked about how playing soccer and listening to music keeps him productively processing tough times.

“What did you experience?” said Romain, probing for deeper reflections on the video. Children talked about parent deployments, unemployment, injuries and divorce. Students shared how they were seeing ways to relate with one another.

Echoing Romain’s journaling suggestion, a student whose father recently separated from military service and is looking for work said, “It works well for me. I recommend writing things down.”

Romain challenged everyone to find a heart in need.

“If you can help someone who is really down, or there’s a hole in their heart, you guys can fill that hole with your friendship,” he said, highlighting that many children are experiencing difficulties right now, but nobody knows.

Trevor Romain Romain described the times when he purposefully injured himself to provoke a hospitalized child to smile. He talked about finding humor in everyday things, like seemingly silly warning labels.

The students discussed the ideas behind fitting in. Romain talked about growing up with bullies, who teased his inability to read until fourth grade. He struggled with dyslexia and hyperactivity.

“At school, I was called a loser all the time,” said the best-selling author. “I decided to just be myself, because everybody else was taken. And, as it turns out, I am a winner.”

After the assembly, students encircled Romain with questions and comments. One handed him a paper swan as “a symbol of my friendship.” Sixth–grader Lorelai Morring stepped back, lifted her hand over her brow, and said, “I salute you.”

“I’ve gone through a lot, too,” said Morring, 13.

“I definitely want to help everyone.”

Trevor Romain
Dustin Senger