One of the best things that has come out of my recent trip to Washington DC to attend the Maker Summit and the White House Maker Faire has been meeting Suzanne Gwynn. I’m writing this to tell you a little about her and her project and to challenge each of you in the Maker Community to help her out!
When thinking of “making” its easy to focus on things like digital fabrication, new materials, and modular electronics. In other words the “stuff” and the “technique.” Suzanne’s story is a little different. I think her story is important because it really gets to the core of what it is to be a maker, a problem solver. Her story also shows the power an individual maker has when joining together with the larger maker community for making a better world.
Suzanne is a registered nurse living in Seattle Washington and has worked for over thirty years helping children, young-adults, and their families in hospice end-of-life care. There are amazing medical facilities out there for helping people with the physical aspects of the dying process. Suzanne felt that a better job could be done when it came to children’s and families’ emotional needs. Just because someone is near the end of their life does not mean that they aren’t still living. Children need activity and stimulation, they still want to learn and to play and to create. Families need time with their children. People going through this tragic experience need community. Suzanne recognized all this and came up with the concept of Ladybug House. She’s invested a lot of time to start a grassroots effort to make it a reality.
“If we can’t add days to the life of our children, we will add life to their days” is the motto of Ladybug House.
Suzanne has been working to put together a team to raise funds, find a location, design the space, and make her idea into reality for the advantage of families who find themselves in the need of hospice care for the young ones in their lives. Her efforts caught the attention of the White House and she was invited as an “Honored Maker Attendee” for the first ever White House Maker Faire held on June 18th 2014.
Suzanne didn’t self-identify as a “maker” prior to her trip to DC. In fact while she was in town someone told her about the Maker Summit that was going on and that she probably ought to attend. I met her at the summit and then again the next day at the White House Maker Faire. Her biggest question was “what’s a maker anyway?!”
To me Suzanne exemplifies the heart of a Maker. She identified a problem and she set forth to solve it. She didn’t have all the money or the time or the skills to do it by herself so she reached out to others building community as she did so. In the process she isn’t afraid of the challenges or of learning new things. At the end of the day it is about seeing her idea come to life and about hoping that her idea benefits others.
Now to the challenge to all of the makers reading this!
One piece of Suzanne’s vision for Ladybug House is to include a Maker Space in the design of the facility. Not only will access to tools, materials, equipment, and activities be a stimulating use of time when children are having their good days and their good hours and their good minutes, but creativity is soothing and even healing in and of itself. Imagine being a parent and being able to have a tangible artifact to keep with you and in your family as a testament to your child’s time in your life and on this Earth.
As I said above Suzanne was not a self-identified maker until very recently. She isn’t well versed in things like 3D printing, Arduino programming, or all the million other maker skills that together YOU possess. She needs YOUR help to come up with ideas for activities and the required equipment, materials, and instructions needed to go along with them. These activities have to be designed for someone who may have limited mobility, limited attention, limited focus, limited time. They have to have instructions that are easy to follow for parents who are sleep deprived and dealing with high stress. They have to be affordable and sustainable. They also have to be open-ended and allow for creativity and openness. This task is almost like designing a scaled down STEM/Maker curriculum for school children of all ages, but with many added challenges.
My challenge to makers reading this: Share your ideas, your time, and your creativity with Suzanne. You can connect with Ladybug House through their website.
Suzanne isn’t stopping with just one Ladybug House in Seattle. Once that one is finished she and her team are going to move on and build one in another city. Currently the US has only two other palliative care homes for terminally ill children (the UK has 49). She hopes this will grow to every city in the US. Your help and your ideas for the maker space component of Ladybug House can help Suzanne change the world!
Find Ladybug House on Facebook and follow their story.