Kiara Byrnes will start high school next year, but it is something that may not have been possible without a special tutoring program.
The 11-year-old battled illness and treatment for much of her final years of primary school which meant she was missing a lot of classwork and falling behind her peers.
“Kiara’s been through an awful lot for a child her age, which was impacting all parts of her life,” her mum Briony said.
“Not only was her education suffering due to the amount of school she was missing, but the nature of her treatment and the lack of contact with her peers really affected her confidence and increased her anxiety levels.
“She [was] diagnosed with Tinea Capitis in June 2017 which is a fungal infection on the scalp but because in the early days it was misdiagnosed it turned into staph infection which was the bigger issue.
“She had four or five surgeries within a few days and ended needing a skin graft in 2018 and now she is just continually getting better.”
Briony believes that a Ronald McDonald House tutoring program is what helped her daughter to catch up with her peers.
“That program was amazing, when she started it, she was still in mainstream school and Tim (the tutor) would come to the school for sessions,” Briony said.
“After a while she would just go and meet with Tim and came out a lot happier, it really boosted her confidence.
“It was just a very informal way of learning and getting ahead without the overwhelming nature of having to sit in a classroom with 30 kids – I can see that it helped her a lot.”
While Kiara is not sure about whether she’ll like high school or not, the homeschooled youngster knows it will be full of learning and growth.
She added that Tim helped her through a lot.
“It’s exciting to finish Year 6,” Kiara said.
“[Tim] helped me do my work and made it fun.”
Ronald McDonald House Charities Northern NSW Chief Executive, Ross Bingham, said the Learning Program, which has been operating in the Hunter since 2001, continues to have a significant impact on many families across Northern NSW.
“In 2020 alone, we have had 145 primary and high school students who have benefited from the Learning Program,” Ross said.