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Hi everyone – Shelby here!


Who doesn’t love making new pals and reading new books? 


Recently I had the pleasure of e-meeting children’s author Samantha Babooram through The Lily-Jo Project’s Instagram account – and I couldn’t be more excited to share a bit more about her children’s book with you!

It’s called Born to be Awesome, and it’s a practical lesson plan book for educators working with primary school-aged students.

Over the course of 8 lesson plans, Born to be Awesome guides us through the complex themes of self-worth, self-esteem, self-love, and compassion for others – with the main goal of empowering teachers to make sure students understand that they are valuable, one of a kind, and worthy of being treated with kindness and respect. 


Each individual lesson is packed with activities, crafts, and scripts to help teachers navigate these sensitive subjects with students in a fun and engaging way. While the lesson plans do provide plenty of structure for teachers, there is definitely scope to adapt it further to suit specific classroom needs.


As a young adult, I can’t help but wish that I myself had been exposed to the messages in this book as a child. Like many other kids, I would often compare myself to others or feel a bit self-conscious about what made me different – however, I never really knew what to do with all of these thoughts popping up in my head!


20+ years and a mental health revolution later, I know that we can do better. 


We have the power to give the children of today the right tools and resources to navigate, understand, and control their negative thoughts – and mental health curriculum like Born to be Awesome and The Lily-Jo Project’s online learning platform are much-needed lifelines that can help educators do just that!

An Interview with Samantha Babooram

Here’s a brief interview with the lovely lady behind Born to be Awesome – thanks again Samantha for giving our readers a bit of your time and sharing your story!

Can you tell our readers a bit more about yourself? Where are you from and what’s your story?

I’m Samantha and I’m from Darlington, but I moved to London 16 years ago to pursue all my singer-songwriter and world-changing dreams!


As a child, I was very shy and awkward, and really hated school. I’m mixed race and was one of the only 3 non-white kids in my entire school, so I always felt a bit different y’know, like I never fitted in! I was known as the class fatty and geek, had very few friends and some very strict overbearing teachers, who essentially taught me it was shameful and weak to express emotions and that I had to be perfect all the time. If I didn’t get full marks in a test, it just wasn’t good enough, I wasn’t good enough!


As a teenager, all those factors came together and manifested in me developing anorexia which I struggled with for almost a decade. I was overwhelmed with self-hate and felt completely worthless for all those years.


When I was 19, my friend was tragically killed in a car accident and it made me realise how short and precious life was, yet there I was still there wasting mine hating everything about myself. I decided to see a counsellor who helped me realise that if I wanted to get better, it was up to me to learn to see myself differently, I had to learn to love and accept myself.


It wasn’t until I was 22 that I made the decision to get better, it was a very long, lonely, and hard journey and in the 8 months that followed me making it, I lost 3 members of my family, including my dad who was my absolute world. It was all so sudden and such a shock, and my world fell apart. I remember being so broken, lost, lonely and hopeless, but at the same time thinking to myself that I NEVER wanted anyone to feel the way that I felt, and that I would dedicate my life to making sure no one ever did!

I started volunteering with charities close to my heart including recovery courses for people with eating disorders, mentoring survivors of rape and sex trafficking both here in the UK and overseas, and working with ex-child soldiers in Africa. I heard their stories of pain and suffering, but also of restoration-which they all put down to having one person in their life who loved them, believed in them and helped them believe in themselves.


The importance of self-love and acceptance and the freedom it could bring just became so prevalent, I knew I had to spread that message any way I could. Whether that be in songs I wrote, writing books, or just creating opportunities to speak life and kindness over people. That message became the core of who I am and the driving force to all that I did, and still do.

What inspired you to create Born to be Awesome?

I’d been working in a school for 4 years and was constantly seeing children struggle with low self-esteem and self-confidence, battle anxiety and find it hard to express emotions, to persevere, or have the ability to see past their circumstances and dream.


I remember doing a workshop with my class of 6-year-olds on self-worth, and I asked them to write down any negative things people may have said to them, or negative things they might think about themselves. They went out to play, leaving their papers on the floor and I couldn’t believe what I saw. 


Everywhere I looked were statements like ‘I’m fat, ugly, stupid, weird, not as smart as my friend, no one likes me, my uncle says I’m not good at anything’ and my heart just broke! 

I couldn’t believe these beautiful kids thought such horrible things about themselves at just 6 years old, and I was like ‘No, I’m not letting these kids grow up believing these lies, I’m not letting any kid grow up thinking things like this about themselves, I need to do something’, and so yeah – that’s how Born to be Awesome came about!

In your view, what do you think is the most important lesson in the book?

Oooh that’s a tough one, can I pick 2….? Chapters 1 and 3 – they’re all about knowing your value and worth, and realising that neither depend on what others say about you, how they may have treated you, or the things that may have happened to you. 


I think that’s so important, because the world is sooooo quick to tell us everything we’re not, so we need to be quicker at knowing everything we are and everything we can be ourselves! You can’t live beyond how you see yourself, so it’s vital we learn to love and accept and believe in ourselves.

What do you love the most about your life as a writer, illustrator, and mental health advocate?

I’m pretty new at this author/illustrator life, but I’m definitely enjoying the journey so far. Receiving letters and messages from children, parents and teachers telling me how my book’s helped them or inspired them is just truly amazing and makes my heart so happy. 


I also LOVE going into schools delivering workshops on self-worth. When you ask a room of kids at the start of a workshop if they think they’re priceless and only a few hands go up, but at the end when you ask again, 95% of hands go up – it’s just the most incredible thing. I always get super emotional!

What's one piece of advice that you wish you could give to your teenage self?

Goodness there is sooooo much advice I wish I could give my teenage self! I guess one of the main things I’d tell myself would be ‘You are enough, believe in yourself ‘.

Get Born to Be Awesome today!

Born to be Awesome is available online from Waterstones, Foyles, Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Browns Books. Or you can follow the links on Samantha’s Website here: www.borntobeawesome.co.uk


You can also follow Samantha and Born to be Awesome on Facebook and Instagram

Looking for More Mental Health Reads? Check out “55 Gems of Wisdom”

Born to be Awesome is available online from Waterstones, Foyles, Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Browns Books. Or you can follow the links on Samantha’s Website here: www.borntobeawesome.co.uk


You can also follow Samantha and Born to be Awesome on Facebook and Instagram


Looking for More Mental Health Reads? Check out “55 Gems of Wisdom”

At The Lily-Jo Project, we’ve recently released our very first e-book, 55 Gems of Wisdom, which features over 5 years’ worth of mental health quotes, inspiration, and thought-provoking journal prompts.


For a limited time, you can purchase this book exclusively on our Crowdfunder page here by making a £5 donation.


About the Author: Shelby Hale


Shelby has been with The Lily-Jo Project since October of 2018, serving as the platform’s PR and Communications Manager. Having lived in four different countries throughout her young adulthood, Shelby is passionate about the positive impact new experiences can have on mental health. 


When she’s not working with The Lily-Jo Project, she supports other projects through her creative agency, Hale Marketing and Communications. If you’d like to stay updated with Shelby’s story, you can find her on Instagram and Twitter

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