Campaign spotlight: Face-off

Lucas Hayward, 13, Changing Faces campaigner

What's the problem?
A survey has shown that nine out of ten people have unconscious negative attitudes to people with disfigurements. They see them as being less attractive, less likely to succeed, less socially skilled and less likely to lead happy lives. These unconscious ideas and assumptions can lead to social discrimination that creates challenges when growing up.

How does it affect you?
I was born with a facial disfigurement and my everyday experience reflects these attitudes. Strangers tend to stare or have low expectations of me; they assume that because I look different I must have learning difficulties. I remember growing up thinking all adults were angry, because of the way they used to look at me. People who are curious about my disfigurement sometimes ask me when I will have plastic surgery to put it right. The surgeons call it "camouflage" surgery, so you can disappear into the crowd. To grow up being thought of as abnormal does have an effect. I am comfortable with the way I look and would like other people to be, too.

What are you doing about it?
I've been bullied because of the way I look, so I decided to get involved with the Changing Faces campaign for "face equality". I am one of the faces on the posters. By getting out there and raising public awareness of disfigurement attitudes, I hope to help other children like me. When stared at, I smile back and mouth, "Hello."

How can we get involved?
Check out the Changing Faces website - changingfaces.org.uk - where you can sign up for Face Equality. Join us on Facebook, lend your face to the website collage, and generally spread the word.

This article first appeared in the 25 January 2010 issue of the New Statesman, Afghanistan: Why we cannot win this war