P F Cairns
*Please note, P.F. Cairns is no longer available for Live Literature events*
I was brought up on a small farm in Dumfriesshire and attended a country primary school of only thirteen pupils before going on to Lockerbie Academy. At the University of Edinburgh I studied medicine, fulfilling a childhood ambition. While working as a general practitioner in Kirkcaldy, Fife, my husband and I had the opportunity to lead a team of medical volunteers to the Amazon jungle of Peru. This was the first UK medical team that The Vine Trust charity had sent to work on their vessel, Amazon Hope. The medical staff delivered primary health and dental care to the villagers on the banks of the river Amazon. The three-week trip to Peru had a huge effect on me. I resigned from my medical practice to become the volunteer Medical Director of the Vine Trust. Over the next two years, we worked, with others, to develop and promote the Amazon Hope Medical and Dental Project. (See www.vinetrust.org) It was while in Peru that I first came across street children and learnt of their struggle for survival. I began to understand the factors responsible for their ever increasing numbers worldwide. Not only do these children have to contend with hunger and disease, but also the cruelties and abuses of adults and the authorities.
I am now retired from medicine, and live with my husband on our small holding in Angus, Scotland. We have three adult children. I am a Christian and an active member of Soroptimist International. I enjoy my new career as a writer and in particular speaking to young people about my work.
About writer's work
The Dead Don’t Hurt Us is my debut novel. It is an adventure story based on my experiences as a doctor working in the Amazon. Since the publication of my book in December 2010 I have spoken in schools, libraries and to other interested groups. I am passionate about highlighting the distressing life of street children and the fact that poverty is the major factor that causes mothers to abandon their children to the streets. I have used my adventure story as a means of communicating, especially to young people, the factors that cause indigenous peoples to end up in slums and to a life of extreme poverty. How a lack of educational opportunities leaves millions of children trapped on the streets is also explored in the story.
I hope my book will be a springboard for discussion on such subjects as destruction of the rainforest and the protection of indigenous people. Also the rights of every child to be loved, to health care, to clean water, to nutritious food and an education which will allow them to take their rightful place in their society.
Websites featuring the authorVine TrustThe Dead Don't Hurt Us
Current events and projects
I like my events to be as interactive as possible with opportunities for questions and discussion. I have many photographs to illustrate my talks and real life stories to tell, from snake bites to the rescue of abandoned children, which keep the sessions lively. At the start of my events I read extracts from my book to give a flavour of the adventure story. I carefully select passages which catch the imagination of the boys as well as the girls, a mention of the SAS usually achieves this. I have a power point presentation which takes the young people on my journey from Scotland to the Amazon and explains how my experiences with the Amazon Hope Project shaped my novel. From my presentation students can compare their way of life to that of an Amazonian villager, their communities with a jungle community. I explore with the students issues such as the impact of deforestation and pollution from mining or oil exploration on the native communities. This drives villagers from their homes into slums and a life of extreme poverty which leads to large numbers of street children. I am passionate about highlighting the plight of street children to youngsters and in so doing help them realise that we live in a very materialistic world. We explore together the needs of street children and the Rights of the Child as laid down by the United Nations. I am greatly encouraged by the compassion of Scottish children and their desire to do something to help. I have a website dedicated to the book, www.donthurtus.org, with lots of information for teachers and readers; there is also a blog for young enthusiasts. The DDHUS can be used across the Curriculum for Excellence. To support the teaching staff and help them explore the themes of the book I have produced a Teacher’s Resources booklet which is available from the publishers at www.astwood.org.uk.