Michelle's Children

Michelle's work with the Christian Children's Fund and Child Fund International has made her the "mother" of 3,000,000 children in the 1990s, and some 8,000,000 children today who benefit directly from the child-centered development work that Michelle coordinates in forty countries. She also has a husband, two biological children, and in the African sense, many more children and grand-children.

Michelle and her son, Edward Elcoat Poulton, 1998

Edward was born on 19 July 1976, celebrating the bicentennial of America's Declaration of Independence from British rule. Despite her British nationality, Michelle has spent her whole life fighting colonialism. Edward was born in France, the country of Michelle's birth, thereby celebrating the Entente Cordiale between the British and French nations. Edward was therefore born with a vast weight of expectations upon his tiny shoulders.

4 September 2004, Mr and Mrs Edward Elcoat Poulton

Edward lived up to the expectations of his overachieving parents by coming away from Norwich University with a brilliant degree and a beautiful girlfriend. Louise Hennessy, daughter of Eddie and Patricia who have become not only in-laws but very good friends, has now become Mrs. Poulton. It took them seven years of courtship to make up their minds, and since they are both lawyers, they had to negotiate a joint mortgage before they could negotiate the banns of marriage, but they finally managed to organize a wonderful wedding.

The other Elcoats

Michelle and Suzanne are not the only Elcoats on the face of the earth, for their father Geoffrey has a sister called Barbara (known affectionately as "Auntie Ba") and sundry cousins up in Newcastle upon Tyne. Barbara Elcoat married the Rev. Norman Gilmore, one of the leaders of the Anglican Church in South Africa and a doughty campaigner for justice and against apartheid. Norman and Barbara Gilmore have four children who are Michelle's first cousins. The picture shows Barbara with her eldest daughter and her first grandson named Christopher Matthews. Christopher's mother is Margaret Gilmore, the famous BBC reporter.

Edward and his cousin Paris in Scotland at the foot of Ben Nevis 1988

Paris Innes has been a very important part of our family life since he and Edward were born within a few weeks of each other in 1976. Paris's mother Maggie was a dear friend and cousin of Michelle and Robin until she died tragically in a motorcar accident while staying in Michelle's house in Brittany in 2002. Most summer holidays were spent in part with Paris, with or without his extraordinary parents, Maggie and Trevor, an Australian artist, sculptor and motorcycle fanatic. Paris ran ahead of Edward in the marriage stakes and started a family with his wife Shona Pineda before they were 21.

Paris and Shona

Paris and Shona have two beautiful girls, Michelle and Robin's favorite nieces, and they adore Edward and Louise. Big Louise, Little Louise, and Maggie Mae make a wonderful picture, and this one was taken from the 2004 calendar of family pictures put together by Paris's artistic father, Trevor.

Paris has one lovely Louise and Edward has added another

Edward's sister Catherine Leila was born on 27 December 1979 in St. Brieuc, north Brittany in the same clinic as her brother and with the same midwife. The midwife got a very big box of chocolates as a New Year present. Catherine Leila came into this world in a most considerate way, allowing her mother to enjoy the French Christmas banquet before her birth, and a champagne-soaked New Year celebration afterwards, on the first of January 1980. After brilliant studies in Mali, Geneva, and Cardiff, and a Master's Degree in Peace Studies and Conflict Transformation in Austria, Catherine Leila has gone to Africa to run refugee programs for women and children in Darfur and Chad.

Catherine Leila with Darfur children

She came back from Darfur for Edward and Louise's wedding looking fit and professional, but complaining the whole week that her suntan and T-shirt marks would ruin all of the wedding photographs. Leila is a consummate professional in the field, dealing fearlessly with armed Janjawid rebels and rapists, caring compassionately for their victims. But when it comes to wedding pictures, she is still very much a Western woman!

The women at one of Catherine Leila's centers in Darfur

Catherine Leila is following the path that her mother Michelle has trod before her. She is a protection officer for the Italian NGO Intersos, working under the umbrella of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and creating safe spaces in which mothers and their children can recreate a sense of community, well-being and planning for their future. Her main partner in the field is an elegant and intelligent man called Frederic Maio, born of a French father and an English mother living in Geneva. Michelle was thrilled when Fred came to spend a part of the summer holiday with her in Brittany during August 2005. Everybody thought he was delightful. We suspect that what brought them together was the visit to Darfur by the famous actress Angelina Jolie, aka Laura Croft, star of the refugee film "Beyond Borders" and goodwill ambassador for UNHCR. They were very impressed with AJ, she was much more intelligent and thoughtful than the gutter press suggests.

Angelina Jolie and the famous Fred

Michelle has touched the lives of millions of children across five continents, and her children seem to be ready to carry on her work.


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