Category Archives: Give more. Be more. Do more

See the child. Change the system

I originally blogged this over at my parenting site, Mothering Mushroom, after meeting Kids Company founder Camila Batmanghelidjh and talking to her about the campaign at BritMums Live – a blogging conference for parent bloggers (mostly mums, as the name suggests). 

I haven’t worked out how to repost/blog from my co.uk site (is there a plug-in for that? Please let me know if you know of one!) so I am pasting the whole blog below – please sign the petition and show your support!

What was your childhood like? If, on balance, it was fairly pleasant then I’m sure you’re aware how lucky you are. Today, there are 3.5 million children in the UK who are living in poverty and almost 1.5 million children experience neglect. 500,000 children are referred to social services annually.

Founder and Director of Kids Company Camila Batmanghelidjh shared these staggering statistics at BritMums Live last week, as part of a panel discussion on advocacy and charity campaigns. I was also lucky enough to speak to her briefly afterwards, when she shared a bit more about why the system is failing and what we can do to help.

The system isn’t working

Of those children who do get referred, many are still not getting the help they need. A recent report from the Centre for Social Justice revealed widespread despair from many of those working within the system.

  • More than 70% of social workers say they can’t do their job properly, leaving children at risk
  • Social workers have over 40 life threatening cases each

I had an idea that things were bad from talking to friends and family who are, or work with social workers but these numbers really hit home. So, what can we do about it?

See the Child

[Trigger warning]

Change the system

The delivery of care in Britain is not fit for purpose. To address this, Kids Company has launched a campaign to enable the creation of an Independent Task Force that can re-design social care and mental health services for children, bringing together people from a range of backgrounds to bring about change for vulnerable children. Find out more about the campaign.

How can I help?

Just sign the petition. You can sign by simply texting I SEE to 63000 (standard network charges apply and no donation is taken) or at seethechild.org

You can also raise awareness of the campaign on Facebook and twitter by sharing a childhood photo of yourself, like this one of me:

Seethechildselfie

I’m supporting the #seethechild campaign to help 1.5m children suffering in UK.
To add your voice, sign at seethechild.org or text I SEE to 63000

 

See_The_Child_Logo1

 

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Not another student on a volunteer vacation

Last month, my sister-in-law posted on Facebook that my niece, Emma, would be spending three months in Zimbabwe. She was, and still is, proud and scared in equal measure. I was curious.

A bit of background about Emma… She is 20 years old, and has recently started a degree in International Development. This was not her original plan. I’ll let Emma explain:

‘For a long time, I’ve been curious about the world beyond my comfortable bubble in North East London. When I began university, I realised that there were paths I could take to one day hopefully make a positive impact on the global issues that indirectly affect me. I made the difficult decision to change my university course from English Literature to International Development (with social anthropology and politics) and despite the numerous times of doubt and worry, I can now say that it has been the best decision I have ever made in my short twenty years!’

So, when I learned that she was planning to volunteer in Zimbabwe, I wanted to find out more, especially as I had recently had a conversation with a friend about whether ‘voluntourisim’ was a good thing. There are numerous articles about how some of these placements can cause more harm than good in the long term and I wondered where Emma was going, who with and what she planned to do. So I asked her. And I was impressed.

After researching various opportunities, she had decided to volunteer with youth-led charity Restless Development, who work with countries in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. Importantly, this charity only works with communities have specifically requested help. The projects Emma will be working on in Zimbabwe focus on livelihoods and employment, sexual and reproductive health and civic participation. She will be working alongside a local volunteer when she arrives… Which is next month!

Emma explains a little more about her decision to work with Restless Development and what they do, in her brand new blog, Emma’s Restless Journey.

In order to get going on her journey, Emma needs to raise £800 for Restless Development. She’s almost halfway there and just needs a little help… The money she raises does not go towards her placement but directly to Restless to support their ongoing projects so if you’re inspired to donate, head over to Emma’s Just Giving page to help her on her way!

FGM – Time to break the chain

White Orchid

Today is the International day of zero tolerance for female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C). Sponsored by the UN, it’s a day for raising awareness of the practice and calling for an end to it.

What is FGM/C?
FGM/C refers to several harmful practices that involve the deliberate cutting of the female genitals. It is estimated that around three million girls worldwide, most under 15, are ‘cut’ each year. FGM/C is most prevalent in Africa, some countries in Asia and the Middle East, but it is also practised all over the world including countries where it is illegal. In is estimated that in the UK around 23,000 girls are cut every year. There has recently been some debate as to whether legislation is an effective way to end the practice.

FGM/C has no basis in any religion and no health benefits and can be extremely harmful. The World Health Organisation (WHO) outlines some of the possible short and long-term consequences here. To find out more, watch this TEDx Talk with leading anti-FGM activist (UK) Leyla Hussein.

I first learned of FGM/C when I was at university and someone shared their personal experience with me. I was horrified by the very idea of it but in an attempt to understand why it continues, I tried to put myself in the shoes of those women who allow it to happen to their daughters. I wrote a poem but did nothing with it until recently, when I posted it here.

Although the poem suggests that this is an ongoing cycle, it doesn’t have to be. I believe that it is women who can and eventually will break the chain. The key lies, as it so often does, in education. The United Nations Volunteer programme works tales a community-based approach, working to combat FGM/C via education and awareness-raising. There are also several charities and organisations across the UK dedicated to raising awareness of the issue and educating communities as to the health implications of this practice.

What can I do to help?
At this point I’ll hand over to Leyla Hussain, who outlined what needs to happen next in her recent article for the Huffington Post.

You can also support the organisations (by donating, fundraising and/or volunteering) who are actively working to put an end to the cycle of FGM/C.

These include:

Daughters of Eve

The Desert Flower Foundation

Forward UK

Orchid Project

FGM National Clinical Group, who work with women who have been affected

The United Nations Volunteers (UNV) programme

Photo credit: Orchid Flower by pakorn at freedigitalphotos.net

Wildflower clouds

As I turn a corner on this new route
I am rewarded by a burst of wildflowers
Fluffy white clouds
Interspersed with poppy red blushes and
Streaks of buttercup yellow
Occasional kisses of squashed plum distract me
Until I reach the gravel path
Here, my ears receive their reward
The familar crunch puts a spring in my step as
I am transported back to a memory of a much younger me
To push bikes re-imagined as motorbikes as they skid across similar paths
To imaginary horses, imaginary powers and limitless energy
As the memory manifests I find myself running further, faster, stronger
I give a silent salute to the trees as I pass for giving me the breath
To keep on keeping on
and although I can feel the strain on my lungs
As I push myself out of the comfort zone
I remember how it’s always been when I’m running
That I remember to breathe.

Be  more

Be more

On Being more and broken phones

Hello there. Nice to see you again – glad you came back after my long absence! Shall we grab a cuppa and the leftover chocolate and have a chat? I’d like that.

Go on, take a piece...

So… Let’s talk about being – about being mindful, living in the present and taking the time to slow down and breathe… Last month I posted about just that. I said I was taking a ‘few weeks’ out to slow down and catch my breath. Well a few weeks turned into a month and if I’m honest, I didn’t really slow down until last week. Before then I was still doing just as much as I was before ‘taking a break,’ I was just doing different things. Not writing my novel, unfortunately. I’ll come back to that later (not today though).

So, what happened last week? My son (who just turned two last week) decided to have a bit of a tantrum. Well, I say a bit…. He threw things and shouted and stomped and cried until he finally calmed down. Still no idea what it was about. One of the things he threw was my phone. Somehow it had ended up on the floor with his toys. I won’t be making that mistake again. The screen cracked and although it didn’t break, I now can’t use it because the slightest pressure will most likely break the glass. This means I can’t draft my blog posts on my wordpress app. I can’t tweet using my twitter app. I can’t draft poems and stories on my notebook app. I can’t…. I won’t go on. Basically, it made me realise how much I rely on my phone to get stuff done. It’s a great timesaver… Or is it? Perhaps my son was trying to tell me something. Since he destroyed my phone, I have spent a lot less time online. Sure, it means I’ve got less done but it also means I am actually spending time just being. It’s amazing the difference it makes. I am happier, the people around me are happier, and I am rethinking the amount of time I spend doing ‘stuff’ online. I think much of it is probably unnecessary and I could be putting that focus elsewhere. Or just chilling out.

So, I will be ordering a new phone today. It will have all the apps I need to ‘get stuff done,’ but this time I plan to be more mindful about what I’m using and when. I may even start turning it off a couple of evenings a week. Sure, that stll makes me feel uncomfortable, but perhaps I’ve been in my comfort zone too long and besides, lately I’ve realised that although it’s what I’m (now) used to, it’s not actually that comfortable.

What about you? How much time do you spend online and do you think all these time-saving apps do actually save you time? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Be more

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my recent Give more and Do more posts! Thanks to all of you who took part in the Do more challenge I shared on Valentine’s day, there were some great examples of paying it forward among those who got involved….

There were a lot of people doing lovely things for friends – champagne bought to celebrate a new job, fresh bread rolls baked for dinner and a mood enhancing walk for a friend who was down. There was also some charity/volunteer work and a simple cheerful ‘hello’ to a stranger walking a dog, which got a big smile in return. It doesn’t take much sometimes. I was also on the receiving end of some love myself this past month – a surprise gift from a friend and a lovely compliment from a stranger lifted my mood on an otherwise stressful day.

To all of those who shared their love spreading with me, thank you! Whether you shared or not, if you spent any time spreading the love over the past month, that’s great! Feels good, right..? I’m sure there’s still plenty of love to go around, too.

This past week I have been thinking a bit more about what I’m doing under the Be more heading and, at the moment, it’s not much. I’ve had pockets of time when I have written some small stones as an exercise in mindfulness but it’s not been often and, if I’m honest, I really haven’t done anything else in this category. I certainly haven’t made time for those deep, lung expanding, life fulfilling breaths I talked about last month.

So, although I will continue to Give more and Do more throughout the year, this month my focus is all about Being more. In order to do this I’ll need to take some time out. It’s my birthday next week, and my gift to myself is time. Time to meditate, think, reflect and breathe. I might even do a bit of yoga. This means that I won’t be writing any blog posts here for a couple of weeks. I’ll still be around, I’ll just be a lot quieter than I have been this past month. I have mixed feelings about this as I often feel that I need to be busy, and that other people ‘should’ come first. I expect this leaks through in my tone, if not my actions, with friends and family sometimes, judging by some tough conversations I’ve had recently. So perhaps putting myself first will benefit them just as much as me.

How about you? How do you feel about taking time for yourself? What do you do when everything gets a bit much and you need to take a step back?

When’s the last time you let yourself… Be?

Be  more

Be more

Do more – Let’s spread a little love…

Hello again!

Remember last month I said my motto for 2013 would be Give more. Do more. Be more? Well, I started with Give more, telling you what I’m doing this year under this heading and asking for your help to raise awareness of (and funds for, if the cause compelled you) Dost, a small charitable organisation in London (UK).

For the rest of this month, let’s Do more, together.

I have been true to my word, and so far this year I’ve been paying it forward as often I can. I won’t list everything I’ve done here, because that’s not why I’m doing it, but examples range from telling the lady who works in our local corner shop how much my son looks forward to seeing her and misses her when she’s not there, to paying for someone else’s morning coffee and croissant (anonymously, before they buy it. Interestingly, some people are very suspicious of this!)

Tomorrow is Valentines Day. The second most celebrated holiday around the world (only after New Year’s Day), it first became associated with romantic love in the middle ages and evolved into a day for lovers to express their love for each other around the 15th century. Mass produced greeting cards didn’t make an appearance until four centuries later and here in the UK, we now spend a ridiculous amount of money each year telling our loved ones how much they mean to us.  It doesn’t need to cost this much, and it doesn’t need to be Valentine’s day, to tell people that we love them, but there’s nothing stopping us from going all out on today if we feel like it. This year, however, I have a suggestion…

As well as using this opportunity to tell our loved ones how much they mean to us, why don’t we use the rest of month to spread a little love a lot further? I’m going to anyway, and I’d like to invite you to join me.

For the rest of the month, I will make a point of doing something every day for someone else. Whether that’s something for someone I don’t know, such as  offering my seat on the tube to someone else (who isn’t obviously in need – otherwise I’d give it anyway), or something for someone closer to home, like sending an unexpected gift to a family member I don’t see often. Earlier this month, I also signed up to More Love Letters.  Based in the U.S, they send love letters to wherever they are needed, all over the world. If you know someone who could do with a parcel of love to uplift them, or simply love letter writing yourself and want to get involved, head over to their website to find out more.

I want to spread some love too!

Great! To join in, simply do one thing for someone else before the end of this month. It doesn’t have to be big but it should be something you don’t usually do anyway. Telling your kids you love them doesn’t count if you tell them every day but if you rarely talk emotions with your teenager, for example, telling them you love them and specifically, why, does. Even if their response is ‘like, yeah. Whatever.’ Post a comment below with the details, or tweet with the hashtag #spreadfeblove and let’s see how much love we can put out there this month!

Do more

Do more