With Giving Tuesday just around the corner, here’s some inspiration for good deeds that you can do to pay it forward.

Be charitable

I’m going to run with the assumption that because you are reading this here blog you are in a fairly privileged position (compared to those with nothing). Being kind and charitable should actually go without saying. It can be tricky choosing just one charity to get behind, so here are some ideas that shouldn’t cause you too much of a headache.

good deedsFundraising. Hold an event that inspires others around you to give. We have done sponsored walks, bake offs and pancake day parties in the past. Check out the Eventbrite Charities page for more info.

Charity shops. Whether you are donating to or buying from, all high streets have an array of charity shops these days. Utilise them. Not only will it top up your good deeds bank, you are also likely to grab yourself some huge bargains. Check out this post I wrote a while back about some finds I found in my local Oxfam.

Food banks. I abhor the fact that so many people are relying on food banks just to exist. It makes me too sad, but it is happening, so don’t pretend it’s not. Put something in the food bank box next time you’re in the vicinity of one, and not a value tin of baked beans!

Volunteer. If you have more time than spare cash, then lend a hand. Consider (wo)manning the phones for a help line, working in a charity shop or for a small grass roots organisation. The Samaritans have a great section on their website to help you get started.

Create a gift box for a child who won’t be getting any presents this Xmas. A local lady to me collects shoe boxes full of small gifts for orphaned children in the Ukraine. The Met Police run Operation Christmas Tree for local kids in the care system. Your generosity could make all the difference to that child.

Be nice to the homeless

We never, ever, know a persons story unless it’s our own, or one that is very close to us. I’ve seen too many people shrug off the homeless, and concocting stories about them “all being drug addicts”. The fact is no-one actively chooses homelessness, and numbers here in the UK are rising every year, with no sign of slowing down. My personal opinion is that how a government treats it’s most vulnerable is a huge reflection on them, but this is not a political post. Here are a few good deeds you could do for the homeless.

good deedsBuy the Big Issue. It only costs £2.50 which is roughly the same as a coffee. It’s always well written, entertaining and has fabulous articles. Check out their shop, where you can buy some awesome merchandise. If you’re active on social media, please support their thunderclap.

Reserve a place at a Crisis shelter this Christmas. It costs £26.08, and will likely make that persons year. Check out all the details on the Crisis website

Take food to a homeless person. Whenever my family eats out in central London, which admittedly isn’t very often these days, I get our leftovers packaged up in take away containers and give them to the first person I see sleeping rough. It is always hugely appreciated.   

Talk to the homeless. Say hello, look them in the eye, give them a smile. Whatever you do don’t just ignore them and pretend they don’t exist. They are human beings.

Get behind worthy causes from the comfort of your sofa

Sign petitions. Whether they are online, or in person when you’re out and about, it’s just a signature. All these signatures add up though! Check out 38 Degrees, Petition UK Parliament and Change.org for petitions to sign, or details for how you could start your own. 

Share worthy causes on social media. If you see that someone has posted something charitable or worthy, then show your appreciation by hitting the share button. Re-tweets, pins and shares of this article most welcome 😉   

Tick the charity box. Next time you’re buying something from eBay, when they ask if you want to donate £1 to a nice charity, tick the box. You could also give to UK charities for free when you’re purchasing online through the website Give as You Live.    

Good deeds closer to home

good deedsListen. If you know that a friend is going through a tough time then tell them you are there for them. It’s very simple, just be there. But really be there. When they’re talking listen. Don’t just wait for your turn to speak.     

Care packages. I love creating little parcels of love for friends. Admittedly I usually send these on birthdays and at Christmas, but I’m vowing to send more from now on just because.  

Teach your kids to be kind. We did a kindness challenge advent calendar last December, which was a fabulous experience. Each day the children had a little challenge, centred around kindness, to get them in the mood for giving. Privileged children like mine (and I’m assuming yours) get far too many presents at Christmas time. The last thing they need is counting down the days with a chocolate or sweetie.

What good deeds would you add?

This article has been brought to you by Daniel, who writes the brilliant blog Vent Spleen. It’s not for the feint hearted, but it is utterly vital reading as far as I’m concerned.

#SheHasAName   

A Water Tanker, left abandoned. Inside the bodies of 50 dead girls. A conspiracy of silence that has to be broken because it hides the global network of the most horrific evil known to mankind. The sex trafficking industry. ‘She Has A Name’ will be shown in selected cinemas from next week and you can book tickets or request your own screening here.

You might be wondering why you should care. This kind of thing only happens in other countries to other people, right?

#SheHasANameBefore I watched ‘She Has A Name’ I thought the same as you, but these statistics tell a whole different story. These are the official reported cases, but we know many more girls (and boys) are still missing. This isn’t just a global problem, it is a localised one too. Human trafficking is going on, right now, in your town.

As a father of two young boys I feel I have a responsibility to prepare them as best I can for their lives in this world. I know it is a dangerous place and that heartbreak and pain is as much a part of life as the pleasure of finding true love or the excitement of chasing after your ambitions. I try to teach them to respect others; to see the good in people; and to help and support those who are hurting. But there are some things that I cannot shield them from and that scares me, it terrifies me to be honest with you.

My eldest son has got to the age where I allow him to go out and play with his friends, football in the park and perhaps a sweet run to the local shop. What if one day he is late coming back home? What if the minutes turn to hours? Then to days? What if he goes missing and I never ever see him again? Just typing these words and I have a chill that strikes at my very soul. It’s every parents nightmare, but what do we do? We can’t wrap them in cotton wool. Independence and learnt responsibility are essential life skills.

You see that’s why ‘She Has A Name’ is such an important film to support and watch, not least because some of the profits are going to support anti human trafficking movements

#SheHasANameIt is an engaging and well made film (you can read my review here), but it manages to show the reality of human trafficking without being preachy. As a father I needed to know that human trafficking is on the increase in the UK, but as a loving human being I have to care about this. How can it still be a problem, in this day and age?

Our government, and every other government, have pledged to wipe this atrocity from the face of the earth, so why are we seeing the figures go up? This is a crime that is committed by organised gangs that work under the cover of darkness and steal life from innocent children. Yes children! Some of the girls and boys who have been rescued have been as young as 12 years old. The same age as my son, your daughter? your son?

The purpose of me writing this is not to scare you, but empower you. We need to open our eyes to the fact that this is happening. Until we face up to that reality the figures will continue to rise. We must do all we can to support and promote the agencies and groups that seek to rescue those who are sold into slavery.

As parents we must be aware that our children are not always as safe as we would like them to be. Answers? I don’t have any I am afraid, but it starts with awareness and by remembering that these girls, these people, are real not just statistics.

They have families and siblings and a life which was ripped away from them.

She Has A Name.

Please book tickets for a screening near you

Website | Twitter | Facebook

 

**Disclaimer: I was not compensated in any way to share this article. Click here for my full disclosure policy.**

introducing-give-it-a-try-and-an-interview-with-founder-ian-spike-kennyAt the start of August we were out with friends, and happened completely by chance on a free children’s rugby training session, being run by the fantastic social enterprise Give it a Try!

They use rugby to develop character, resilience and confidence in young people in state schools in South London’s Lambeth, Southwark and Lewisham.

Everyone and anyone was welcome at the session, and the two coaches running it had an incredible way with the kids, who instantly warmed to them. Neither my girls, nor my friends girls, had ever played rugby before, but they got straight into it, and couldn’t wait to go back afterwards. We managed to squeeze another session in at the end of August, and we all had another brilliant afternoon.

Rugby came at a good time for us. It was wonderful watching Polly and Clara working together as a team, something I’d not seen them do in a while. Huge thanks to Rory and Jacques, for making such a lasting impression on them. These ‘rugby days’ ended up being two of our favourites from the entire summer. Plenty of happy memories were made, and it’s put rugby on our radar, which would never have happened otherwise.

I’m thrilled to bring you an interview with Give it a Try! founder, Ian ‘Spike’ Kenny today.

Tell us your concept in a tweet

How long did it take from conception of idea to launching?

Action shot: rugby session with Give it a Try! I had the idea in April 2014, when I was made redundant. I was up and running with eight schools for the start of the 2014-2015 academic year, so it took me four months to scope out the programme, however it is evolving almost on a daily basis.

Not only are we now delivering rugby coaching and mentoring in schools, we are also providing personal development for teachers wanting to coach rugby, offering placements to students at The London South Bank University, delivering structured rugby camps and about to deliver confidence building residential adventure activity/rugby camps to further build character, resilience, teamwork and confidence.

Can you share a particularly inspiring story for us?

I have one student, who we engaged with at one of our secondary school after school clubs in early 2015. He was extremely keen on rugby from the start, but was approximately 20kg over weight and had never played the game before. He came regularly, started to attend our summer touch rugby sessions and took advice on exercise and nutrition, working really hard over the summer. In September 2015 he signed up to our U18s Academy squad and worked really hard at pre-season, becoming a valued member of the squad and playing in all our league fixtures. By Easter 2016 he was also playing for one of our senior, adult sides and has since played regularly at adult level until he went up to university this September. He is still playing rugby now.

However the inspirational element of the story is not that we got him fit, he lost his 20kg and more, and became extremely fit. It’s not that he went from a complete beginner to a technically strong rugby player, with a real understanding of the game, in a year. It’s not because he has found a sport that has engaged him and will give him experiences and friendships that he will never lose.

Give it a Try! Rugby session August 2016It’s that while he was playing for the Academy, his parents eventually turned up to watch him play. His mum was wearing a headscarf, I thought nothing of it as he is half Egyptian. Then one day he told me that his mother had recently recovered from cancer. At the end of season Academy awards, the U18s gave me a book which they’d all written in. This young man wrote this:

“Dear Spike, I don’t think I could ever truly explain on one page what the Academy means to me. But to attempt to explain, I think I could say it was the best escape from the real world ever imaginable.”

It was then that I realised that the rugby, the training, the fitness and the camaraderie he had experienced, and the family he was now part of at the rugby club, had got him through one of the most difficult periods of his life.

Give it a Try! Rugby session August 2016What’s your proudest achievement for Give it a Try! to date?

My proudest achievement happens every day. Every time I see one child in one session, do something right, realise themselves that they have mastered a skill and realise they have developed as an individual. It doesn’t get any better than that!

Tell us your top three daddy hacks

I only really had three pieces of guidance that underpinned my daughter’s growing up:

1) Don’t let me down (which morphed in to don’t let yourself down when they were old enough to understand and take full responsibility for themselves).

2) Don’t lie to me.

3) Do what you have to do, before you do what you want to do. 

Not very 21st century I’m afraid, but I suppose I’m a bit old school. 

**********

rugby1I think that’s sound advice most parents could use! Thanks so much for sharing your inspirational story with us.

Please check out the awesome work Give it a Try! do for yourself, and give them a follow on social media. 

Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | YouTube

About Give it a Try!

“We are a social enterprise that uses rugby to develop character, resilience and confidence in young people in state schools in Lambeth, Southwark and Lewisham.

We use rugby as a tool to develop individual and collective responsibility, promote health, wellbeing and positive nutritional choices, provide opportunities for young people to improve their attainment and attendance at school, whilst also mentoring and supporting them to be the best that they can be.

We work closely with local community rugby clubs to provide pathways for further rugby development, linking clubs, schools and the local community together to forge links that strengthen connections and foster community cohesion. Where appropriate we also provide additional support to disadvantaged children to maintain the inclusive nature of our programme.”

olga proto inspiring story making a difference I was put in touch with Olga Proto recently, through a lovely friend, and was deeply touched by her inspiring story.

Olga has been collecting donations locally for clothes and food, and sending them to Ukraine’s ‘forgotten children’. Many of them were left homeless and orphaned two years ago, and are forced to live in squalor.   

Here is Olga’s inspiring story in her own words. It just goes to show that one person really can make a difference.

Tell us a bit more about what you are doing Olga?

Two years ago when Russia occupied Ukraine I saw photos of the children who were left homeless or having to live in squalid conditions because they are in no mans land. The only help they get for survival is through donations, and I felt I could not be passive. I had to try and do something to bring a little comfort, so I contacted the Sisters of St. Joseph in Lviv to see if I could help. They do a lot of voluntary work with the orphanages and schools in the war zone, driving over 14,000 miles to deliver much needed food and clothes to the people left in the war zone at much risk to themselves.

Was there a particular catalyst for your journey?

olga-start-of-journeyThis photo was the one that started me on my journey – no one should have to live like this. I put out an appeal to a local mums Facebook group, and was astounded by the response I got for clothes and food. I was quickly able to send my first shipment via the professional drivers who come from Ukraine every two weeks.

What do you typically send?

Clothing, shoes, food and medicine. I pack and sort the clothes into bags for the two types of orphanages which are babies (0-3) and bigger children who are 3-18 years old. The drivers charge per kilo and to date this year I have personally paid over £4,000 in transportation, which means that local parents have donated a staggering four thousand kilos of clothing, shoes, food and medicine.

The best food to donate ideally is dried fruits, instant hot chocolate drinks, dried milk, baby milks and plastic bags of porridge. Anything and everything that sustains for winter!

This year the nuns wanted to take forty children from the war zone to the West of Ukraine into the Carpathian mountains, for two weeks of psychological art therapy to try and take away the trauma of what they had seen in the war. They needed lots of a paints and paper etc, so I bought £200 of art supplies from Poundland to help them. The nuns reported back that it was a highly successful exercise.

What’s next on the agenda?

I have now received a huge amount of donations which I am busy trying to sort and pack, but the winter has already started on the Eastern front up to minus forty degrees. Due to the bombings there is hardly any electricity or heating in the villages, and I’d like to be able to send hot water bottles, children and adult vitamins, cough medicines and vicks. This is the last lorry I will be sending before Christmas, and this time I really do need financial help to send it all, and to be able to buy the medicines and hot water bottles. I would also love to send them chocolates and biscuits for Xmas, but it is a luxury I cannot afford at the moment.

Every single donation will make a difference to the lives of these children.

Thank you so much for sharing your story Olga. Please take a look at Olga’s Just Giving page.

pcr096h-refugee_march_social-media-assets_twitter-1024x512_v1


The Children’s Society is proud to be taking part in the Solidarity with Refugees march to Parliament Square on Saturday 17 September 2016.

The children’s charity are calling on the Government to do more so that young refugees and migrants get the help they desperately need to rebuild their lives when they reach the UK. They need help from social workers, mental health services, housing and independent legal guardians to help them navigate complex immigration and legal systems.

For children fleeing war, violence and persecution – often on their own – reaching the UK should mean reaching safety. Unfortunately the reality is that too often they do not get the long-term support they need to rebuild their lives.  

The Children’s Society know from their specialist advocacy, orientation and support services helping young refugees and migrants across the country that the reality is often cruel. Many young refugees and migrants in the UK are faced with destitution, homelessness and, as they approach their 18th birthday, the threat of being forced to return to a country where they may be in danger.

For over seventy years, The Children’s Society has been supporting young refugees and migrants in their specialist local services throughout the country, including all major cities. They are working hard to break down the legal and practical barriers that stop them from rebuilding their lives in the UK.

By coming together with supporters around the country for this important march and demonstration, The Children’s Society are determined to show young refugees and migrants in the UK that we are on their side.

What to expect

12.30- 13.30 Assemble and meet other supporters: The Children’s Society will have a designated and clearly marked space on the Southbound Carriageway of Park Lane where supporters can gather. There will be an opportunity to meet staff, volunteers and fellow supporters and hear more about our work with young refugees and migrants.
13.30- 15.00 March: We will march following the planned route.
15.00- 17.00 Demonstration: A rally at Parliament Square after the march.

For more details, or to make a donation to The Children’s Society, please visit their website