Posted in achievement, Art, Change, Commitment, Debate, Development, Environment, goals, Health, Health Promotion. Diet, Ideas, Liberation, Modern society, Personal Growth, Psychology, Skills, Thoughts, Writing

Mindfulness: the Way to Declutter your Head.

I was in a newsagents last week when I spotted a new magazine called Breathe:it was the first issue.

  This magazine is written for a growing sector of readership, just like myself,whose desire is to enhance their physical,social and mental well-being. Designed to include four aspects of living: wellbeing, mindfulness, creativeness and escapism, the magazine is beautifully presented and covers a wide range of related topics, all of which are highly interesting and fresh in presentation. I am already eager to see the next issue on sale, September 22nd and have it marked on my calender. 

But what does it say about the reading habits, especially of women, and of a movement ( gathering an ever greater momentum ) where there are now courses and qualifications for a different type of practitioner? I am talking about the subject of mindfulness, and the interest clearly is growing enough for a publisher to create a new magazine, to include this subject, to live calmer, less stressed and more meaningful lives- lived in the present moment.

For someone who has experienced anxiety and stress, sufficient to have produced depression in the past, mindfulness is helping me now in a number of ways; the main benefit being in the unclutering of the mind. This mental dejunking has had several spin offs and I would like to share those here:

It keeps my anxiety into perspective and I will only focus on a concern in the present moment. A worry about a potential, confrontational meeting, regarding a thorny issue next week, can wait until then.

It has empowered me in my relationships. I am finally shaking off the need to be liked. Believe me, this has taken me years! I can be proud of who I am and have no need to seek others approval. I recognise my own power and this power has yielded results, so that gives me more courage to be assertive. This spiral is on a trajectory of only one way which is up. This excites me.

It has helped me to think more creatively. As a result, I am now starting to doodle mindfulness scribbles and pictures. I intend to share some.

It has helped me develop new hobbies. I have taken up drawing and really enjoy it. It does not matter about the level of skill. When I draw I forget everything. The concentration of the drawing keeps me totally in the present.

As a result of drawing, I have taken up postcard colouring. This is a nice spin off. This has brought joy to my family – so much so that one has been framed. This has brought me happiness, knowing that such a simple thing can bring other people joy.

I listen more, but realise I still don’t really listen at all well. There are gaps in people’s conversations that I don’t always pick up. This has been a shock. I am tuining in more to people and can respond better to them. Challenge yourself on this next time you listen to someone. Is your mind mentally on to the next task of what to cook for dinner?

I have started meditations and have returned to a much simpler form of Christian faith which includes prayer. I am beyond astonished that how these prayers have been recently answered. I search out quiet space, churches, under skies, on my walks for these types of moments. I am grateful so much for this.

I have found time to take up blogging again and to really think about what I want to write. Words jump out of my head randomly for future blog post. In the space of my mind, a book idea and even its title is already taking shape. I just need the belief to write it now and to say I am good enough to do it.

I have uncluttered the house. This has been going on for two years now since moving and embraces the minimalist movement. I like simplicity and space. Even my clothes tastes have changed. I like minimalism and follow Joshua Becker and his minimalist blog site.

Over thinking for me has been a real problem. I think too much most of the time. This is a hard habit to break. Recycling your thoughts have a shelf-life. Sometimes, you just have to bin the trash once and for all.

So these are the main changes and observations to date and these won’t be by far the end, of that I am certain . In the meantime, I am looking forward to reading Breathe and wish the magazine every success. My close friend tells me that when you are in tune with your heartfelt desires, things like books find you. I wish I had found mindfulness years ago but am glad to have discovered it now.

Go out and find out for yourself. You might be in for a few surprises! I would like to hear what you find.

 

Posted in achievement, Change, Commitment, Debate, Development, Liberation, Modern society, Politics, Thoughts, Uncategorized

So We Left

I have decided to write a post concerning the UK’s decision to leave the EU and why, against the astonishment of my own husband and some friends, I decided to vote Leave.

The Brexit camp have been accused of right-wing prejudice, racism and divisiveness, and indeed there will be some who have these motives; a kind of selfishness against humanity of which there is no dignity. However, I wish to defend myself and others here who have been branded by this one brush of darkness.

I am a humanitarian and centre – left in politics. I volunteer for an NGO, am an environmentalist and against neo-liberalist policies. I have never voted for UKIP, nor even the Tories in the last three elections.It has been breathtaking to read the strength of feeling in this debate, some of which has been nasty and potentially patronising, because we dare to ask for controlled and responsible immigration and to take back control of our own destiny.

Decent people with passionate feelings and concerns, as to why we should have stayed have vented this anger;that by denying the Brussels State Machine of Federalism we should be denying the very heart of compassion, love and care for which the majority of people are aligned to. But let’s get to the heart of this debate and why people decided to vote Brexit with three words: beaucocracy , globalisation and immigration.

1) I think we can all agree, that the then Common Market back in the seventies was about free-trade. It wasn’t about stopping another World War, ( NATO was largely formed for that purpose.) Neither was it about creating a single currency, with ever greater political integration. Along with the trade agreements came rules and regulations, and as the years wore on the rules became longer, with more red tape and countless counter clauses and more strangulation with it.

Recently, I drove past some old orchards in Suffolk. My Dad told me that when we joined the EU, the orchards along with the apples were dug up and destroyed. Why? Because we had to accept the French Golden Delicious imports instead. We weren’t allowed these apples grown for years on our own soil anymore.

The same can be said with the decimation of our fishing industry with the Agricultural and Fishing policies, enforced quotas and a sharing of maritime waters.  Lowestoft, my home town, was a thriving fishing community, now this is all but dead. No wonder then, that as early as 1975, people were uneasy and we had a re-think to stay. However, we were in the grip of a recession ( The Three Day Week loomed large in people’s minds),so we decided It was best to hang -on -in- there and stay and hope for the best.

2) You have to ask the question. Why when one country decides to leave a club of traders should there be so much fury, economic blackmail, worry and anxiety? This is of course tied into globalisation. This leads to one pivotal question. Has the EU become so powerful that to dare leave it creates such a horrific reaction of market forces of doom and despair? Of stock market collapses, shoring up of the pound against the Euro and economic fall-out. Should one institution ( comprised of now 28 nations) hold that much dominance, that much power in the world? To want to trade more freely with the rest of the world comes a robust no, like you have no right to ask. How dare you! That the cost is so high no one dares to do it because of your pension fund. Market forces and capitalism at its worst is what springs to mind here.

When Greece was at the mercy of the EU, after it elected a government to address its virtual bankruptcy and collapsing Euro, what happened next?  The newly elected Prime Minster wad told by Merkel this is what you will comply with, or you won’t get your bailout and you will go bankrupt. How many days did they have to shut their banks for, nearly a week? Where was their democracy in all of this? The Greek government wanted a different way, whether that way was right or wrong is not the issue here, but to not have any control was, and still is. Thank God, we did not join the Euro in 1992. That situation could well have been us.

Therefore, You can not wonder why comments were raised about Germany winning the war, by the back door. This is not working together for the common good of man. This felt like a dictatorial superstate. I didn’t like it one bit.

3) Now, let’s talk about immigration and let’s start with Gt Yarmouth. 71.5% of the town voted to leave. Yarmouth has a large immigrant population, run down, depressed and poor. Like Thetford and Boston of which the later had the highest vote to leave of 75.6%, It has a high non-British- born population. Ok, nothing wrong with people’s from other countries coming to live and work here in principle ,but I do have a problem with Gt Yarmouth and Boston for two good reasons which is repeated, especially in inner cities.

Firstly, the creation of ethnic ghettos where you walk the street after nine at your peril. The English man just does not do this there. This is repeated in Luton, Northampton and Bedford, ( that I know of ) because my brother and parents have either worked or lived close to these areas. They have been exposed to it. This is not a racist statement, this is a simply a fact.

An example of this being that my Mother was told by my Dad to keep her eyes down and walk quickly past a gang of East European men raiding cars in broad daylight in Gt Yarmouth. No one did anything for fear they would get a knife in their back. Ok, we can’t say this one action reflects the majority’s behaviour by  these ethnic group. I work with some of these people and they are great but you can see why society is sick and tired of unremitting, unrelenting immigration, given this situation and why right- wing factions seize upon this example.

These passions continue to run high when welfare benefits are sent back home to renovate a house in Romania ( in a documentary last week) or child benefit.  This is against a backdrop of our own homelessness – a national disgrace of which over 300,000 are left on the street or in hostels and savage disability benefit cuts. Mr Cameron wanted to stop much of this welfare going abroad but most of you will know the outcome of his renegotiations on this issue. Mr Brussels said once again,no.

Secondly,  today I learned of an individual having no district nursing cover at their surgery. An A/E department recently asking for only life-threatening injuries to come in because services were at breaking point. Are you seriously suggesting those of you in the Remain camp that we continue to have unlimited free-movements of labour, across 28 member states, not even addressing the huge refugee crisis ( another topic entirely) given the resources we have in schools, hospitals, surgery and housing? Ok, this is a government funding issue, yes it is, but we still don’t have the infrastructure whose ever fault it is. I want to see controlled immigration and I resent being called a racist for it.

To conclude: no, I am not a brain-dead, bigot, nit-wit having a fit of madness to vote leave. I have read widely on this subject. I have given consent based on informed information to the best of my knowledge. I have listened to both sides, even read a whole book about it.

Ultimately, I don’t wish to be part a United States of Europe, at Brussels’ mercy, of seeing TTIP ( sanctioned by the EU ) to erode our already precarious NHS. I don’t want to pay my hard earned taxes to shore up Brussels, their sub committees, beaucocracy, for MEP expenses, etc,etc. I don’t want to see exploitation of migrant workers on low wages, living in container blocks like battery farm hens, such as those in our Eastern ports. I don’t want to see depressed wages for the rest of us as a result.

Yesterday, contrary to feeling ashamed, I was proud to be British. To stand up, be counted and have courage against the hysteria and the scare-mongering. I am European, want to trade with Europe, be friends with Europe, work together with Europe against war, climate change, famine and disaster. I just don’t want to be a part of a federalist super state. For that I am maligned and chastised today by those in the Remain camp.

If we in the Leave side are so wrong and the EU is such a sound institution, then why have we got a domino effect rippling across the continent after 24hrs. France, Denmark and Holland are asking for the vote too. We dared to question. We stood up for the true meaning of liberty, equality, fraternity. Yes, there will be extreme right-wing factions seizing the chance to promote their dangerous ideology but in reality it is going to be the Common Man, the Working Man, without an extreme political agenda that will seize the day and have the deciding vote.
Make no mistake, the EU will change as a result of this vote, it has to. PIty Brussels never gave us a chance to change it from the inside. It will change and secure its future because we Brexits were brave enough, against the tidal flood of criticism, to vote for a new path. The British vote was the catalyst. Perhaps then, for once in a very long time we can say, that this may not be defined as our finest hour ( I am not comparing myself to Churchill) but it certainly wasn’t the darkest one by a long shot.

Go on Britain, let’s come together and make this work!

Posted in achievement, Change, Commitment, Debate, Development, goals, Government, Health, Human Rights, Learning, Modern society, Politics, Psychology, Skills, Thoughts

The End Of My Nursing Days.

In my twilight days of nursing there saw an introduction of a laptop computer. We all had one provided and training on how to use it. Those days had seen our area of work extend and staffing cut. The laptop had one very important function: to record data. This is what we all had to do. My area of work was then in the community, so I travelled a lot, covering many miles sometimes between two surgeries caseloads and in all weathers.

Every detail and work entry had to be recorded on a system called System One. So that meant that every phone call, procedure, paper work, (EG, if it involved an referral or assessment), was logged. This had to be done for every patient visited. The time we took to do each thing and how long it took to get from one patient to the next. This was logged in our work dairies and then onto System One. You still had all the patients personal records of care to do in the home as well, I might add. This was asked for to help see where the workload was, for accurate records of patients, and to prioritise resources.

You can imagine that this was a lot of work and when we could not get it done in the days schedule, it had to be taken home to do it. We were all given the appropriate connections to the data base to get this done. At the same time, my e-mail box was forever getting fuller. New policies, training, forms, referrals and memos. I personally was finding it harder to keep up. Sometimes, my brain was a fog and the effort to juggle the balls was becoming harder. My own personal stress levels went up and I felt vulnerable. Vulnerable that I would miss something, forget something. I had a note book and wrote everything I needed to do down so everyone got seen, every task and communication done. My tick list was ticked off at the end of the day and shredded. I worked incredibly hard but the passion and the enjoyment went to a very low point.

It was like being a hamster on a wheel. The harder you ran, the harder the wheel turned and it just went round and round, always to the same place, never to finish. Because the hamster was always running and the wheel just ended up at the same point for you to run all over again. It felt like you were getting no-where.

Sometimes, a ray of energy would emerge. A really excellent job was done, you had made a difference to someone’s life and job satisfaction prevailed. You were happy and pleased and felt it was all worthwhile. But, like the hamster, the next day you were back to just running, eventually you burn out and that is what happened to me.

In the end, I had had enough. I had done all that I could do. I knew that there was no end in site to any of it, if anything it was going to get worse, and I have been told that since then it has got worse and I am well out of it.

But I took 28 years of care with me and it was brave decision but I just said no-more. I thought, as it had been my identity all my working life, it would be hard to let go. But it hasn’t been. Now, my new life working in a school as a teaching assistant has made me so happy, opened up so many new doors. I have never looked back. I go to work each day never having the dread or the worry. There is no stress and if there is it is very minimal.

I had some wonderful times, happy memories, really dark days, sadness and some regrets. But I did something worthwhile and I did it well and for that I am proud. I have written these blogs to defend my former profession. I could not just sit back and let the recent press hound us in such a way, without trying to defend those still brave enough to work in nursing.

I would say to the general public one thing. Come and do a shift. Put a uniform on for a day and live it with us. See what it is like. I am not defending shabby care, hostility and I am not minimising the pain that bad care has caused to families. I feel ashamed that such cases have existed. But the general public just has to know how hard and almost inhuman it is to be asked to just keep going, like we are now asked to do in such work conditions. This is the vital message I want to convey to any reader out there.

Later this week: a summary of what has gone wrong, given what I have discussed here and what can be done now if at all?

Posted in Change, Debate, Development, Government, Health, History, Modern society, Politics, Psychology, Religion, Skills, Thoughts, Uncategorized

Good Leadership Skills Within the NHS: Are They There Or Not?

During my nursing career of 28 years within the NHS, I worked with only three exceptional leaders of people. Two of those leaders worked together in the same unit. One was senior to the other and both worked in harmony together. It was some of the golden days of my NHS life.

When you have a good boss, it shows through and through. You feel valued, invested in and your opinions matter. There is a fairness and compassion within that person. They are interested in people, usually are highly skilled and experienced in their field and have a humane and caring character. They have disciple within themselves and enhance and encourage that in the workplace. The atmosphere in the place of work is happy, standards are high and efficiency prevails. When you are asked to perhaps stay late, or to help in a crisis of staffing, you will come forward because you invest in your workplace, in return for how you are treated. Well, that was how it was for me anyway. 

Sadly, overall leadership within the NHS is poor in my opinion. There are good leaders in the NHS of course and these ones stand out. However, a good leader is often challenged by higher management, if they are not a “yes man” and not always popular with that seniority. In the end these people leave and go on to other positions, leaving the vacuum and the loss behind. Poorer management often comes in as a result and then staff leaves and recruitment/retention gets harder. Moral goes down: stress goes up.

I think one of the problems for nursing is a lack of experience in leadership. Historically, to become a ward sister, at one time, you needed to be qualified for five years.

This is now a dreadful statement to make but I have heard someone say once, that nurses are like “painters and decorators”, you climb the ladder so fast that you scarcely come into contact with any patients. This is a simplistic and rather brash view, but the point here is that, I personally feel that the quality of those in charge, in terms of interpersonal skills with people, CAN be lacking. There just isn’t that core backbone of personal standards, discipline and integrity that there once was.

Then at the heart of the matter, combine these factors with nurses who do not feel listened to by higher management. They feel dis-empowered, that no-one really cares and that they are just a number, easily dispensed with and easy to replace. Challenge anything with anyone who is in a higher position than you and you will often come out worse. Employees can easily feel start to feel vulnerable. Conflicts and bullying are present in the NHS, just as they can be in any large employing organisation. Staff feel threatened and gagged if they dare to speak out. Confidentiality clauses are cited as a means of fear to shut people up for fear of losing their jobs or being frog-marched up to the NMC ( Nursing, Midwifery Council) professional conduct committe. Nurses are in a terrible dilemma if they feel standards are being compromised, yet have no confidence in any leader to talk to or simply feel too afraid. They trust no one. Both the Royal College of Nursing and the NMC have issued guidelines on how to whistle-blow professionally but too few are still prepared to blow that whistle at a local level with a mortgage to pay.  

Finally, it is in my view that the NHS also operate within a very rigid and hierarchical structure. Everyone knows their place in the pecking order from cleaner, to porter, from nurses to doctor and consultants. There is less snobbery now between those at the top of the management tree to those at the bottom; and nurses are no longer seen merely as doctor’s hand-maidens due to their increased technical and skilled roles. Thankfully, there has been this shift ( enhanced by our increasing number of graduate nurses) but both leadership qualities and this persistent hierarchy remains an issue……

On Monday: Management decisions at the very top- Government policy. How PFI’s and the obsession for targets and figures are critically wounding our NHS.

 

 

 

Posted in achievement, Change, Debate, Development, Government, Health, Learning, Modern society, Skills, Thoughts

So What Improvements do We Need to Student Nurse Education?

Today, I want to discuss two points in relation to student nurse education. (Please bear with me as this has to be a longer blog post today to get the points across.)

It has been suggested by the Government that before an individual embarks upon nurse training that they should spend one year as health-care assistants so that they can learn compassion, care and have a better grasp of the basics of nursing. I would pose a question to you, as one who now work in education. Would you say that in order to train to be a teacher you have to become a teaching assistant first to understand children, their needs and how they might learn more effectively? No-one is suggesting this, so why nurses.

Yes, it can be strongly argued that having some ” grounding” in a care setting is helpful in giving you an edge, a valuable insight and knowing if nursing is for you. I can’t argue against that. I, for one, was a nursing auxiliary for ten months prior to student nurse training. However, many potential student nurses attending interview have done just that.It’s seen as having a possible advantage in being offered a place, if you have worked in, say a care home or as a nursing auxiliary. Yet, certainly when I was nursing ( up to 2010) there was an emphasis on basic-care needs that had to be met in order to pass one’s placement. Teachers learn to be teachers with one years post-graduate qualification after a first degree. Student nurses take three years. I would argue that student nurses have enough time to learn to be registered nurses if the quality of the theoretical and clinical teaching they receive is safe and effective. Any prior experience before this is very desirable but not essential.

This brings me to the second point and a potential flaw in the current system. The clinical teaching and assessment of student nurses is now in the hands of registered nurses themselves, mostly by staff-nurses working in an unit or ward. Many nurses are inspirational and dedicated teachers but many are not. Historically nurses have not been taught to be teachers in the same way that teachers have not been taught to be nurses in school. Teaching is a skill. I must add here though, that in order to be a mentor, nurses have to be qualified for at least one year and then go on to pass a three month teaching and assessing course at level three( degree level). In practice even with this, teaching quality can still be very varied. Personally, I loved being a mentor and felt that I gave the support and teaching that student nurses needed. I was passionate about it and did my very best. Every student nurse knows that a mentor, their attitude towards them and what they can provide in knowledge and experience, can make or break a placement. Every student nurse told me that, and I learned that first-hand again when I was a student midwife. 

Also, we now have what is called sign off mentors. So at the end of the students training their last placement has to be signed as passed and fit to practice by a sign- off mentor. This is not a clinical tutor but again a registered nurse. For me this was a half-days training on the paper work and the seriousness of what was being asked of, for those who were doing the signing off. That’s a lot of responsibility and means that the quality and safety of all the placements assessments have to be there, right from the word go!

Mentors know how hard it is to give the time, care and attention to student nurses in a busy and packed ward with stretching workloads and demands on time. Students stick to them like glue as they pursue their work, teaching on the spot and on the job. Most do their best. Lengthy student assessments have to be completed. Standards of assessments are much more rigouress in today’s nurse education. For me, back in the 1980’s, it was four small pieces of paper and tick boxes of accomplishments graded from outstanding to poor, now there are pages and pages of it. I am not saying the tick box was best practice either but I am making the point that, in theory, the standards of education are there but in practice it can vary widely from placement to placement and from one nurse mentor to the next.

Therefore,I would like to see the return of qualified clinical tutors in the work area working alongside mentors, supporting and helping them teach and these tutors easing the workload by taking charge more of the students and directing them in clinical area activities. Then I believe we can see the clinical quality of student nurse education improve…..

 

Tomorrow: moving on to being a staff nurse on a ward. What it was like for me. What I did back then and what staff nurses have to do now.

 

Posted in achievement, Change, Children, Commitment, Development, families, goals, Health, Human Rights, Learning, Role of women, Skills, Uncategorized, Women

One Story.One school.One Education at Tareto Maa.

It was very dark when I returned, as dark as my deepest pain and fear. Was I too late? How would I live with myself if my mother was already dead? Then I saw her lying there. Too weak, to move, her eyes too swollen to see me but her whispers were enough to at least reassure me she was alive. My father has beaten her black and blue with his traditional Maasai stick to make me return home; to force me to undergo something so cruel and terrible. This was his blackmail and this was my choice. To come back and face female circumcision or to hear that my mother was dead because of my disobedience, in the name of honour and tradition, that my mother’s life was gone.

It was a choice no child, then aged 12, should have to take but this was the reality for me and many like me who choose to run away. At that present moment, all I cared about was my mother that she was alive and that she thanked me for coming back. I did not want to think of what was going to lie ahead. The pain, the bleeding that was going to befall me and other girls in that little hut a few days later.  When, up to that point, all the pain I had experienced in childhood became less insignificant to the pain of Female Genital Mutilation. If only that in itself was the end but it was not, it was just the beginning.

This is no fiction story. This is a real story and a true sequence of events. This is one small part of Gladys’ story of the time when it was her turn to be ” circumcised” and then to be married off to a man, aged around 60 years about a month later. The ceremony of circumcision went ahead. There was no alternative. She felt that in spite of her desperate efforts to find safety with an older relative, she had to go back and face the barbaric practice of Female Genital Mutilation to save her own mother from being beaten to death. But when it came to marriage, that was where a final stance of deviance and strength to say NO. This was not what is going to happen to me. My life will not end in this way. Her mother did not stay around any longer this time to be beaten again and fled herself back to her own family.

No one was there, back then, to help Gladys . This is where Gladys’ vision of offering the children the support that she could not find inspired her to be the founder of Tareto Maa: to create a shelter for girls who don’t have a safe place to go and where this organization talks with the parents (making sure as well that the mother is not in danger) . For the children in the refuge, not only food and safety are paramount but also school attendance so that they can build a stronger future for themselves.  This is where you can help with a child sponsorship.

To date, Tareto Maa has 61 sponsors out of our 96 girls, who live in the refuge, and whose donations are directly responsible for sending these girls to school. However, we would like to find additional sponsors for the remaining children. As the next circumcision season approaches we have to prepare for our numbers to increase, to help meet our financial needs for 2013. We have turned no-one away since our refuge opened.

Many of our girls who have fled to us have already told us such personal testimonies that has moved the listener to tears and tear the heart of any one reading such tales. That is why I am here on my blog site writing. Who can just walk away after hearing those plights of real courage, who have left everything and have walked for days with nothing to get to us?

So now I turn to you, the reader, to help us with our christmas campaign. This is how you can help a girl like Gladys.

If you feel you could sponsor a girl, or would like to know more information to consider this, then please, we do so want to hear from you. Contact us at contact@tareto-maa.org. Please, don’t just read and walk away. Come and learn more about Tareto Maa at www.tareto-maa.org  and see if there is anyway you can assist us with this life changing work. Any little help is so valauable and so much appreciated. On behalf of the girls, Thank you so much!

Maasai Girl_Drawing. no 3

Posted in achievement, Change, Debate, Development, goals, Human Rights, Ideas, Liberation, lonelyness, Modern society, Personal Growth, Skills, Sport, Thoughts

Gold or Tin: some thoughts on disability as the Paralympic Games commence.

Watched the opening of the Paralympic games last night. The theme was enlightenment and it was quite spectacular. I know this post isn’t exactly going to be original because what I am about to say, though with different words, is being said by others at present. Steve Birrell’s article in the London Evening Standard, two evenings ago, is one excellent example. We might be giving Gold to our Paralympic champions from today, but in reality many disabled people are receiving Tin. This not just in financial terms, as benefits are squeezed and assessments for Disability Living Allowances become a mile field of impossibility, but in the attitudes of people and what opportunities those with disability really do have in society.

Steve Birrell told many facts I didn’t know. However, one of them, having recently worked with a child with Special Educational Needs, stood out for me. That only one in 12 adults will learning difficulties are actually in employment. Most people know very little about the real issues of those facing disability and may have never worked with, nor had an honest conversation with them. Last night, we saw amazing and brave people flying on trip wires with limbs missing and gliding through the sky with effortless simplicity. In reality, if you are in a wheelchair you have to face the problem of sometimes to few disabled parking slots and negotiating a mind field of obstacles; of pushing crowds too busy to stop or help another disabled person. It’s amazing what you find out when you have to actually do it for yourself. You are on two legs pushing the wheelchair or trying to find the parking pace in a popular tourist attraction. You quickly come into difficulty with frustration.

The question I want to ask is, do we really care about disabled people? Ask yourself that question honestly. An elderly friend recently returned from the Philippines was negotiating heavy luggage on the Tube on his way home. In the country where we had come from, a different kind of respect and tolerance is shown to the infirm and to those who need assistance. My friend had been back in the UK for only a few minutes when he was nearly trampled down by people pushing past his suitcase as he was hurled some insults about “getting out-of-the-way granddad” and he isn’t even classed as disabled. Do our society really champion those who don’t quite fit the “norm” in society or who appear weaker and infirm?

While I worked in the NHS there was a huge emphasis, within my mandatory training, on respecting diversity, equality and disability. In fact, on applications forms you are encouraged to declare your disability, even when it comes to mental health. Depression can now be on such a tick list, if you feel it has or does severely impact upon your life. Indeed, much has been done to potentially give equal opportunities to all disabled people with employment legislation. The promotion of an attitude, “you can come out of the closet and say how this disability has affected you and we will care and understand.” (However,whether you actually get the job or promotion is another matter)! There are aids for the disabled person that are imaginative and extremely useful like never before. My own father who is now registered partially sighted has discovered this and the support and practical help he has received has been excellent.

However, for myself, even with nearly 30 years of caring for others in the Health Service, it wasn’t until the last six months that I realised, even more the harsh realities, the struggle and for carers the loneliness of what living with disability can actually mean. I have said to most friends that the child I worked with in education taught me far more than I could ever teach him. The complexity of character, the uniqueness of the human being. The challenge of  my own mind set of  thinking of what I thought was “normal.” What is normal anyway? And how the blueprint of living is not the same, and to be happy can take on many facets. I learnt further patience, humility, compassion, new-found fun and laughter more than I had ever done before. It was an honour and a great experience to be part of that young person’s life and one, even though that period has now ended, of whom I shall still keep in touch with I hope for a very long time.

What has this got to do with the Paralympics? My message is simple. Examine your real attitudes towards those with disability as you watch those games. Really look closer at what the government is really doing to the lives of genuine disabled people and speak out against it. Go out and meet, connect with a disabled person if you have little or no experience of them. Look at the wider picture of how we treat people who may need help, or who appear frailer or weaker than ourselves. Acknowledge  the incredible strength, character and fortitude of a disabled person but also the power of our minds to help us adapt when disability strikes. How we can overcome the most appalling circumstances and injuries to still survive and to live with purpose. How disability could open doors and new ways of living and thinking, not close them?

Most disabled people do not expect to get a Gold medal or are a Paralympic champion. They have no need to prove they are worth Gold as they are that already. But let’s not give them the medal of Tin, of being let down, ignored, marginalised and really on the edges of society. As we clap and applaud them over the next 11 days, let’s make sure that once all the hype has died down and all games packed away, that we continue to really give the disabled person the respect and the attention they deserve. For them not to go back into the shadows and be forgotten as we, the  so-called “able-bodied”, get on with our lives.

I hope this blog will inspire you to think more about the lives of disabled people and how we can help them to achieve their full potential. Thank you for reading.

( The above image I know does not represent the Paralympic flag or movement but was the closest image I had, with an Olympic theme, to be appropriate for this blog’s content)

Posted in achievement, Change, Commitment, Debate, Development, goals, Health, Ideas, Learning, Liberation, Modern society, Personal Growth, Psychology, Thoughts, Time, Women

So what’s new to the thinking?

Following on from my thoughts on the last post, I have had time to discuss and make some progress, at least in the ideas stake. This is what I have come up with so far.

1) Photography has  been a real plus and some images have been spotted by others for good works and greater promotion. This has not been sought after at all. It has just come my way. Call it luck or call it good exposure, probably both. www.flickr.com has done a lot of good for many image takers and the internet is a good way at getting your shots on a greater public viewing gallery. I should explore this further. There are many out there who would wish to make an income, many competitors but not to be overlooked. Photography is an art form that needs to be worked on as a skill. I could perhaps have this as one small income source. It could compliment other aspects of work.

2) I can’t sit around and expect the lucky break, someone to take notice or give me a leg up. I have to make my own luck and give myself a leg up. Have one big idea as to how I wish to do that. It is ambitious and sadly at this point requires a good bit of investment which I don’t have. Call it my long-term aim for the next five years. I have had it sitting on the back-burner of my brain for about 3-4 years and have turned away from it, afraid of the time and investment it would take. The risk of it coming to nothing. It pulls me back though as there is a need and I think a market for it. You shall just have to wait and see what it is, as I don’t want people stealing my ideas or plans:). It’s totally a health based issue where my knowledge on certain things could be utilised. This would be very meaningful to me.

3) Must not be side tracked. I have been up more than one wrong wall. Women’s health and education are at the centre of who I am. I can be nothing else now. It would be to deny myself. I can not do this.

4) Being organised and tidy in my life is very important, especially to my own mental well-being. Need to still get a grip on work-life balance. I need some order not chaos as sometimes this can happen. Less so but potential to be there. My evernote account is one good thing I have now to control and organise information. Still need to work on others.

5) My charity involvements should stop at the weekends unless it is very urgent. A friend would call it, a much-needed boundary. Weekends should be time out from it. The constant access to e-mails can be a disadvantage, especially if a partner engages in work which involves you. Tell them and him that weekend are now off the agenda for “good works.” It can wait until Monday.

6) Ideas are still coming in from the work front and an appraisal today was enormously helpful. At least someone has spotted that I could do so much more. That was uplifting. I am pursuing some avenues and another job application for a job that would start in September.

Finally one point from today. My daughter is studying psychology and wants to focus on depression for her specialist module next year. I asked her a frank question and got a frank response which I feel happy to share.

Question: Why do you think I may have been depressed in the past. The root cause of it?

Answer: Because you feel you haven’t got anywhere with your job, your money or your house? The frustration of it.

She’s not far off the mark. There are other reason of course. I think being in control and not having that taken away is important. Like you have no say in anything. You need a say in all things.

My daughter is one smart girl. She’ll do well. I am sure of it.

Next time, I may be ready to talk more about depression, though it is a little scary and exposes the vulnerable side.

We will see.

Posted in achievement, Change, Children, Debate, Development, goals, God, Human Rights, Ideas, Liberation, Modern society, Personal Growth, Psychology, Skills, Thoughts, Women

Revelation

Went to bed last night and gave my posting of yesterday evening some thought.

Revelation: I actually feel guilty if I am successful, richer or more powerful. Keeping humble and meek is after all a more virtuous option?

Today, I read all about Michael Gove and the King James Bible he has given to every school. I have recently been in an assembly where I was shown this large and beautiful book and how it arrived there as a present from HM Government. You see, I do have Christian roots. In my twenty’s I was part of a small evangelical church. While my faith has very much changed, ( I admitted to myself recently that I don’t attend church regularly because I find it too dull, ritualistic and boring) the essence of Christian thinking is still with me. Essentially, there is a faith there inside me. I don’t go to church preferring to do God’s work in the real world of charity, contribution and looking after God’s animals. Currently, a sick hen. This is where I fit in the Christian world. This is my work to God, not singing hymns.

Deeply ingrained in my mind-set is simply this. God teaches us that being humble, poor and mild, we will inherit the Earth. God likes” little people” like me, never boastful, never proud,( I think that came from St Paul). The idea that I should aspire to a four bedroomed house, double my salary, go for promotion or exactly say I am good at something that does not quite fit the script. After all Jesus hung out with the poor fisherman not the tax-collectors. He never sought fame of fortune. If we are to look at these texts we are told that money is the root of all evil and being ruthless for that job promotion is not at all cool In the eyes of God. We should not have avarice or greed and instead give our money away to those less fortunate- which I have.

Coming away from the Christian perspective, my own interest in equality, human rights, poverty and empowerment gives this view a double stamp of approval. How can I be seen to want to earn or have more when so many are starving? Each night, I thank God for my hot meal and my glass of fresh drink knowing I am the lucky one; even if I have to use the calculator to scrape some shopping together on dwindling reserves, seriously, I do this. I still say I am lucky to have. It’s a bit of a mind-set I have got into.

So to sum it all up in one sentence. My block to progress is my supposed guilt at wanting more. That I should not seek it, that I should never try to make money out of pictures or works. To legitimately sell goods on Amazon and e-bay is one thing, that is recycling and I can live with that. Someone else benefits and most are going at bargain prices. I will have to think how I can shape this attitude a little differently if I am to get further on in life.

And by-the-way Gove recommends Children should read St James as a good moral compass. I wonder what their little minds would think of it all if they did? Would they end up like me or reject it?

Hoping this picture would be at the start:) Try again next time. A posh house. The Petit Trianon of Marie Antoinette’s. You know what happened to her and why!

Posted in achievement, Change, Children, Commitment, Development, goals, Health, Human Rights, Learning, Liberation, Personal Growth, Relationships, Role of women, Skills, Thoughts, Women

The Story so Far: Tareto Maa. A post for FGM/C International Day 6th February 2012.

  I recently asked a core supporter of Tareto Maa, as he had recently re-visited the project over the New Year, what had changed since his first visit in the early days of the centre’s birth and emergence. He said quite simply this:

” Then it was more like visiting a group of girls in a family, brought together over one core aim, to remain uncut and to have a better future, where they were safe from harm and from female genital cutting. Now, it feels so different. This time, it feels like an organisation, a refuge, an NGO, organised, structured, where there are now many girls and a team of people taking care of them.”

Since the rescue centre’s first origins back in 2009, when it first became a Kenyan NGO, a lot of water has gone under the bridge; a phrase the English say which means, a lot has happened. There is now a real bridge in Tareto Maa, one which was constructed this last year, so the girls could cross over from the refuge site, so that they can go to school, without fear of being drowned. Yes, this has happened. Who could think that in our Western World that a river stops someone from going to school, let alone them drowning.

This and many more obstacles are there in the lives of the girls and the hardworking and dedicated team of people working for them and with them. When I decided to write this blog post, it was suggested that an overview of key events to date would be a good way of commemorating International FGM/C Day 6th Feb but so much has happened. I have decided to look at events from Jan 2011, when the temporary new refuge was opened. This was to originally house about 35 girls in total after the circumcision season was over in the Christmas school holidays of 2010, in reality that number became 70. The sudden increase of girls, who had heard of the project from leaflets and posters that Tareto Maa has circulated amongst the community, caused its international supporters probably its biggest challenge and one of their biggest tests. To potentially turn girls away, after giving them hope. Or to keep accepting them but then not be able to deliver the promise of safety, shelter, food and an opportunity to go to school. We could not let them down and there were many late night discussions on the subject both in our home and with other key supporters. It was one of those exciting, agonising and tense times. No- one underestimated the seriousness of what we had done. For me, this was real. This wasn’t just writing or talking about it anymore. This was doing, and real lives were at stake.

To talk effectively about what was happening in Kenya, supporters in Germany and in the UK, first communicated by e-mail, then by phone, by text and now by Skype as the effectiveness and frequency of communication meant that once e-mails could fly to in boxes once a month, then every two weeks, 10 days, a week. Now, the change is such that e-mails fly into and out of in boxes daily. Net-working and constantly keeping in touch has been one of the biggest growth factors of Tareto Maa by those supporting it outside Kenya, as support grew and emerged, creating with it new ideas, new goals, new problems, headaches, heartaches, tensions, yes some fierce debate but a deep-rooted passion and commitment. The activites of this grass-roots project now spread among many nations, including the USA, its supporters were a key player in the fund-raising for the new Naitswang Riverside Academy, (Tareto Maa’s first school classroom) which opened in the New Year of 2012. www.Kiva.org was a central organisation in this development, with now over 800 members which brought in new supporters and new energy, as well as much welcomed funds to make the idea of a school a reality.

For me, one of the most incredible times of such a generous and magnificent effort both on www.betterplace.org and on www.Kiva.org was when the Horn of Africa was struck with famine in the summer of 2011. Whilst in England, London and major cities were seeing riots and burning, the heat and drought had seen the crops in Kenya dry to a cinder and fail, precipitating an international response to this crisis. The cheapest food in Kenya is Ugali, a maze meal. Its price had soared from 3,000 Kenyan Shillings to 10,000 Shillings. East Africa was in the grip of this food shortage and soaring prices. What was so remarkable was, not just about how much money was raised in such a short time, but that a far wider population could benefit from the effects of Tareto Maa. Food was not just reserved for the girls and the project, how could it be when the whole community was affected. Everyone could benefit.  I realised then this wasn’t just about FGM/C anymore. This was so much more. This event was amazing for me personally.

The rains came and the Well build, that has been started, came to a halt as part of the walls fell in. Such is the fight of the elements. Roads soon became a mud bath. At the same time, the girls needed dry shoes,( trainers were donated by a German company in 2010)  dry mattresses, ante-malaria protection with mosquito nets and de-worming tablets. People still die of HIV/Aids, a much taboo subject and the team now have run lectures and discussions about HIV awareness. While, there are many life lines of hope, death and illness can soon strike the heart of Tareto Maa. Our German friend and central supporter said to me awhile ago, that he had met a man over there who had since dies of Aids. And we have had girls with colds, malaria needing medical treatment and the need to sleep on dry beds. A solar panel, a fence and a security guard have all been added additions to the project this last year, along with Daisy the cow. One problem solved but another can be soon around the corner.

The challenge and opportunity of being part of Global Giving was a big break for us all. This competition to raise money on such a global stage was not to be missed. Months of hard work and preparation to be accepted went into it. The first two opening days were exciting as we leapt into an early lead but the struggle to keep the $2000 dollar bonus at the end was a fight like no other, where all forces were mobilised to find unique donors. A magnificent team effort was displayed.The team was so happy, when we in the UK were able to text a remote part of Kenya On New Year’s day to say what we had achieved, that we had secured that hard-fought bonus. We had reports that the girls sang and danced all day. A total of over $9000 jhas been raised currently on Global Giving so far.

The team in Kenya do not sit by and wait for the money to come in from the West. There is a common picture that Africa just waits for aid. A Harambee meaning “let us all pull together” was being conducted In November. This was an open day celebrating what Tareto Maa was all about and where local leaders, politicians and the community were invited to see the project. It generated 4,500 Euros. The future vision of the school is where fees can provide an income to Tareto Maa, as well as for educating the girls themselves without having to pay school fees. There has been a major effort to reach out to individual sponsors who can sponsor a child in return for two letters a year, news and progress about their child’s education. We have already seen girls grades improve since the rescue centre was opened,as they support and help each other in their studies. We have over 30 individual sponsors at present. But more are urgently needed. Get in touch with me by leaving a comment if you wish to know more about this.

The coming year: the aims are for a permanent rescue shelter, more sponsorships for the girls and forging links with other NGO’S and Foundations. The latter was started last year with a small response. We certainly need more success in this area. To sum it all up, one comment read on http://www. betterplace.org  by a villager of Kenya stood out for me the most when they said:

” At first, we thought it was all talk, but once we saw the rescue centre going up, we thought this is happening. This is not just talk anymore but real and true.” As as result, the village donated clothes and food to the children. Since them Tareto Maa has become an established place in the Kilgoris community, where the church is a major focal point and hub of the work, and where real things do happen. Some of these events have been tremendously positive and some of real hardship and problems. But I and the whole team from inside Kenya to its supporters of the outside world are behind it every step of the way.