Posted in goals, Health, Health Promotion. Diet, Learning, nutrition, Writing

A Potential Blogging Link to a New Local Food Store.

I have made a potentially exciting discovery in my home town of Downham Market, Norfolk. A new specialist food store opened three weeks ago called The Barn and I strolled in to take a look yesterday. It was pleasing to the eye and sold a variety of food products, some of which I had not see in any supermarket chain. 

There was Spelt flour of which I had been searching for, coconut oil and coconut sugar of which I have been reading about the possible benefits off, as well as other ingredients I had seen in several recipes just recently. Here they were, all in one place, and the other attraction for me was ( that it appeared at first glance) a lot of this food was produced locally. I purchased a Norfolk seed, apple and date cake. I knew this would not be my last visit.

As I was paying for my purchase, I struck up a conversation with the seller. I said I liked the shop and that I was trying out some new healthy food ideas. Casually, I mentioned my food blogging and the lady seemed really interested. She told me that they were creating a Facebook group soon and perhaps I would like to link up and share my postings with them. I replied that that would be great.

I went away and had a thought. Why don’t I link the products purchased at the shop with my new spin off to this food blog: a project I had mentioned to one of my closest friends on Facebook only the other day. It’s about seasonal food. I am going to be cooking two specific dishes a month, one fruit and one savoury, starting in September. The ingredients will include at least one food in season for that month and will form part of this blog’s objectives.

So, in addition the writing here could be an additional marketing avenue for this new business and also may attract more traffic to my blog site. I really do hope they set up a facebook group. This will really help my motivation with this work, as I love to have a real sense of purpose in what I am doing and this is definitely it.

For many, these types of food retailers have an image of being expensive. Well, the cake bought certainly wasn’t, at £1.49 but some things did cost more, than say at a supermarket or a shop’s own brand. So as part of my food blogging, one of the objectives is to look at price. The question being: is it possible that paying for an ingredient that is more, for example, coconut sugar be worth it as the end result?

My first dish will be a dessert using the commonly seen and free blackberry that will grace our hedgerows soon. I will be using coconut sugar and intend to make a simple mousse. I will be adapting recipes as well as using others from food sites and these will have links. I hope it will generate some interest.

I just need the September blackberries to show up now…

What do you think to the idea? Suggestions and comments are very welcome.

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 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 Atheism, Christianinty, Debate, God, History, Learning, Philosophy, Religion, Thoughts, Time, Uncategorized

Upon The Millennium Bridge.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The symbol of a divine power and fear looms across the swaying steel.
Stone and metal,old and new.
Menacing perhaps,yet an awesome beautiful dome.
No-one who walks across the tide can escape the view,
A commanding scene where thoughts may stir of What might be,after this place of earth and dust.

The Little People scurry like ants both away and towards the imposing place,
Questions and yet also a vacant possession amongst the traveller’s minds upon the Millennium Bridge.
A mulling of crowds thinking about their day,
Where are they going? To heaven or to hell?
Or perhaps to simply no-where but across the tide of steel to another destination.
The moment moves on and so does the ticking clock of time nestled in the tower of monsters and angels.

Science builds the bridge and dogma builds the building.
Reason has it that no-one really knows why we are here, or who or what has placed us upon this World
But science tells us more about the building blocks, than faith that built the rocks of that solid place.
Some walkers are curious, some don’t care at all
Some cry forth that the answers of creation is called The God.

The sky looms in and growls like a angry lion, as big and as mighty as God himself?
Is there something in the clouds and that infinite space that holds the answers to all of the universe’s questions?
Be that a God or a gas.
For now the bridge sways in the wind and the clouds travel on ahead,
The pedestrians continue on their way and forge their own path, and hazzard their own quesses to the big questions upon the Millennium Bridge.

Onethoughtfulwoman Feb 2013

The Image of the Millennium Bridge is placed here with kind permission of James Rye @athinkingman whose images appears on flickr and is reproduced here specfically to highlight this work. He has sole copyright and is the owner of the photo. May I take this opportuinty to thank him for loaning this image here.

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 Art, Ideas, Learning, Men, Personal Growth, Relationships, Religion, Thoughts, Uncategorized, Writing

The Angel’s Game. Part 1.

Introduction prior to a personal book review.

There is a saying that dogs choose their owners, not the other way around. Once I had started reading The Angel’s Game, I wondered if this book had found me, had sought me out and had choosen me to read it. There are some strange coincidences to this novel in terms of its content. How the main characters names are the same as two very central and important men in my life. How one of the key characters had staged their own death on a date mentioned by the author, that being  the same date also as the birth of my daughter.Things die in the same place as where new life arrives perhaps? That was the message that came across to me when reading this same reference of date. Also, to read a page in a hotel room in Barcelona where the main character recalls walking along the hill road of Pedralbes where I had stumbled across the very same place that afternoon; being many miles away from home and having never set foot in Spain until that week. Well, it feels nostalgic if nothing else.

This year has seen old ways of living being replaced with new ones. This magnificent novel left me feeling three things that are new. The first being an desire to write a creative story, something that I have never felt an urge to do. Until now, all my writing and blogging have been concerned about the giving of facts, discussion or dissemination of information. I am not saying that I will do this but a touch- paper of wanting to do so was certainly lit.  Secondly, that life can not be placed neatly into packages of right and wrong. How good people, who behave out of character or even very badly, can still be inherently good inside. It is the only the outside world and their experiences from it that can drive them to almost anything if the circumstances are set in a certain way.  Thirdly, a re-enforcement of wanting to stay within my new world of work in education. To help and inspire other minds to want to know, and to have a desire to read all the magical stuff, thoughts, charaters and facts that can be found within the wonderful world of books.

Read on, I hope to the next blog, a book review as to why I thought this book was something quite special to read. It certainly should have a place in The Cementry of Forgotten Books in the author’s tale!

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, Debate, families, goals, Health, Human Rights, Ideas, Learning, Personal Growth, Psychology, Skills, Thoughts, Time, Uncategorized, Women

Appraisal Time

Needed to write in a spontaneous way. So here I am and here this is. Have been figuring a few things out. I try not to write about myself, it seems for me personally a bit self-indulgent, but feel the need to do so to work some things out. By having it written down it feels orderly and I might get some new answers and forge ahead with some new meanings.

So firstly, I am concluding to date who I am first.

I have lived on this planet for 48 yrs. Married, one teenage daughter whose well-being has always come first.

Have been a Registered Nurse for 26 yrs of them.  A good and caring nurse and have done my job well and thoroughly. I have never lit with the skies with promotion, either by lack of personal opportunity, not being in the right place at the right time, putting family first or just simply watching other people with more confidence pass me by. Do feel disappointed in a way that I never really made it BIG in the role. All my friends who trained with me are now in high-paid jobs and specialist roles while I have just sat on a scale 5. One boss noticed I was special once and I started to fly like the wind but she went away and I was left back in the shade and out of the sky.

The care of women, empowerment, education and justice are all very important to me. Health too of course is quite central to who I am.

I work daily on a voluntary basis, with my husband, for a Kenyan NGO called Tareto Maa. A grass-roots project fighting female genital mutilation, my BIG life CONCERN and PASSION. This charity houses young girls fleeing this torture and we send them to school, all 95 of them.  I am the UK media and advocacy worker. A role carved out for myself. My job is to write the thank you’s for the Global Giving donations, write to partners and NGO to find sponsors and helpers, liaise with potential individual sponsors and help set them up. I read through the texts, drafts  of new material for translation purposes, for our forthcoming website and reports, Skype and e-mail with our central German Co-ordinator. I help fund raise though this is now on a much lesser basis.  One day, I hope to visit the project knowing it will change the way I view a lot of things. Enough about that.

I like taking photographs. Success to date have been one picture published online by an Oxford travel guide, a few used for private work and one used by a school for their composting campaign. My FGM picture taken for Int FGM day,( not sure which year off the top of my head,) was published by an online magazine and shown at a women’s conference. One picture has been used for a Canadian TV show, a while ago now, on a child education programme. To date, I have not made any money, nor sought it. No-one has asked to buy anything off me.

Climate change and the environment are important to me. I married an eco warrior and have become one.

Running is also something I enjoy. A slow runner, I can run 10km in 1hr 8mins, no more that that  but I enjoy it. Accept that I am probably never going to be that fast but enjoyed the GEAR run in 2010. Running is a central part of my life. Introducing other forms of exercise too. Learnt to swim on my back about 3-4 yrs ago but have a phobia about swimming on my front.

I worked in floral craft for 10 yrs, teaching, judging and small private work. I have an NVQ2 in floristry.

Blogging is an on and off thing, mainly due to how I am feeling and time, what else is going on. I enjoy writing and would like to develop it further. My English is not brilliant and I have always had a weakness with this. Important work is checked and I get frustrated with it sometimes because I can never understand why it should be written a different way. I have had an offer of English help but nothing has really come of that, so I help myself when I can. I read books and what I have learnt has been mainly self-taught. I have also written some poems over the years. Not many but I have most of them. One or two are pretty good. Can remember having something written, when I was in primary school, that was up on the wall. It was about the moon. See, I liked the stars and sky even then, to those that know me.

Risky confession due to what I was reading today, but I have suffered from depression twice and the last time was in early 2010. I am well now but have been told recently that is highly likely it will return. I am lucky, as I am to date a good responder to medication. So I see myself in remission and hope that it can last a long time. It frightens me to hell that I could go backwards. I never want to feel that way again and know the warning signs and know what to do now. I run to help me with this: “Green Therapy” is what they call it ( May not need the capitals there:)).

I don’t have a degree, love learning but recognise that I can’t keep studying forever, nor do I need to do so to feel good. It has taken me years to get as far as I have with my education.  It really doesn’t matter that much now as I have gone on one step further. A funny old mix of Higher Education Diploma and  now an award in July of Post-Grad Cert in Women’s Health. My 60 Masters points are a treasure. I did it and I was more than good enough and that was all that mattered. I trained to be a midwife for 14 months out of an 18 month pathway. I loved it and was good at the theory but to be fair, due to lack of confidence and peer/ culture environment, I just wasn’t that good at delivering babies or make a safe midwife on British terms.  I left before I was pushed with an intact reputation.

I now work as a one to one support teaching assistant, having a break from nursing. One of my major strengths has been teaching. Realising now, I would have been a great primary school teacher but was just up the wrong wall at the time. This ends in July. Then I will be unemployed  if no work comes along. Have no real strength to re-train again, even if financially I could which I can’t.  My major training days for a complete career overhaul are finished by my choice. I am very happy to go on with this line of work but 1) I can’t afford to for the long-term 2) I still have the care of women which is my love and life’s challenge at the centre of me.

A spot of gardening, a love of cooking, though I can’t make cakes and walking my much-loved dog. This is pretty much me to date. Now, I just have to start sorting out what I am going to do next.  Who I am? My overall aim is to do something good. I want to say I have made it somewhere. A few close friends know that my life has felt like second best, never first best. Nearly there but not quite, I want to be first at something. Is that wrong to want that? I don’t think so.

Will continue this blog theme. Set up some aims, will mull over this but have said enough for now.

Leave you with a picture. Actually, it was meant to be at the start:). I can’t remember how to change it on here.

Posted in achievement, Change, Debate, History, Ideas, Learning, Liberation, Modern society, Politics, Role of women, Skills, Thoughts, Time, Uncategorized, Women

Titanic disaster: class division and inequality. One hundred years on has anything really changed?

This is my 100th blog post on WordPress and the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic on her maiden voyage. To commemorate both of these anniversaries, I decided to write this blog around the theme of this maritime disaster. A topic that still ievokes passion today, as it did back then in the previous century. It is the subject of class: social class and the huge inequality between rich and poor. The divide of wealth against poverty, privilege against opportunity, social fortune against hardship.

In the cold, iceberg littered waters in the North Atlantic sea, approx 1,500 people perished on the night of the 14th/15th April, 1912. At 11.40 pm, an iceberg blew five of the 16 compartments, the design of which was to prevent the ship from sinking. Had there been one less damaged, the ship would have stayed afloat. The sinking was cruel and quick. At just before 02.20am, the ship cracked in two, against the opposing forces of water pressure, against the lean of the ship.  The odds of dying were very much marked by where, depending on which class of deck you travelled. The lack of lifeboats, their half filled capacity and lack of organisation in the evacuation meant that less than a third on board survived. No truly accurate figures are known of how many survived, given the ship’s passenger logging system at the time. And paradoxically, whether you were a woman or a child for once did have an advantage. Against the tide of the women in the suffragette movement who were risking their lives and freedom in another way to gain the vote and a voice. Men being a dominant force in an unequal society towards being female was centuries old. However, being a women not a man, for once, was a huge advantage that night.

I have been following the ITV1 series of Titanic, the focus of which has been the stark snobbery and deep class division and segregation of those who had, against those who had little or nothing.This rigid British society was based on the have and have-nots and men versus women. The rich and the poor, the titled and the unknown. The pecking order of who was who, the hypocrisy of the people of the time. Even the hierarchy of the servants in first class, to second, from second to third. The locking of the ship’s deck doors so the rich did not have to mingle with the poorer travellers. This factor alone was a disaster for those in 3rd class who may have survived. The ship’s church service, the only time that these second and third class passengers could venture upstairs and worship together-obviously God did not mind such integration on that occasion. And God’s people allowed that!

When it came to the lifeboats, it was women and children first, but class was a central factor. You needed to be a first-class traveller and female on that night. Only three percent of first-class women died compared to 54% of third-class women. 92% of second- class men perished and 84% of third. You can see here the account of the disaster, how and why and who survived from which class.  At the time, there was public outrage at what happened but also the fact that the poor died in the highest numbers. Sweeping changes were made in maritime law which still exist today.The question I asked myself before writing this blog was, has anything really changed with inequality and class division? Hence, I started to pursue this question and wish to share my thoughts.

The start of the 20th century saw a tide of rebellion against inequality, privilege, and class division. I have already mentioned the suffragette movement in the UK, and in Russia the autocratic monarchy in 1912 was about to lose its grip in a furious revolution in 1917. A country, inspired by Lenin’s leadership ousted the old guard of plenty, in supposed favour of the peasants in the field scrapping a living from the soil.

Karl Max had a vision and he writes :

”  A classless society is the ultimate condition of social organisation expected to occur when true communism is achieved.”

Everyone being equal and all the same? We will mention this briefly later.

When we talk of a classless society, another more recent political figure immediately popped to mind. This is what another person said:

“We will have to make changes so that across the whole country we have a genuinely classless society so that people, according to their ability or good fortune, can rise to what ever position.”

John Major, 24th Nov 1990: Prime Minister of the Conservative Party, 1990-1997.

He went on further to say he wanted to see a country at ease with itself.

In 2011, we hardly saw a country at ease with itself, as riots saw a nation’s confidence in pride, law and self-respect take a battering as strong as the iceberg that hit the Titanic. Nights of rioting left the police force, the politicians, the think-tanks and ordinary people wonder what had befallen this country. Many causes were blamed but one central fact was stated. It was the disadvantaged and disenfranchised members of society who felt they had nothing to lose, because they felt they had nothing and no future. So they took what they could get and hang the consequences for a few fleeting nights.

I passionately believe in education and a skills base as a means of self-advancement. As a child of one low-wage earner in a manual job, with an outside toilet and a tin bath as a means of washing, I strove to become something better through hard work at school and by going on to further education. I trained in a profession, the nursing profession and this had led me to break free from very low-wages become a home owner, something my parents have never done. I have attended University and embraced higher education. I am very thankful never to have known unemployment, well, only for four days just recently, at my own volition, and have never had to sign on and collect any state benefit. I am perhaps a true example of the John Major vision?

But in 2012 what is the reality? Another Tory government in coalition with the Lib,Dems but John Major’s words seem hollow somehow. Tuition fees which have recently trebled from £3,000 to £9,000, per year, has brought debate about how the poor can finance a University education. Headlines from The Telegraph, 30th Jan 2012″ Thousands give up on University because of tuition fees.” My own daughter is wary about taking on such debt but knows if she has any chance at all of a future that pays anything she sees little alternative. Youth unemployment is at its highest in the 16-19 age group. A recent BBC, Panorama programme looked at the Government’s apprenticeship programme and found poorly organised skill provision, courses that were virtually worthless and Government contracts which saw a few companies make a lot of money but left the young still largely unemployed and no better off.

Along side this subject, I wanted to dig deeper into the data about how much wealth people really had. I turned to the Institute of Fiscal Studies Paper, “Poverty and Inequality in the UK 2011.” This is a brief summary of some of the points found:

  • UK income distribution 2009-2010. 65% of households having an income below the national mean of £517 per week.( Based on a couple with no children).
  • 1.4 million individuals out of a private household have an income of above £1,500 per week.
  • Late 1990’s saw a boom in income in the top 1% of earners due to the financial boom at the time.
  • Poverty of working age adults without children is at its highest since the start of the institutes data from 1961.
  • There has been growth across much of the income distribution with the highest at the very top and relatively vigorous growth at the bottom of the income bracket. However, this income rise in the lower group was due to increases in benefits and tax-credits seen over this time period. ( Note, not because of decent wages).

In conclusion: The report states, beyond 2010, it is acknowledged that the proposed deep cuts to welfare and tax credits are likely to increase inequality year on year. This is where we are now. We know too well how much this is hurting many people and there are not enough words left for me to keep this blog relatively contained to dwell upon the misery and unfairness this is causing.

So what do I make of all of this to sum up the question I set myself. Can there be true class equality? I would like to think so but history tells me otherwise. Take Communism, as one example, I mentioned. The ethos of everyone being the same. In the present time, we have a call of the Republican movement to abolish the UK monarchy. Whether it was Lenin or now Putin, Obama or the Queen, they all reside in large presidential or palaces of residence. They all have advantage and privilege. There is so such thing as true Communism, based on all having the same. For us back in the UK, we could argue that we would pay less tax to not keep a Queen. However a new governing body would still be living in style whilst we live in our ex council houses or semi-detached properties. No, there will always be class division as unfair as it seems. But what I would like to see is where there is more wealth distribution and greater opportunities. Less of the I have it all and you have little: a more equal society. OK, we are not back in 1912 when you worked or starved, you paid a medical bill or you might die. There have been great advances in the lives of people, both socially, medically and financially. If we were in the Titanic tonight we would all have an equal chance of surviving, or would we? So indeed, you could call that social progress, fairness and humanity. However, we can acknowledge that class still exist and inequality flourishes. And I personally can see no legislation or sweeping reform, that occurred after the Titanic disaster in maritime law, to prevent that tide from turning.

This is my own conclusion but you might disagree. You also might think there is another way of creating a more equal society. I welcome your comments and thank you for reading. Personally, I have very much enjoyed researching and writing my 100th blog on this 100th anniversary of the Titanic disater. And it seemed fitting that I should mark it in this way with this important subject.

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.