365 Day Blog challenge Day 58 – Volunteering #365daychallenge

I’ve been thinking a bit about volunteering lately as it’s something I want to do this year. It has to be for a cause that means something to you as otherwise you’ll just not stick with it.

When my son was small I volunteered as a Cubs and Scouts helper. I really enjoyed it and loved seeing the young people blossom. Once he grew out of it I tried with girl Guides and it didn’t have the same effect. The girls seemed less engaged and the leaders were very disorganised. One of my co-workers is a Brownie leader so I know that this was a one off but I left as soon as I could

I’ve been thinking about some environment based volunteering. Another work colleague has recently been involved in cleaning her local beach of plastic that has been littered by people. In the UK we have a TV show called Blue Planet and the recent series showed the harm that littering plastics can do to animals. As much as this interests me I’m in between the East & West Coast, don’t drive and all the volunteering options I could find were for tiny village beaches I’d struggle to get to.

So I think for that I’d have to look and see what my options are closer to home.

Some volunteering I have been successful with is the Suffrage Centenary celebrations. It’s a 100 years this year that (some) women were allowed to vote. As a result the various government departments are having a relay across the UK and Ireland to celebrate. There’s a flag that will travel this route. Leeds, where I live, is a Suffrage City one of the original few cities where The Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) had a base. There are a bunch of us going to take part, organise events for a week in October and no doubt you will see the results in a blog closer to the time

I’ve always had a keen interest in politics and social policy building so this is something that i feel I really can get behind and support. I’m looking forward to what happens next


2017 – Be Excellent to Each Other

I saw an article yesterday that said 130 celebrities had died this year. I may be riddled with flu but I was stuck naming more than a handful besides the few that died this week. I’ve seen arguments on both sides about how much grief one should have about a celeb death and how much with that grief has.

On the other side, sadly I can name more than a handful on my Facebook friends list who have lost family and close friends (and I’m including the pets in this) which is  a bit more close to home.  While it’s sad for anyone to die these mean more to me because I’m seeing my friends (no matter how long it’s been since I saw them last) suffer.

Facebook and Twitter seem to be awash with negativity and various polls, elections and votes have given results that have stirred up anger even more to the point that people are viewing this as one of the worst years ever. I’ve seen the twitter posts stating 1939-1945 were probably worse which is right but sometimes I think of social media as a hive mind of doom. Bad news and misery seems to be following us everywhere. There was a twitter moment regarding some good things that happened in 2016 (mostly animals coming off the endangered species) but in less than 48 hours it’s gone and we’re back to misery and political tit-tat.

We really need to kinder to each other. It doesn’t matter if you weren’t best friends with a celeb, if their lives touched you grieve away. Better than keeping the crap bottled up and struggling. If you don’t like it, unfollow that person on FB for a few weeks. Then let it all go back to normal. Let’s help each other out. If someone is upset (for any reason) give them a hug; offer them tea or just sit and chat. As someone who has suffered with depression for many years sometimes this is all a person needs.

And then maybe we can spread that to people outside our social circle. But in the secret altruistic spirit of George Michael let’s not tell anyone! Don’t tell us you gave Bob the homeless guy you’re filled free coffee coupon. Post some articles or write a blog on the plight of the homeless instead. Don’t tell us about your volunteering somewhere – raise the profile of that charity instead. Let’s share the different ways to volunteer and help people rather than making it all about us.

(However if you’re after the money for charity, promote away. I may be doing that again if I decide to do the St Gemma’s Midnight walk again.)

We need to make 2017 a year where we’re not counting down the hours wishing it to end but one filled with as much positivity as possible that we’d be quite happy to do all over again the following year.

Let’s just be excellent to each other x

A day of so many mixed emotions

So this is week 4 of being positive and the final week with a blog attached to it. It’s been an interesting ride and no matter how horrid there’s always something good to find in a day. Today for example has been a difficult day where my feelings have been all over the place. There had been a fatal stabbing in one of our schools yesterday and while sad and shocking these things always feel remote as they are news stories. I arrived at work to find the victim was a friend of my manager and a colleagues wife worked with her too. Two people on my team affected, devastated. What do you say to them? How do you comfort someone over such a mindless act? But it brings the event close to home and makes things so much more real. We all cried today, there were lots of hugs, our team came together and bonded.

But then today is the last day of university for my son and that’s the good news. I’ve written about him before, he was diagnosed on the autistic spectrum as a small child and told he may not be able to do many things. Today was the final proof that if you want something you can achieve it: even if it involves tears, tantrums and hard work. His group have a photo exhibition of their work coming up. I’ll post a link, anyone in the Yorkshire area please feel free to share and go along to see some fantastic work. (even if I am biased!)

I also went to my first job club (as an adviser) at a local homeless shelter. St George’s Crypt in Leeds, a fantastic support network for many of our homeless. Shelter, the opportunity to change your life around, no judgments just support. And just as important as a roof over your head, some food. My session was to take place during the lunchtime event, struggling people coming in for a warm meal or just a cup of tea. My event took a little break for 20 minutes during this time for Opera North to come in and entertain. How cool is that? I forget her name but a young girl coming down and playing a viola recital. Just because life has taken a rough turn doesn’t mean you can’t appreciate some culture and they (and me!) did appreciate it. I was people watching during the event and I could see people react to tunes they may know ending with everyone joining in with The Beatle’s track When I’m 64. The whole thing was so heartwarming and I’m glad I witnessed it. And I get to claim it as being at work!!

Seriously though these places do such good work and I hope to be able to support them more in the future. I met some wonderful people today, some service users, some people who had been through the homeless system and come out on the positive side with their own homes and now jobs who come back to offer support and an understanding that no one else would understand. Then there’s the regular volunteers and staff.

For details of the photo exhibition please follow @danWhite1993 the details are on a photo link.

Or look for Dan White photography on Facebook.

Just Say No

I’ve had a much needed week off work. The more I have time off the more I accept that I don’t want to work for other people and it gives me the incentive to look into working for myself creating knitted products and beads. I’ve no idea if it will be successful but I have to try. However with a mortgage and bills to pay I can’t just walk away so I need to compromise. I have a meeting next week – the usual annual review nonsense and I think I am going to ask about dropping one day and reducing my hours from Sept/Oct. That gives me 6 months to try and clear some bills and work on creating stock. Just making the decision has resulted this week in the creation of 4 items and plans for more. For the first time in ages I feel like I have a work plan that would actually make me feel like getting up on a morning.

The week started well, I got to visit the new shopping centre built in the city. The mall is the only one to be built in Europe this year at a cost of £350 million according to the blurb. I’d like to say I was impressed but the domed roof was built in sections which create a wind tunnel effect and there were no doors! In the middle of a freak cold snap I just wanted to go somewhere much warmer. Maybe I will try again in the summer

Wednesday saw me take part in a business event volunteering day at a local High School. This is the 3rd time I’ve done this here and each time I’ve felt a boost from it (not enough of a boost to make me want to be a teacher though! Spending time with 10 teenagers for 5 hours is much different from a full week of trying to teach unwilling kids). The business event is a mix of X-Factor and Dragons Den and the kids have to learn to work together to create a new pop group, making all the decisions from who they want in the band to creating the merchandise for them and planning their first concert. This is followed by a 3 minute presentation asking a select panel (well 3 teachers!) for investment money to help promote this new super-group.

It works really well, the idea is that the kids can see what goes into applying and preparing for a job, why just because they may not have all the attributes it still may be worth applying for the job and as scary as presentations are they are a fact of business life and it’s good practice  Plus they are put in mixed groups so are working with others they may not normally spend time with. This happens in the world of work – it’s only in the ideal world where you get to work with your friends all day. There are always natural leaders in the group and ones who are just happy to take part. I always assumed it was only girls who checked out each others outfits but last year I saw things from a different perspective. As all the teens have to come in business dress I watched the boys checking each others suits out and comparing who had the most expensive. But also who’s suit set them out as potential leaders of business. It was a fascinating view into the world of the modern teenager. We never had these opportunities as kids and I wish we did. My career (if you can call it that) has been based on whoever would give me a job at the time and practically falling into each one I’ve had. It’s only in the last few months that I’ve actually made plans based on what I really want. Not good for someone who spent 5 years helping others find jobs!

I highly recommend volunteering as a positive step. It doesn’t have to be with children, it could be care work. In the UK at least, there are opportunities for so many things including dog walking for guide dogs. If you are computer savvy, charities can use your support. There is something for everyone. For me, it helps keep my positive mood up but for others it’s something to add to the CV and fill in gaps where illness has stopped them working. I know of many people that have ended up with a paid job that started off as volunteer work. I cannot big it up enough!

Good Friday involved spending more time bonding with my mum. We’ve been researching our family tree and for the last 250 years the females in our family have mostly worked in textiles including my mum when she first went to work. We went to check out the city’s textile museum. Normally this would be fun but there was an extra pathos this time reading the history blogs on the walls; the stories of children crawling under dangerous machinery to clean out jammed material and the diseases they picked up, this could’ve been my relatives. I felt a sadness walking round that I wouldn’t normally have. My mum had her own (funny to me!) sadness. She’s only 58 but several of the machines were still in use when she left school and worked on them herself. She kept asking if it made her old too!

But we did have fun, the visit sparked lots of memories for both of us. We had a beautiful chat about spending time with our granddads (mine being her father) which has inspired a (half finished at the minute) poem. Plus a drive to the house where she was born (the street behind my high school which I never realised) culminating in a funny story of my mum getting her head stuck in the railings and having to be smothered in butter to get free but getting a scolding because her mum had had to use her best butter! There’s always one child in the family that constantly attracts trouble even by accident. It was me but there’s an extra bonding moment when you see it was your mum too. I used to think we didn’t have much in common but we are more alike than I ever realised.

So this week has been made up of helping others and family time, a very positive want to spend my time.