We are all Born free

I had a sobering letter today. I frequently receive letters from charities asking for support. I do when I can. My husband isn’t overly keen on charitable giving. Whereas I on the other hand started shaking a tin from the tender age of 3. On Saturday mornings my Mum and I used to sit outside our local pharmacist (or rather I would sit in a rather comfortable child’s wicker chair) and shake a tin for Oxfam. I don’t know whether my Mum was using me for pulling power but it worked. I helped collect a lot of money for Oxfam in the early eighties. My Mum’s help for Oxfam, a charity close to her heart, continued well into my teens when I was dragged around door to door in our neighbourhood shoving donation envelopes through the door. A month later I would return, my Mum doing one side of the road, I the other (reluctantly) going from door to door asking “We are collecting Oxfam donation envelopes can you spare some change?”. Most people were irritated by our call, which made it all the more squirm inducing, particularly as a teenager. Nethertheless it was satisfying when my Mum and I came away with a load of heavy envelopes (the lighter ones were the better with pound notes in them, although rare) to give to Oxfam knowing that we had help fund the charity and their work in Africa.

So, I have been brought up to believe that, when possible, you need to help others. We don’t believe in God and don’t go to church – we just want to help out. As I have got older I have also felt guilt at the lifestyle my family leads when only a few miles away, or even on our road a family is living in poverty. Also a few hours flight away and families are starving to death or forced from their homes because of war or living in captivity. I don’t see why I have this life and someone else has worse. I am grateful but I want everyone to have a decent standard of living. I don’t understand why that is too much to ask in 2012. However the ugly truth is we don’t like sharing and that sucks. We are also greedy, some more than others.

A letter arrives from Amnesty International about a guy from North Korea who was born in captivity. Since the day he was born, he was only allowed to eat when the North Korean authorities permitted him to, has scars on his back from torture and was made to watch the execution of his mother and brother because they attempted to escape. For the people trapped in these North Korean concentration camps they are there for simply watching South Korean TV or other such trivial things. Apparently your ‘crime’ trickles through generations so your children and parents are arrested too. The Authorities even conduct forced marriages between inmates in prison. This man, now 30, who was born in the camp, was as a result of a forced marriage and he was then brought up literally in hell. For 23 years he endured this existence, not knowing any other reality apart from sifting through cow manure to eat undigested kernels. Then one day he managed to escape, although his accomplice did not. With the change in power in North Korea Amnesty now believe the time is right to start an aggressive lobbying campaign to end the suffering in these camps. The camps have been growing in size and it is sickening to see their existence on satellite images nestled between mountains, trapping thousands of innocent inhabitants.

The people of Syria are also going through hell at the moment and are at the mercy of tyrannous leaders. When I left the paralympics there were people handing out flyers to join in the lobbying campaign to take action for the Syrian people.

My daughter has a book entitled ‘We are all Born free‘. It is a book designed for children with illustrations to help them understand injustice, how to recognise it and how to defend your rights. If you are able to support Amnesty’s campaign both in Syria and North Korea, please visit their site – support means lending your voice to the protest, not always about money – although it helps the campaigning!

I am blogging every day for Unicef, but for today please lend your support to Amnesty International particularly as September is the month that holds World Peace Day.

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