Im not dancin with Pharrell

I am glancing at the front cover of The Big Issue featuring a picture of Pharrell Williams and a minion with the question ‘feeling happy?’ I am not. I don’t feel in control of my destiny at the moment, well none of us ever are in control but its nice to feel that you are heading I. the right direction. For me I am not entirely sure what that direction is. Maybe this is a symptom of heading further into my thirties, but as I wait to hear whether or not I have got a new job i find myself analysing my would be reaction to both scenarios. If they say yes I will feel happy that they have the confidence in my abilities to offer me the job but sad that my role as pretty much a full-time mum will come to and end. If they say no, I will feel sad that the opportunities and benefits the new role will bring will not become a reality, but happy that my time as a mum who has the school holidays at home continues. So for now I am putting my trust in fate and rolling like water to whatever pool life takes me to. At the same time I want to do what is going to be best for everyone. I would still love to adopt a child, help others in need, give my children the best education and relieve my husband from all his current pressures.

I also still have the blues from the holiday. The people in Haiti and Jamaica particularly really had an effect on me and I would like to return there in the future. I liked Florida too but for very different reasons. Its a chapter in my life that was short and highly relevant and also extraordinary and nothing like life at home. If it were to read like a book, it would appear as if a few pages from The Great Gatsby and Tschiffleys Ride had fallen within a chapter of Bronte’s Jane Eyre.

I am not very patriotic at the best of times (although managed to muster something up in the Olympics), but at the moment I might actually hate Britain for being cold, wet, stuffy, virus ridden and miserable. If i bumped into Pharrell dancing down an alleyway in Britain, i wouldn’t dance with him, I would assume he was one of those care in the community types for being completely delusional.

I am blogging every day to raise money for Unicef – if you like this blog please donate to Unicef here.

Thanks for reading.

Thumbs up to Royal Caribbean and Thumbs down to Virgin Atlantic

So,

In two weeks time, myself and my family will be  travelling to Haiti as part of a week long Caribbean cruise. I want to contribute to the Haitian community while we are there, so I thought it would be helpful to take clothing and bedding with me to give to the community when we arrive. Through my involvement with a local collection for the Philippines appeal towards the end of last year, I am aware of how costly it is to ship a container of stuff half way across the world – so I figured I may as well make the cost of my plane ticket (and the damage to the ozone layer in kerosene fuel) worth it.

My first port of call (scuse the pun) was to contact Royal Caribbean, who we are cruising with, to find out if they are OK with me bringing clothing donations via their huge vessel to Haiti to distribute. I was put on hold on the phone for a short period while they call centre lady checked with her colleague and she confirmed that it was absolutely fine (although I got the impression that this request isn’t something that they receive a lot, judging by the tone of voice and the lack of any topics relating to donations on their website’s FAQs.

So with one multinational corp ticked off as a positive, I then approached Virgin Atlantic and they asked me to send an email to their ‘Community Investment team’. Below is my email to them nd the response that I received….

From: tom marter Sent: 03 January 2014 13:10 To: Community Investment Subject: Travelling with donated goods for holiday in Haiti

Hi,

We will be visiting Haiti as part of a package cruise booked through Virgin with Royal Caribbean. RC have said to us that we can bring donations of clothing and bedding to give to the people of Haiti during our stay. We wondered if there is a special luggage allowance provided by Virgin for charitable donations as we would like to take a suitcase worth of clothing for Haiti residents in addition to our own personal luggage.

From: Virgin Community Investment team

Thanks so much for your email requesting free of charge excess baggage.

Regrettably, in the face of extremely high fuel prices, we’ve had to make the tough decision to discontinue our policy of waiving the cost of excess baggage for charities and individuals.

Although we have always been happy to allow free of charge excess baggage, we have on some occasions felt that the items being taken could have been purchased in the country that is being visited rather than here in the UK which is also a boost to their local economy. However, we do realise this isn’t always possible and you can still purchase an additional 23kgs for £55.00 online at http://www.virgin-atlantic.com.

So sorry we cannot help on this occasion but we do hope you understand.

With warm regards,

Kay

Community Investment Team

……Although this email was very mindful of pleasantries, ‘Kay’ is basically saying, ‘the price of environment polluting aviation fuel is eating into Branson’s disposable income, so if you want to help the poor people in Haiti either buy a load of stuff from them and then give it back to them while you are out there OR give Branson a 55 quid tip and you can be charitable. Shit isn’t it? So this was my response (also ccd to the editorial desk of the Guardian’s travel section and reporters from the Third Sector magazine….

Hi,
I am disappointed about this change in policy, I expected Virgin, of all airlines to have a corporate social responsibility policy resilient to economic forces. The items we intend to take are good quality second-hand clothing and bedding, as far as I am aware the cruise only resort of Labadee mainly sells tourist items that would not necessarily be of use to the average family. We will do our best to take what we can within the limit. As for the suggestion of an additional  55 pounds – I think Oxfam or Unicef would benefit far more from a donation of 55 pounds than Virgin Atlantic Inc.
I am hoping this will not be a problem and we will be able to make a positive contribution to the local community in Haiti during our visit without having to pay unnecessary fees. It is a shame that big corporates put barriers up to goodwill – this policy is more in keeping with British Airways’ corporate reputation.
Kind regards
Tom Marter
I am blogging every day to raise money for Unicef. If you can help, please donate here.
Thanks for reading

2014 – bring it on!

Wow its 2014! What a Christmas was had in the South East of the UK. Power cuts, floods and general chaos. At one point we contemplated barbecuing our turkey outside on the chiminea because of the power loss (which would have been interesting as it was a bird big enough to fed 8-9 people). However Father Christmas came to the rescue and brought power with him as well as present for my  daughter and son (a rather lovely painting of a Swift 18 sail-boat for my daughter and a fire-engine for baby boy).

We were lucky, many people were out of power for the entire Christmas week. One day was a novelty – wrapping presents by head-torch, eating supper by candlelight, kids unable to watch TV) but beyond that it was a nuisance. My in-laws were putting up with a freezing cold circa 1600’s house, giving them a glimpse into what life was like for the inhabitants when it was first built. When the power eventually returned they then they lost water. We all got a healthy dose of realising what we take for granted.

This year we actually did something for New Year’s Eve. A few of us went round to a friend’s house, brought food and children and then proceeded to wreck the place (the children made quite a mess too). My baby boy eventually passed out at 11.15 and my daughter counted down to midnight with some of her classmates. It was great and well worth the baking frenzy earlier on in the day as we all scrabbled to get food together. We also played a game where we wrapped unwanted christmas presents and swapped them round the table at each roll of the dice. It got very competitive and a bit random (husband wearing my friends pair of Calvin Klein pants that she got for Christmas from her husband but were too small). I have yet to try them on but don’t fancy my chances….

I looked back at my blog post this time last year and was glad to read that I had completed some New Year’s resolutions – I raised, with my friends, over 200 pounds for the Bhopal Medical Appeal (a charity that helps the victims of the lethal chemical spill in India in the early 80’s that killed thousands and maimed thousands more). I also swam nearly 100 lengths for Marie Curie Cancer Care’s Swimathon. This year I will aim to swim nearly 200 lengths. I also want to research aid for Haiti as I will be visiting that country later on this month as my Dad has treated me and my family to the holiday of a lifetime cruising the Caribbean.

For newcomers to this blog, I write a post every day to encourage bloggers and visitors to WordPress to donate to Unicef – the charity that works to protect vulnerable children world-wide. For every day I miss a post, I donate one pound to Unicef. Over the Christmas period I have missed 8 posts, so that’s 8 pounds to Unicef. So far I have raised 92 pounds so I am now aiming to hit 200 pounds. If you would like to donate to the cause visit my page on Unicef’s site here.

Thanks for reading and Happy New Year!

Wish your school was here

Yesterday I received an email that made me growl. It isn’t often that this happens but I couldn’t help releasing a “grrrr”. The acting head-teacher of my daughter’s school has decided to fine us for going on holiday during term-time. We are being made an example of.

We have never previously requested time off in term-time but my father wanted to treat us to the holiday of a lifetime and term-time was the only time it could happen. t was booked in January and then we found out about the news legislation on fines a few months later. Had we known the fine was going to come into effect we wouldn’t have booked the holiday.

Quite what fining us will hope to achieve is baffling considering we had never previously holidayed in term-time. The cost, $120 is enough to cover  food shop for a family of four for over a week, so it is not easy to dismiss. I put up a fight arguing that the time we booked was several months prior to when he new legislation was made public – so it is not as if we made an informed decision.

While away we will be visiting Haiti and Jamaica and my daughter will get the chance to meet local schoolchildren and share experiences on culture and schooling. There is bucketloads of educational value in these experiences so I don’t understand the logic.

Maybe the Head is just a little bit jealous……I will make sure we send her a postcard.

I am blogging every day for Unicef. Check out my fundraising page here.

Thanks for reading.

Hello in Haiti

It was a typical and extraordinary Monday morning. Typical in that I wish I had stayed in bed. Extraordinary because I found myself in my local hospital’s accident and emergency  department waiting for my husband’s employee to get his wrist sewn back together by a nurse with way to much eye make-up. He is a tree surgeon and, sometimes, chainsaws eat through more than just the limbs of a tree. A bit like a Great White deciding to snack on a human instead of a seal. 

So while baby boy was chomping through a cheesy pretzel while we waited, I picked up a random copy of Hello Magazine published about 2 weeks ago. The cover story was pictures of the Beckhams on a shopping trip – for some reason we are fascinated with staring at them. Once I had flicked through the pictures like some stalker, I came across page 32 on Heidi Klum’s visit to Haiti. The pictures showed her holding a tiny black baby in a kangaroo pouch like sling across the front of her body. I decided this was a story worth reading the text for. About 4 columns in (once I had skim read the bits about what designer clothing she was wearing) I read about the dire situation that 60% of women and girls are forced to have unprotected sex and then are expected to have babies without any support in an area rife with disease. Heidi was visiting a premature unit and observing babies who were fighting for survival with no help from the kind of technology you see in a hospital over here. Their only aid to survival was blankets and being carried close to the skin of a nurse or parent in the kangaroo papooses. Heidi had picked up a little baby girl who was crying in her cot. Her Mum had abandoned her and when Heidi gave her a cuddle she noticed the baby was covered in poo and wee. She said she cuddled the baby in the papoose for the duration of her visit and the baby instantly quietened. Needless to say she was very reluctant to return her to the cot and left the hospital hoping the best for the baby girl’s outcome.

The story was written to promote the work of Unicef in Haiti. While I was pleased to see a humanitarian cause reported in a magazine like Hello, I was at the same time saddened by the priority it had been given editorially sandwiched between stories of parties, visits to expensive celebrity palaces and meaningless drivel on style and celebrity gossip. I was sad because the magazine’s editorial priorities accurately reflect our own – they are the wrong priorities.

I am blogging every day to help Unicef protect children worldwide including places like Haiti.

I aim to raise £1 a day through this blog and if you are able to donate to the campaign, please visit my page on the Unicef website.

Thanks for reading.

Responsible cruising with Royal Caribbean

My father is kindly offering us the holiday of a lifetime to experience a caribbean cruise and a disney holiday in 2014. As a family we are very excited about this prospect. When I looked at the stop offs during the cruise and saw the word Haiti, I immediately thought of Paul Merton’s documentary on the cruise he reported on with high fences separating the luxury of the beach from the poverty of the islanders. He ventured outside the fence to meet some of the locals who were actually benefiting from the tourism. Royal Carribbean have funded a school on the island and every time they stop at Haiti they drop off much needed supplies. My feelings about becoming one of the members of the cruise crowd to a developing country still coping with the tragedy of the earthquake 2 years ago is mixed. So, to help my conscience a little, there is the option of donating to the food fund at Haiti during the stay and I am also going to enquire about taking clothing out there to give to the locals. We might as well take something out with us as we are travelling there to help, in a very small way, the community there.

Overall I think travel companies need to do more for the communities they operate in. We are all sharing this world yet there is a terrible unfair distribution of food, wealth, medicine and opportunities.  If I find myself  as a tourist in a developing country, to enjoy the environment and ignore the poverty is criminal. Tourism agents and companies should give visitors channels to help the countries they are visiting by donations to aid programmes, initiatives or even helping for a few hours or a day. Why not?

Nearer the time I will report on what Royal Carribbean say about donations and taking clothing etc to the communities at ports on the itinerary. I am glad that the company use their visit as a chance to get much needed aid to a country and this initiative should be expanded to more cruise companies and other organisations around the world.

I am blogging every day for Unicef to help them protect vulnerable children and families around the world. If you enjoyed reading this blog, please donate £1 to my page on the Unicef website.

Thanks for reading.