Saturday, 31 December 2011

Boxing Day

Catching up still! MrM kindly dropped off a bag of stuff to the Cancer Research UK shop in town.

As our little boy is so, so long, a lot of babygrows for newborns don't fit, so I donated these along with a Harry Potter book that's taking up space and some toiletries.

We’ve saved millions of lives with our groundbreaking work into preventing, diagnosing and treating cancer. People’s chances of surviving cancer have doubled in the last 40 years, and we’ve been at the heart of that progress.

But more than one in three of us will still get cancer at some point. Our vital work, funded entirely by the public, will help ensure that millions more people survive.

Friday, 30 December 2011

Christmas Day

Bit behind but we sponsored MrM's brother's Movember effort...

Thank you for your donation. Your support of Movember and the more than 10,000 men who will die of prostate cancer and the more than 2,000 men who will be diagnosed with testicular cancer this year, is sincerely appreciated.

Attached please find your official receipt.

Through the Movember Foundation and our men’s health partners, The Prostate Cancer Charity and The Institute of Cancer Research, Movember is funding world class awareness, research, educational and support programmes which would otherwise not be possible.

Christmas Eve

Big Issue (we are a bit behind!!)

Saturday, 24 December 2011

What an inspirational couple!!

How Rich Am I?" asks a panel on Giving What We Can's website. Fill in your household income, after tax, and the calculator gives you an answer.

If your family of four has the 2011 median UK income of £26,000, you learn you are in the richest 13% of the world's population. Fill in some more blanks and you find out how many lives you would save, based on the cost of treating TB, if you took the organisation's pledge to donate 10% of your earnings until retirement.

If you earn more than the average, say £60,000 after tax as part of a couple without children, it turns out you are in the richest 1% of the world's population – and would stay there even after giving 10% away. Which is why philosopher Toby Ord, Giving What We Can's Australian founder, thinks the Occupy movement's claim to speak for the 99% and against the 1% is a "bit strange". Millions of people in the west, and not just investment bankers, are in the 1% if wealth is reckoned globally.

"For a lot of us, what really defines us in the world is having so much money. We're exceptionally wealthy compared to the average," he says in the precise, logical voice of the studious, overgrown schoolboy he resembles. "Once you get used to the idea, I think you realise, wow, this is a really nice position to be in, to be able to help people."

Persuading people in rich, developed countries to look at their income and assets on a global scale, rather than comparing themselves to those who are even richer, is a big part of what Giving What We Can is about. Founded two years ago in Oxford by Ord, supported by his partner Bernadette Young, a junior doctor who took the pledge at the same time, the organisation has grown to 177 members in five chapters including Princeton, Cambridge and Harvard. Early pledgers included development economists and the philosopher Peter Singer, whose 1971 essay Famine, Affluence and Morality was a guiding influence. These grandees, and the couple's friends and family, have been followed by students, doctors, teachers, an interior designer, a video game developer and a management consultant, all listed on the website.

Ord and Young, sitting across from me in their favourite Oxford cafe – where the money for the homemade mince pies on the counter goes straight into a collection for the homeless – say their "kitchen-table operation" has already ballooned beyond expectations. Currently administered by around two dozen volunteers, next year it will turn itself from a society into a charity, so it can employ staff and apply for grants from foundations.

"It's about putting on a positive spin," Young says. "I think a lot of people feel, 'Well if everyone else in the world did this, no problem, but everyone else isn't pulling their weight, so why should I?' What we're trying to say is that a small number of people can still make a difference."

Young is 31, Ord 32, and together they live on £43,000 after tax, from which they still manage to save for pensions. They have recently got a mortgage – the bank was initially nonplussed by the line in their accounts devoted to giving – and moved from their rented flat into a small house, where this weekend they host their first Christmas, with an aunt of Young's who lives in Brighton. Any treats planned? "No," they chime, but stress that they are not particularly frugal. One reason they believe the whole experiment has been so painless is that, unlike someone suddenly deciding in later life to sacrifice 10% of their income, they have never seen their incomes drop. Both spent most of their 20s as students, he in Oxford and she in Melbourne, living on grants worth a few thousand pounds. "And we were very happy," says Young emphatically – just as happy, they couldn't help noticing, as friends with bigger incomes. The only issue was saving for a couple of plane tickets each year so they could see each other.

Currently Ord gives away around 40% of what he earns. "If anything my quality of life has probably improved," he says. "It's not particularly heroic or anything. At least half the people in Britain could probably think much more seriously about how much they could give."

Aren't some people just more selfish than they are? They both laugh loudly. "We're not being drawn into that one," Young replies. "We've made definite efforts not to have that kind of discussion. We know everyone has their own circumstances, but this is something we do and we're really happy doing it."

"It's not that different from being a vegetarian," is Ord's more cerebral answer. "If people are vegetarians for ethical reasons, they think there's something pretty wrong about eating meat, but they can deal with friends who eat meat, most of them. This is a similar kind of thing. We're not saying you have to give away 10% of your income to be a decent human being."

It's hard not to feel that this is exactly what they are saying – it is pretty much what Singer said in the essay that inspired them – but they are very nice about it. This is tactical: part of their philosophy is that making people feel guilty and depressed is not effective. Young refers to "bad reactions" when people get defensive, and cites contrary examples of people influenced to be generous by their upbeat example: a colleague who decided to donate a fee to one of their charities, a hedge fund manager who gave half a million pounds.

Such ideas about positivity and empowerment come from psychologists and economists who promote happiness as a measurable goal. Ord refers to the "hedonic treadmill" whereby people expend more and more resources to maintain the same level of satisfaction, and to evidence that people get more happiness from spending money on other people than buying things for themselves.

Presumably they also didn't want to alienate friends who were unwilling to sign up. Ord admits they can make others feel a bit uncomfortable, but his face breaks into a grin when I suggest he must get worked up sometimes about how little many people do: "I don't feel all that concerned. Maybe that's partly a deliberate choice."

There are glimpses of the more hardline underpinnings to the couple's way of life. Ord briskly dismisses the "feelgood activity" often associated with volunteering, and makes the more impulsive, less carefully researched charitable giving many people engage in sound like a kind of egomania. For rhetorical purposes, he dreams up a person who believes they can't make a difference on their own, or can't be bothered, only to shoot them down abruptly: "They're factually incorrect, they could definitely save hundreds of people's lives, and it's actually quite immature to say that … that's a stupid comment."

Having spent five years researching poverty and development before launching Giving What We Can in 2009, Ord has absolutely no time for critics of aid, calling them "silly", rattling through some figures and referring me to his website for more. Young describes how they turned one would-be pledger away because they wanted to give half their 10% to animal charities. Later Ord has a pop at academic philosophy, suggesting that as a discipline "we mainly end up talking about things that are contentious rather than things that are important".

For Giving What We Can, philanthropy should be strictly evidence-based, scientific. The charities it recommends have been chosen on the basis of statistical analysis of data, and focus on such mundane but life-saving interventions as supplying mosquito nets. But while Ord and Young say they are uninterested in being directly involved in aid projects – despite the millions pledged, Ord has only once been to Tanzania for a fortnight – they recognise that people don't want to be philanthropists in isolation, and the point of their society, apart from persuading people to give to the right causes, is to provide a sense of companionship.

Young, whose mother died when she was 10, says they both came from "fairly lefty" families. She went to a Catholic school, which she says encouraged an interest in social justice, and seems more engaged in practical political considerations than her partner. When I arrive she is talking about bed-blocking in NHS hospitals. Later she brings up the issue of very expensive, life-prolonging drugs. Didn't this month's Social Attitudes survey reveal that Britain is getting meaner, with hardening attitudes, in particular, towards welfare claimants?

"I think the NHS operates on an enormous amount of goodwill," she says. "I wouldn't say you see people being mean, I think you see people worried."

"One nice thing about setting up Giving What We Can," Ord adds, "is that we meet a lot of people who are pretty nice" – they both laugh – "and willing to sacrifice a large amount of income in order to help other people."

On the whole, taking a longer view, both are convinced the world is getting better. "Something Peter Singer talked about, which I totally agree with, is that over hundreds of years our pattern as humans is to widen our circles," Young says, "so we've gone from tiny kin groups to the community being larger, and I don't see there being a rational boundary as to why someone in the country I live in is part of my community and someone in another part of the world is not, in the sense that they are still someone I have a duty to help if I can."

Perhaps this sense of a globalised community is enhanced if you have moved across the world from Australia. Neither Ord nor Young seems to have much comprehension of those for whom charity or activism is strongly linked to the place they come from, and more about repairing the social fabric or building relationships than their fiercely utilitarian accounting of lives saved thousands of miles away. When I ask whether they've ever been tempted to get involved in something closer to home, Ord says, "This is just our adopted home to start with," before pointing out how much further their money goes in sub-Saharan Africa than it ever could in Oxford.

About increasing levels of inequality and the redistribution of wealth within developed countries they don't say much, though Ord suggests some members may be involved in the Occupy camps. But he insists GWWC's rejection of consumerism, while radical, is not leftwing, and believes their highly individualised model of voluntary tithing is likely to be more effective than increased taxation.

If Young is the warmer and more natural of the two, perhaps Ord's dryness and empirical rigour are what is required if people are to be persuaded to part with more of their money, via either increased foreign aid budgets or donations. After all, it does take intellectual effort to imagine what £50 or £100, so easily spent in the supermarket, could mean in a country where children routinely die of treatable infections.

He suggests giving away 10% of your income might, like vegetarianism, one day become a social norm. And he suggests philosophers should pay more attention: "Quite a few people think obviously it's good to donate to charity, so we're not going to talk about it. I think that's a mistake, because you can go further and say, do we have an obligation to do it? Is it not merely something that's nice, but something we really have to do? And I think the answer is yes."

Friday, 23rd December - Charles Clore unit

There was a table of books for sale at the hospital today which I noticed while the baby and I were waiting for his first appointment. I didn't buy anything, but stuck some money in the collection tin in aid of the local Charles Clore unit.

Thursday, 22nd December - Big Issue

Our first trip into town and the baby's first Big Issue complete with festive piece on the Gruffalo and other Christmas icons, including the Snowman which the baby and I watched this afternoon.

Wednesday, 21st December - Sandham Memorial Chapel

My mum represented me at the weekly coffee morning, buying me some jumble goodies, including a pile of Christmas biscuits and a lovely bottle of perfume.

The sale was in aid of the Sandham Memorial CHapel.

Tuesday, 20th December - Mayor's Benevolent Fund

MrM kindly bought me several pieces of stollen from a coffee morning in town....

Sunday, 18th December & Monday, 19th December - Royal Berkshire League of Friends

As I was in labour all of Sunday and had our baby on Monday, I made a double donation to the Royal Berkshire League of Friends. We had a home birth but unexpectedly found ourselves in hospital after the birth - all sorted now and a massive thank you to all staff at the hospital!

Operation Christmas Child update

The box I submitted a couple of months ago was sent to...ta-dah.....Bosnia!

Bosnia is a predominantly Muslim country based in the Balkan Region of Eastern Europe. There are less than 700 Christians in the entire country. High unemployment and little new investment in infrastructure has left more than 25% of the population in poverty.

Shoeboxes are sent by truck to the capital Sarajevo and then distributed across the country by our in-country partners. This year, we sent 72,948 shoeboxes from the UK to Bosnia.

Below is a story from a previous year’s distribution to Bosnia…

Damira’s story
In Bosnia, many children will not receive a present during the entire year. We had the privilege of giving out shoeboxes to children with special needs. It was wonderful to watch their smiles as they opened the shoeboxes and found hidden treasures inside.

Our team visited the Drina’s Rehabilitation Centre at Fojnica where we met a little girl called Damira who was 13 years old. She had a tragic background as she was born with learning disabilities and for reasons unknown, 3 years ago her mother tried to put her on a railway line in front of a train.

Instead of being instantly killed Damira survived but now lives in this rehabilitation centre. She has no visitors so it was unlikely that she would get any Christmas presents that year, were it not for the shoeboxes. When she saw that she was to get a shoebox her face lit up and she was overjoyed with her gifts.

Our work in the region

Samaritan’s Purse doesn’t just send shoeboxes to Eastern Europe. We work with local churches to provide support to abandoned orphans in Belarus and also provide medical, emotional and spiritual care for people living with HIV and AIDS in the Ukraine who have no one to look after them.

Baby arrives!

Our little boy was born at home on Monday so while I am still here, I'm a bit behind!

I will endeavour to ensure something gets done for every day that's left in 2011 though!

Meanwhile, thanks for reading throughout the year and I hope you and yours have a wonderful Christmas!

m and baby j

Thursday, 15 December 2011


Your donation has helped us to achieve another record breaking year; an incredible result and one which would not have been possible without the support of our donors and the 850,000 Mo Bros and Mo Sistas around the world. The first Movember Mo was grown in Australia back in 2003. Since that time, we’ve grown and now run official Mo campaigns in fourteen countries.

Your donation to Movember has helped us achieve our most successful year to date; so it's important to us that you know what happens next in the Movember cycle. We also want to tell you more about the programmes your money will be funding and what the team gets up to outside of Moustache Season.

Saturday, 17th December - Eight Bells Newbury

Charity thing today was actually Thursday (baby has still not appeared so I am doing as much as I can in advance!)

Lovely coffee morning at St Nics was in aid of mental health charity Eight Bells which supports people affected by mental health issues. As well as the goodies in the pic, I also bought two pieces of shortbread which didn't make it home to be photographed.

As a member led organisation, there are great opportunities to get involved with the running of Eight Bells from cooking lunch to being part of the management board. We believe in empowering our members, this creates a great atmosphere within the centre; people feel part of a community. People aren't told what to do here rather they are involved in deciding how things are done.

Friday, 16th December - Dingley Family and Specialist Early Years Centre

Some coins in a pot at the local supermarket..

Dingley Family and Specialist Early Years Centres is a registered charity that provides a place where children, from birth to five years, with special needs and disabilities come to develop skills through play. More than this, it is a place where their parents and carers are welcome, where they can make friends and share experiences.

Every child who attends is regarded as an individual with the right to take a full and active part in every day life and Dingley aims to facilitate their entry into the next stage of education.

Thursday, 15th December - GP surgery

Can I count this? New thing today was taking a pile of magazines to the surgery...

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

World Book Night 2012 update

There's still time to sign up to be a "giver" on 23rd April 2012!

We've had thousands of applications but we still need more givers to register so we wanted to ask you to help us spread the word by telling all your friends and family about World Book Night and encouraging them to be givers. We've extended the application deadline to the end of January and, in response to feedback, made the application process easier.

And we also wanted to assure you that it won't effect your chances of being a giver!

We've changed the process for how givers are chosen for 2012. Our core objective is to ensure that the WBN books reach non or light readers but we do also want to ensure that givers are spread throughout the country. Givers will be chosen first and foremost based on their commitment to give books to non or light readers and the answers to the questions to where, who and why, and then geographic location and when applications were received will be taken in to account.
So providing you've fulfilled our criteria of spreading the love of reading to new readers then how early you've applied will be taken in to account.

We'll let you know whether or not you've been sucessful in February but will keep in touch in the mean time.

Books. The most amazing gift
And finally we can't resist encouraging you to give books this Christmas. Whether it's your favourite, something they've always wanted, brand new or an old favourite, books really do make the perfect gift and we, as book lovers, that you'll receive as many as you give this Christmas!

Wednesday, 14th December - Sue Ryder

I was absolutely mortified to read this post from Mummy from the heart today.... where she asks if people would continue to read her blog if all she wrote about was charity "appeal after appeal"?

No wonder no-one's reading my blog as that's EXACTLY what I decided to do this year as my resolution! Anyway, undeterred, I paid a visit to the really nice Sue Ryder store in the shopping centre in town. I am always impressed by the quality of stock in here; it doesn't feel like a charity shop, the stock is reasonably priced and the staff are nice. In fact, the lady that was in there today is amazing - I've met her while volunteering for the Alzheimer's Society and I know that she works in at least two other charity shops in town too. Amazing lady.

Today, I bought this lovely jacket (complete with used hanky in the pocket, ahem).
I took a photo of me wearing it to post here, but my stomach kind of overwhelms it, so I've taken another one which doesn't quite do it justice....

From the Telegraph (2000)
Worker for charity who was inspired by the plight of refugees in postwar Europe to set up the Sue Ryder homes

THE Lady Ryder of Warsaw, better known as Sue Ryder, who has died aged 77, devoted her life to relieving suffering, principally through the homes and the foundation that bear her name; she appeared a fragile figure but possessed great dynamism, remarkable determination and deep reserves of compassion.

Sue Ryder began her work amid the chaos and desolation of Europe at the end of the Second World War. During the conflict she had served in the Special Operations Executive, but with the return of peace she volunteered for relief work in Poland. Her duties took her into the concentration camps, where she met survivors of the Nazis' atrocities - Jews, resistance fighters, political detainees and those who had been dragged from their homes or arrested in churches or on the street.

When she came to write her autobiography, Child of My Love (1986), she could not bring herself to describe her visits to the camps. But she included excerpts from the diaries of those who had been at Auschwitz and Buchenwald. "Each place," she said, "had its own individuality, atmosphere and tradition - all foul, of course."

She also visited scores of prisons, trying to comfort Poles who had ended up in jail for committing offences born of hunger or desperation. She thought nothing of driving hundreds of miles to see a single displaced person who needed help.

When the Red Cross and other relief agencies began to wind down their operations in central Europe in the early 1950s, Sue Ryder decided to carry on with her work. With a small grant from the German Ministry of Justice, she took on the cases of 1,400 young Poles in German prisons who had been seemingly abandoned after all other captives had been repatriated.

Drawing on all her resourcefulness, she argued with, pleaded with, misled and bullied the authorities into restoring hope to those in whom it had died. It took her 20 months to organise passes for all but four of the 1,400 Poles to return home; for years afterwards, she visited the others in prison at Christmas.

In 1952, she started a holiday scheme for those who were still living in relief camps. Then at Celle, in Germany, she founded a home for men who had been in prison. Volunteers came from 16 countries to build eight cottages for them. The home was such a success that she decided to expand the project and to add other sanctuaries for the disabled and the sick of all ages.

So began the Sue Ryder Foundation. A year later, she turned a house at Cavendish, Suffolk, into a home for 41 handicapped people from all over Britain. Gradually, more homes were opened, not only in England but in Germany, Poland, Yugoslavia and Greece. In time there were more than 80, supported by a network of almost 500 charity shops across Britain and the Continent.

These sold both new and second-hand items. Sue Ryder disliked the use of the term "jumble", declaring firmly that everything sold in her shops was of good quality. She bought her own clothes there. The homes - and the shops - were run mostly by volunteers, while Sue Ryder planned, organised and directed their efforts. But she always referred to herself as a field-worker rather than an administrator, and to prove the point often made long journeys through Europe, visiting the homes and even driving lorries loaded with supplies of medicine and food.

She was never overwhelmed by the despair of others. "They're very beautiful," she said, "I can't think of any other word. The real love that comes from the heart is what I feel for them. If you're very close to people who are dying in terrible circumstances, literally dying all around you, they become a source of strength itself."

In 1959, she married Group Captain Leonard Cheshire, VC, by now himself a charity worker, who had been setting up similar homes in Europe. Cheshire had been the official British observer of the destruction caused by the nuclear bomb dropped on Nagasaki, and Sue Ryder came to feel strongly that nuclear weapons were a necessary deterrent to evil.

Aware as she was of the scale of suffering around the world, she never prized material comforts, and often criticised governments whom she regarded as uncharitable. A convert to Roman Catholicism, she rose every morning at 5.30, praying at dawn and frequently throughout the day. She and her husband ate sparingly, taking their meals on a landing in a small, three-room flat they rented in an old farmhouse, once her mother's home, which became the Sue Ryder Foundation's headquarters.

Shortly after she was created a peer in 1979, Lady Ryder was asked whether she had sought reward. "Reward?" she responded. "I don't look for reward. Surely, according to God's judgment, our reward is when we die. We are all pilgrims on this earth." But she was very much aware that for her work to continue she needed the support of young people. "It is the young we must reach. We are building, but they have got to carry on. They've got to be made more aware, from the age of five or six, of what needs doing. Money is not the be-all and end-all of life."

Margaret Susan Ryder was born in Leeds on July 3 1923, the youngest of nine children. Her father, a farmer, had married her mother when he was a middle-aged widower with five children. Her mother often shouldered the troubles of others; sometimes there was little room for the family as people crowded into the house to relate their problems. As a child, Sue accompanied her mother on visits to local almshouses and workhouses.

Sue was educated at Benenden School, Kent, and was 16 when war broke out in September 1939. She immediately volunteered to be a nurse with the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry. She was accepted but was soon posted to the Polish section of the Special Operations Executive. Her job involved driving SOE agents to the airfield to take off on their missions to sabotage industrial production in occupied Europe. Three hundred agents passed through her hands in this way, including the SOE commandos who attacked the heavy water plant in Norway.

In the course of this work, Sue Ryder was immensely impressed by the help given by members of resistance movements in occupied Europe to SOE agents. "They went into it in cold blood, of their own choice," she recalled. "They were fighting for us and they didn't have to do it. The fact that they faced what they did face, completely aware of what lay ahead, would have an appeal to anyone."

In 1943 she was posted to Tunisia, then to Italy. After the war, she volunteered to do relief work in Poland. In 1975, she and her husband received the International Variety Club's Humanitarian Award, an honour previously won by Dr Albert Schweitzer, the missionary, and Sir Winston Churchill.

When she was offered a peerage in 1979, Sue Ryder took a long time deciding whether or not to accept. She finally did so, realising that the House of Lords could provide her with a useful platform. She took the title Baroness Ryder of Warsaw because, she explained, of her "great admiration, respect and love for the Polish people. I feel I belong to Poland."

In the House of Lords, Lady Ryder spoke regularly in debates on housing, the needs of the sick and disabled, unemployment, drug abuse, race relations and defence. She continued to work indefatigably for her foundation, routinely travelling 50,000 miles a year to visit homes and new sites and to attend official functions. When Poland first began to break free of Communism in the early Eighties, she organised the consignment of weekly lorry loads of aid.

But the need to raise funds for the foundation was a perennial problem. In 1989, faced with a £4.5 million deficit but with growing demands for assistance from Poland, Lady Ryder agreed to an appeal being made through The Daily Telegraph. Within a short time, contributions amounted to £40,000, enabling a lorry loaded with medicine, food and clothing to set off for Poland shortly before Christmas.

"A tin of food from outside means more to the Poles than just nourishment," Lady Ryder remarked. "It shows that they have not been isolated and forgotten. They know the rest of the world is thinking about them."

When the Queen Mother opened the Sue Ryder Foundation Museum at Cavendish in 1979, Lady Ryder insisted that it was a tribute not to her but "to all those who have suffered and who continue to suffer. It is intended to show the misery in the world and the needs which exist more vividly than the written word could do. It is not dedicated to me."

Among the exhibits were a reconstruction of her mother's room, her own wartime uniforms and many of the presents she had received over the years. But her own role in the movement, she insisted, was unimportant. "Something else much stronger guides the foundation," she continued. "I admit that my example may have influenced people but I, in turn, have learned from the example others gave me. My other source of strength is my religion. It is everything to me. I believe that everything I do is guided. If I fail in something all I can do is to offer it up as an attempt."

The last years of Lady Ryder's life were sadly clouded by ill health and by a bitter row with other trustees of the Sue Ryder Foundation over its management. In 1998 she retired as a trustee and earlier this year set up a rival organisation, the Bouverie Foundation, to distribute money donated to the Lady Ryder of Warsaw Appeals Fund.

Lady Ryder wrote two volumes of autobiography, And the Morrow is Theirs (1975) and Child of My Love (1986). She was appointed OBE in 1957 and CMG in 1976. Her husband, Lord Cheshire, died in 1992. She is survived by their son and daughter - both of whom, like their parents, are involved in charitable work.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

NSPCC letter from Santa

I just got a text to say that the young recipient of the NSPCC Christmas letter....(available here for a donation to the NSPCC) is very happy.

"So nice of Father Christmas to send Henry a letter. Very thoughtful of the little elf who reminded him xx"

Your donations make a difference

Answers a child's call for help on ChildLine.

Enables a trained practitioner to deliver one hour of support through the NSPCC Helpline, to protect some of the most vulnerable children in society such as babies or toddlers who cannot call for themselves.

Pays for a child who may have nowhere else to turn to receive confidential, one to one counselling through ChildLine, about an issue which is important to them.

Could pay for an hour of face to face work in one of our services for a vulnerable child and their family.

Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday - Scope

It's a beautiful day today, but yesterday - GAH! I didn't step out of the house, preferring to stay in the kitchen making mince pies and throwing around the ingredients like Tom Cruise in Cocktail. I've been making a lot of my own entertainment in the last couple of weeks.

So I did three things in one today, all in Scope whose shop has recently had a revamp and looks great. Everything is reasonably priced, easy to browse through and the staff are friendly.

So, my three things:

1. I handed over some books and other bits and bobs including this which I read yesterday in one sitting.

2. I handed over some stamps as they can make money out of them - still not sure how, but hopefully this will be worth a bit as I have an astonishing array of used stamps including one from a country I'd never heard of!

3. I bought a pair of shoes for MrM which look great but might have to go back as they're a half size too big. We'll see.

The Scope website seems to be down but from memory, they help children and adults with cerebral palsy.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Sunday, 11th December - 2nd Thatcham Scouts

After a donation, I was helped by a young lad to bag up my shopping in that orange supermarket. Could have sworn they said "2nd" not "1st" as below though?

Fundraising for 1st Thatcham Scout Group, Sainsbury's Store, 10am to 4pm. 1st Thatcham Scout Group is fundraising by packing bags at Sainsbury’s, to raise £5000 for essential maintenance that its HQ so desperately needs.

Saturday, 10th December - Newbury Round Table

A last ditch attempt to get a Christmas present for MrM saw us reluctantly head into town on a Saturday - however, it did give me the chance to put my coins in a bucket for the Newbury Round Table.

Friday, 9 December 2011

Operation Christmas Child update

Dear Shoeboxer,

First of all, a massive THANK YOU for doing a shoebox this year with Operation Christmas Child. We hope to let you know in the coming weeks where your shoebox has been sent.

In the meantime, we'd love to tell you about a great way your friends can still make a child's Christmas. How? Through Shoebox World - our innovative website where you create your shoebox online and we do the hard work of making it up and sending it out.

3 things you need to know about Shoebox World:


It's fun - play around with your kids on the site; enjoy the videos, graphics and sound effects!


It's quick - if you are in a hurry, you can even select a pre-packed box option.


It's affordable - you can do a shoebox from just £11, with gifts around 20% cheaper than High Street prices

Most important of all, a child living in Liberia who would otherwise not receive a present this Christmas will know the joy of receiving your shoebox gift.

Thank you again for your support.

Samaritan's Purse

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Friday, 9th December - Christian Aid

A day ahead as the baby is due any moment! Today is actually Thursday but my charity thing today was to meet a friend for coffee at the weekly charity fundraising morning at St Nic's CHurch. Eating coffee cake in aid of Christian Aid is the kind of "charity work" that I love!

The sale and tombola yielded a couple of interesting things including some 1970s soap which my mum might like. I also entered a "guess the weight" competition which is difficult when you're brought up in a strange world where imperial and metric are mixed - they will probably have a good laugh as I may well have confused pounds, stone and grammes and insulted the maker of the cake by saying it weighs more than I do.

Also entered the tombola and bizarrely won a packet of bread sticks. Reminds me of a bar in Tobago that I was in once where someone won a live pig in a competition. Anyway, had a nice catch up and good to talk to this calm mother-of-three who put me in a good frame of mind for the birth!

Delivering hope this Christmas

Meet Rogers, our modern-day wise man. This Christmas he will be travelling far from home to deliver hope and transform lives in rural Kenya.

Rogers describes what he does as a 'calling' and says 'it is good to have a helping heart'. His selfless compassion has saved many lives, including Patricia's; without Roger's support Patricia's two children could now be among the 1.2 million children orphaned due to AIDS in Kenya.

Please give generously this Christmas and help volunteers like Rogers continue their life-saving work in some of the world's poorest communities.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Thursday, 8th December - Cancer Research UK

Did this today for tomorrow, so yesterday really, if you see what I mean. Perhaps my hormones are getting to me, but I have to say that I was not at all impressed with today's transaction. I was quite excited about finding a maternity dress but the wind was taken out of my sails when I approached the till.

I spent £11 but didn't get the courtesy of a "hello" or a "thank you". In fact, the woman behind the counter merely nodded at me so I forced her to say hello because I am awkward that way.

Once I'd paid her, she walked off! So I was left to bundle everything into my handbag while she mumbled something to her colleague.

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Wednesday, 7th December - NCT

NCT again!
Today I purchased a strip of raffle tickets at the Bumps and Babes Christmas fair. (and nearly bought a pushchair - one of the ladies was quite amused that I hadn't got one yet!)

Hoping that lots of you are planning to come to Ace Space on Wednesday 7th - This Wednesday to do a bit of Christmas Shopping at our Micro Christmas Fair?

Tuesday, 6th December - Big Issue

The Christmas edition of the Big Issue - can't wait to brew up and read it! I think hormones are getting the better of me as the BIg Issue seller was dressed up in festive gear (ie a hat) and opposite her on the other side of the street was a guy playing a Christmas CD and dancing some puppets around. He'd put so much effort into it and I felt so terrible that he needed to.

Hollywood superstar Robert Downey Jr becomes a Big Issue vendor! And talks to guest editor Trudie Styler (aka Mrs Sting) about making the latest Sherlock Holmes film. Also in this special 56 page edition,,, Janis Sharp, mother of Gary McKinnon, the British Asperger's accused of hacking U.S hacking military computers, talks to Trudie about her battle for her son... Tory MP Zac Goldsmith on why he's backing the School Food Matters campaign... A series of arresting vendor portraits by musician turned photographer Bryan Adams... And the inspirational Archbishop Desmond Tutu on the lessons life has taught him.

Monday, 5 December 2011

Follow Your Dreams update

I did a dreadfully short blog post about a charity called Follow Your Dreams last week. I found their website but as I couldn't copy and paste, I didn't really say much about what they actually do! Fortunately, someone who works at the charity is far more on the ball than I am and sent me an email to tell me that they work with children with learning disabilities.

We don't look to provide on off special occasions but rather recognise a child's talent or interest and build on that!

Follow them here on twitter too: @Follow_Yr_Dream

They also sent me the following blog post - (I'm not sure that the only reason I did a blog post about them was because I got a sticker though!)

Part of my role working for Follow Your Dreams, is to receive email alerts for any new web content appearing on Google, that contains the words ‘Follow Your Dreams’. As I’m sure you can appreciate I get a lot of alerts with this content and 99% of the time with no relevance to the charity at all!

That said today was a pleasant surprise for me, not only because the alert was related to the charity ‘Follow Your Dreams’, but also because the content wasn’t directly related to anything the office staff had produced such as a press release, no instead it was due to the sticker someone received after making a donation to one of our collectors!

A charity a day is a blog found at and each day a write up is given to a charity, a nice way of spreading the good news of what work goes on out there, and in some cases for little know charities such as ‘Follow Your Dreams’. I’m sure this post only came about due to the little sticker that was handed out in return for the donation given.

It just goes to show the importance of a little sticker no bigger than a 10p coin providing people with our web address! and also makes it clear that we don’t necessarily appreciate the impact that the people we come into contact with each day can have on our charity! Follow Your Dreams has now become visible to an audience that we may not have reached before, and our thanks is sent to the author of the blog A charity a day!

The full post can be read here

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Monday, 5th December - NCT

Yes, yes, ahead of myself again!

We went to the NCT nearly new sale for a donation. The intention was to buy a pushchair and the only one that suited us was priced at £120 (I only had £100 in cash on me and didn't realise you could pay by card until we were leaving). Very fortunately, as MrM and I are currently members of the NCT, we were among those given an extra 15 minutes at the beginning to look at the meticulously presented goodies on offer before everyone was let in. I only managed to come away with a DVD.

National campaigning

Our national campaigning work is based around three campaign areas and our three policies on Pregnancy and Birth, Babyfeeding and Parenthood.

Local campaigning

We encourage and support campaigning across the UK. On these pages you can find the support you need to help make a difference locally using our Activists' Guides to running effective campaigns.National Campaigning
NCT campaigns nationally in three areas: pregnancy and birth; baby feeding and parenthood. We campaign on these objectives:

Pregnancy & Birth
1.One-to-one support in labour
2.Birth environments designed around women's needs
3.Easily accessible, individualised services for all
4.Choice of place of birth
5.Well informed parents and professionals
6.Protection and promotion of the normality of birth

1.The Baby Friendly Initiative being fully implemented
2.Informed, individualised support
3.Integrated government breastfeeding strategies
4.Peer and specialist supporters
5.Well informed and supportive communities

Early parenthood
1.Information on parenting approaches to be evidence-based
2.Continuous parent-centred, empowering services
3.Improved postnatal care
4.High quality, affordable childcare
5.Improved maternity and paternity pay and leave

Sunday, 4th December - South Pole Challenge

I've started drinking Raspberry Leaf Tea which means that I could have the baby at any moment! This means that I am starting to think ahead to ensure that I don't miss a day of my charity endeavours - after all I've got to the beginning of December; it would be silly to give up now!

So although it's still Saturday, Sunday's charity thing was a visit to a table top sale where MrM and I bought some fabulous jam and marmalade as a Christmas present (won't say for who on here!).

The table top sale raised funds for an amazing woman with an incredible goal - more here

A BUSINESSWOMAN, mother and dare-devil from Cold Ash is hoping to join an elite group of people by attempting to ski to the South Pole.
Julie Ashmore, aged 43 of Corner Mead, will take part in the expedition in January and is hoping to raise money for a children's charity at the same time.
It was a case of being in the right place at the right time that meant Mrs Ashmore was able to secure a place on the expedition specially timed to arrive at the South Pole on the 100th anniversary of polar explorer Captain Scott’s 1912 expedition.
While on a business course, Mrs Ashmore met seasoned adventurer and business owner Neil Laughton who led the expedition in which Bear Grylls became the youngest person to reach the top of Everest.
Having already climbed Mt Kilimanjaro but having suffered bad altitude sickness, Mrs Ashmore said she wanted a new challenge and happened to ask Mr Laughton about polar expeditions. And he promptly invited her on his trip in January.
"I could have asked one million people about [polar expeditions] but the first person I asked was him! It was like it was meant to happen."
However, her plan of attempting a challenge without having to worry about altitude sickness back fired when she discovered the poles were at altitude.
She added: "It is on 10,000ft of ice and because of the thinner air, it feels like it is 13,000ft - it's ironic."
While on the trek she will have to pull her sledge, weighing about 60kg and so in a couple of weeks, she will be seen pulling tyres across Cold Ash village green to get in shape.
As well as the weight of the sledge and the fact that she has never skied cross country before, she will have to endure the cold.
“Antarctica is the windiest continent and the coldest so you cannot expose any skin," she said.
Mrs Ashmore, who is the UK Operations Director of financial services group Bibby and the mother of Elizabeth, aged seven and Michael, aged six said that fitting in the training on top of her work life and being a mum had been especially hard.
She said: "Most of my friends and family think I'm completely mad and don't know how I manage it but I have a very supportive husband.
"It's extra exciting (because it's on the anniversary) - I do consider myself to be very lucky."
If she completes the trek she will be one of only 300 people who have ever arrived at the South Pole over land.
Mrs Ashmore is completing the challenge to raise money for Fairbridge, a charity which works with inner city youths to gain the confidence and motivation to change their lives.
To sponsor her visit

and here:

Saturday, 3rd December - Follow your dreams

Just popped a handful of money into the collection tin of a man collecting for Follow your dreams. I must admit that I'd not heard of this charity before but apparently it's to help children with learning difficulties to realise their full potential.

Friday, 2nd December - RSPCA

Was on my way to the bus station and saw a lovely young lady offer to help an older lady carry her bags of groceries to her car. How cheery! I then passed the RSPCA shop which has recently not provided positive experiences for me, but thinking of the Christmas spirit in action that I'd just seen, I thought I'd have a look.

A lovely Christmassy dress caught my eye so I checked the scary lady wasn't in the shop and went in. The dress wasn't as nice when I got close up, but I did manage to get a handful of blank CDs.

RSPCA celebrity supporters

There are many ways in which we receive celebrity support. Whether it be from our patrons and vice-presidents or other famous followers.

But what is most important is that our high-profile and celebrity supporters all believe in what we do and share our mission and aims.

Our selection of videos above feature just some of the celebrities who have shown their support for the RSPCA, including:
•TV vet and LSPCA patron Joe Inglis treating animals at mobile clinics in Malawi, south-east Africa.

•Ex-Atomic Kitten star Liz McClarnon visiting an RSPCA animal centre to see for herself the many animals in our care in need of new homes.

•TV presenter and comedian Paul O’Grady who adopted Winston the lamb after the animal was found dumped in a wheelie bin.

•Actor Martin Clunes and his wife Philippa with their adopted RSPCA rescue ponies Connor and Oliver.

•TV star and comedian Julian Clary promoting the work we do in rehoming cats and kittens.

•Hollywood star Pamela Anderson making a special Christmas visit to the animals at our Liverpool Animal Centre.

•TV personality and animal expert Bill Oddie promoting the work of our Mallydams Wood Wildlife Centre.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Thursday, 1st December - ........

It just CAN'T be December already! Can I count this as a charity thing today or is it littering? I had a GP appointment so unloaded a bunch of magazines and left them in the waiting room - quite satisfyingly I saw a few people reading them when I came out of my session.

Does it count?