Share A Meal with World Vision UK

I love food, and I love sharing food. Coming into the Christmas period (let’s face it, it’s really soon) we start to think about family, getting together and sharing food and drinks. But it’s easy to forget those in other countries facing diversity.

To promote awareness, World Vision UK have launched the #shareameal appeal to raise money for the refugee children in Bidi Bidi, Uganda, along with Great British Bake Off’s star baker Selasi.

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Selasi recently visited Uganda to see how we could make a difference.

“It’s heartbreaking to see pain and hunger etched onto the faces of orphaned children and hear their harrowing stories of rape and violence. It is vital that, as a community, we come together to do what we can to help provide these kids with a better future.”

Thousands of children flood into Uganda’s refugee settlements, escaping civil war in South Sudan. Many of these having seen their parents murdered and having to walk for weeks without food or shelter. This is a dangerous and frightening trek, having to hide from fighting to avoid being killed. They are along, traumatised and hungry.

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And this of course is something we just can’t relate to. But we can help, and World Vision UK have come up with a way we can help bring aid to these children, in a way we can relate to.

World Vision UK help feed these children and find them foster families, to give them a new start. However, global funding just isn’t enough and so to raise money, they’d like you to take part in #shareameal.

World Vision UK invite you to be inspired by Selasi and host a dinner party. It can be as small or large as you wish, just as long as you’re sharing a meal. Following the meal, you and your guests donate the value of the meal to World Vision UK and that money goes to the children.

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They’ve even made it really easy for you, but putting together a pack that includes everything you need – invitations, an exclusive recipe from Selasi and thank you cards for your guests too!

Visit http://www.worldvision.org.uk/get-involved/share-meal/ to download your pack!

Now, if this wasn’t fun enough, they’re also giving you the chance to win a meal for two, cooked by Selasi himself! To enter, simply post a picture of your Share A Meal event on Instagram using the hashtag #shareameal and tagging @WorldVisionUK! For more information visit www.worldvision.org.uk/shareameal

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So all that’s left to do is start planning your meal and who you want to invite.

With so many holidays coming up, you could host an American-style Thanksgiving, a Christmas themed meal, something for New Years or simply use some of the fantastic Autumnal ingredients that are starting to appear in supermarkets.

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It’s an excuse to show off your repertoire AND help the refugee Children in Uganda.

I’m already planning mine, so keep an eye out for my post about that in the next couple of months!

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Event photos provided by World Vision UK. All other photos are my own.

Bears on Stairs with World Vision UK

Back when I used to take part in running events, I would raise money for charities close to my heart, but since giving that up due to injury I haven’t really been active in that respect either. When you’ve got a mortgage to pay, charity ads on the tv asking for money and people with clipboards knocking on your door, it can be easy to brush aside the work they’re doing to help others, whilst we get on, blinkered, with our own lives.

But it’s not just money that charities work to gain (though of course that’s really *really* nice) – they work incredibly hard to be heard and to spread awareness of what’s going on – sometimes far away and sometimes close to home. And even if you can’t afford to donate money, it’s so easy to donate your time.

All this week, World Vision UK (the world’s largest international children’s charity) are actively raising awareness about the Bidi Bidi refugee settlement in Uganda, where over 700 children arrive each week after fleeing the long-standing civil war in South Sudan.

These children are leaving their homes, separated from their families, often sick or injured, the majority having seen their parents killed and not knowing where they are.

Tomorrow, the 27th July, 700 teddy bears, each one representing one of these children, will arrive at London’s St Paul’s Cathedral, and be placed on the steps to raise awareness of these children’s plight. The event is on for a few hours in the morning, so if you’re in the area please pop by and show your support!

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If you can’t make it, you can show your support in other ways! World Vision UK are asking for you to take a photo of your bear on the stairs using the hashtag #BearsOnStairs. By using your instagram or twitter platform and the hashtag, you’ll be spreading the world and showing your support to these children.

If you’d like, you can watch the event at St Paul’s on the 27th, by logging into Facebook and watching live on World Vision’s page.

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To find out more about how you can help South Sudan refugees, on World Vision UK’s crisis appeal page. Here you can educate yourself on what’s going on, and donate if you feel you want to.

I look forward to seeing your #BearsOnStairs – spread the word!

To Be A Girl

I became familiar with WaterAid during my second visit to Glastonbury music festival. Not only does this charity work hard all year every year to provide safe, clean water in less privileged countries, but they also provide clean safe toilets at this music festival. These volunteers spent a portion of their time on the world’s happiest farm cleaning up and freshening the lavs – all with a smile on their face and a flourish of Fabreeze. They got major kudos from me.

When I started running I knew I wanted to run for them one day, but supporting Macmillan Cancer Support was a more immediate and stronger pull for me at the time. During some recent research into charity work for my job, WaterAid was one of my first online stops. I quickly became familiar with their current campaign ‘To Be A Girl’. Whilst reading their site I was reminded of the fact that I have it so lucky, as a woman in a wealthy, established country.

 

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I think we’ve all felt lazy and decided not to go out, felt chilly in our living rooms and moaned that the heating isn’t high enough, felt annoyed that our period has fallen on the weekend we wanted to go swimming. It’s nothing compared with what girls, and I do mean girls not women, have to contend with daily around the world – and they do contend with it, and often with a smile.

In Madagascar girls as young as 13 years old travel daily to collect water and carry more than their body weight just to provide for their families. In some cases they drop out of school because this job is so important. Imagine how much you lift at the gym, once or twice a week for ten minutes. Now imagine lifting your body weight, carrying this on your back, walking up long steep hills with this load and then going back for more?

In India, girls entering adolescence are forced to go to the toilet in the open, and in front of men because there’s nowhere else safe to go. Open drains and prying eyes force some of the girls to use nearby fields to escape the humiliation. They choose fields where the crop is high so that no one knows they’re there.

But the case that hit me the hardest was that of Radha in Nepal. I’ve been to Glastonbury three times now and on one occasion I was on my period. With no proper showers back then and only long drop toilets it wasn’t a very pleasant experience. I managed to stay clean and hygienic and luckily was able to carry on as normal, more or less. But in some areas of Nepal a tradition called Chhaupadi is still observed. This tradition, linked to Hinduism, teaches that menstruating women are impure.

Radha outside her Chhaupadi hut

For the seven days of her period Radha is ‘chau’ or ‘an untouchable menstruating woman’ and considered lower than dogs. Because of this she is sent out to a hut, known as a ‘goth’ and isn’t able to interact with anyone else during this time. Each of these huts will house up to three or four women but have no warmth but also no ventilation so lighting a fire is impossible without risk of suffocation from the smoke. The huts are so open to the elements that animals can get in and bite or attack the girls, and it’s not only animals that can get in. Despite these women being seen as unclean and impure, men can still get inside and rape them. The true extent of these attacks is not known since very few are officially reported.

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Radha isn’t allowed into her temple as it could anger her Gods, she can only eat boiled rice and isn’t allowed to touch other women for fear of her ‘polluting’ them. Her sister will throw her food to behind the toilet area where she waits. In villages like Radha’s it’s even believed that during menstruation girls are possessed by evil spirits, and that if they touch a man or boy, he will start shivering and get sick.

Despite women disliking Chhaupadi it is continued and perpetuated by women and men so it’s very hard to break the tradition. In 2005 the Supreme Court of Nepal stated Chhaupadi was a violation of human rights. yet it carries on in these more remote areas. Taboos surround menstruation. It’s not a subject anyone wants to talk about. A post I wrote mentioning periods a while back received my lowest response and for some reason I felt the need to write a disclaimer warning readers before they read anything unsavoury. But right now I say ‘pah’ to that.

Girls are experiencing this kind of treatment every day, right now. WaterAid is working hard to educate these people and so I want to educate you. Periods are a fact of life. They’re nasty, no one likes them, but they’re natural and if dealt with properly can be clean and painless and a total non subject.

WaterAid’s aims are to replace the silence and shame of menstruation with pride and confidence in these girls. They want to equip women and girls with the knowledge and means to manage their periods hygienically and with dignity. They want to provide the means for safe disposal of sanitary waste. And all of these initiatives to educate, need to raise awareness amongst girls AND boys. It’s so important.

The purpose of me writing this blog today isn’t to guilt my readers into donating money. I was so effected by what I read that day on their website, that I knew I needed to spread the word. I had no idea any of this was happening somewhere on our little planet. Yes there’s worse things going on, but this is such a basic subject with a simple fix – though it’s not going to be easy. And it does cost money – so if you feel you want to help the effort please feel free to go and donate. You can donate HERE if you’re in the UK and the government will match your donation if it’s made before September 9th (amazing!) or you can donate HERE in the US. There’s also loads more information about WaterAid and their To Be A Girl Campaign through those links.

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If you can’t or don’t want to donate now, then don’t worry. There’s plenty of time in the future, and maybe you’ll sponsor me on my next charity run when I support WaterAid. I know that when I have a period, and start to feel sorry for myself, I’ll be thinking about those girls who don’t have clean water to wash, or the privacy to go to the loo and stay clean, or even the support of their family to comfort them when they’re feeling at their lowest and most vulnerable.

If you’ve had a reaction to this post or the information I’m pleased. It won’t be a good reaction I’m sure. If you’re revolted by the subject matter – good. You need educating too and I hope I’ve done a little bit to do this. If you’re feeling bad for these girls and want to let other’s know what’s happening, then share this post, or share the To Be A Girl website on social media. Go on, and spread the word. WaterAid ask what it means to you to be a girl – My answer to this question is ‘being brave and strong’. Part of taking ownership of my answer is writing this post, and hopefully enabling those who aren’t, to get braver and stronger with the help of support and education.

What does it mean to you to be a girl?

 

Photo Credit WaterAid/Poulomi Basu