Hope to the hopeless

Healing the heart of Africa

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The queues wind on for miles around the dusty port of Conakry, Guinea. From afar, it might look like a procession of ants, but as you get closer, you’re confronted by the reality of the thousands upon thousands of people waiting in line. These are people waiting in hope, rather than expectation.

Many of these people have travelled for miles on foot in order to be screened by Mercy Ships, in hope of receiving the help on offer. For these people, it is worth the journey no matter how slim their chances.

Living in the UK, sometimes the issues further afield seem out of our reach. But every now and then the image of those people in Africa hits you, whether it’s an advert on the train or a news report. If only there were something you could do…

What is Mercy Ships?

Mercy Ships is a floating hospital, founded in 1978 by a Christian couple. It runs on the vision of providing services, mainly healthcare, to some of the poorest places in the world. To date it has served more than 70 countries, helping in excess of 2 million people.

Approximately 50% of the population of Africa has no access to a hospital or doctor, and Guinea is one of the least developed countries in the world. Ranking 178 out of 187 on the UN Human Development Index, this is where Mercy Ships is currently based.

“In 2010, Guinea held its first democratic election, following 24 years under a dictator and 2 years under military control,” a spokesperson for Mercy Ships says. The President of Guinea is now both head of state and head of government and Mercy Ships have returned to the country following his personal request. Continue reading

What is inclusive play and why is it important?

Sarah Wall looks at the use of inclusive play and the benefits it can have for both mainstream and SEN children.

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Children with special needs can often feel excluded from mainstream society. Consequently they can feel that they do not fit in and are inferior.

Inclusive play is a way of bridging the divide between mainstream and special needs children. Both groups can benefit from these play methods and learn a lot from mixing with those different to themselves. Children at all ages learn in all aspects of development through play: emotional, social, physical and mental.

Mid-day supervisory assistant, Paula Wall, works at Hillside Special Needs School. It encourages inclusive play through after-school clubs and play schemes. “It is good to give able children the experience of spending time with special needs children. Particularly with those who are physically disabled, as they can come to realise how blessed they are in being able to walk and talk.”

Paula points out the importance of ensuring that mainstream children understand, and are able to relate to, special needs children. “If they do not fully understand they might make fun of those with special needs, or leave them out in play because of a lack of understanding.”

By introducing children to others in their community it helps open their eyes to the world around them. They can learn the skills and attitudes that are needed to live in the diverse society that they are a part of. By teaching them about the differences that exist between individuals they are much more likely to be accepting of those with disabilities, and by understanding will not be afraid of making friends with them.

Social integration and inclusion are issues often overlooked by our society. Learning about each other’s differences at a young age can help individuals feel comfortable around others who may not look or act as they do. Continue reading

Backpacking for the over 30s

Why should the youngsters have all the fun?!
backpacker
The hot sun beats down but you are shielded by a huge parasol. The smell of the local produce fills your nostrils, as you look around and take in the amazing sights of the exotic country you are in. You open your eyes and think it must be a dream, but it doesn’t have to be. It can be a reality.

It is a common assumption that backpacking trips are for the young 20-something students or graduates. While this age range is in the majority when it comes to backpacking trips, there is no reason why the ‘young at heart’ amongst us can’t don the backpack and walking boots and explore the world.

Backpacking is often associated with young people, sleeping bags, dirty hostels and consuming lots of alcohol. In reality, any type of travelling is what you make it, and backpacking is just one way to visit a variety of places often on a tight budget, without having to take your entire wardrobe with you.

Teresa Large, 52, loves travelling but isn’t so keen on the idea of backpacking as such. “I wouldn’t do ‘backpacking’ – there wouldn’t be any room for my travel kettle which goes everywhere with me, I do like a cup of tea in the mornings and I wouldn’t go back packing as I do like en-suite. To be honest I have been like that all the time, not since I have gotten older! I like a decent bed and I am not so keen on sharing a dorm with others either. I did do camping with the girl guides, but that is as far as roughing it I have done. But that said if money was short then I would consider any option as travel is very good, it truly does broaden the mind and soul.” Continue reading

Jane Austen

There is a scarcity of men in general, and a still greater scarcity of any that are good for much.

Jane Austen. Now it may be a bit sad, that I am still entranced by this 18th Century writer, but be that as it may, it is true. Watching ‘Miss Austen Regrets’ it is intreiguing to see the single life she led, while writing so many romantic novels, outrageous for her time both in what she wrote and the fact that she was a female writer.

Her novels have inspired works such as Bridget Jones diary, which present her somewhat feminist message in a modern day setting. All her novels focus around one thing, marriage, and watching or reading such novels in  present day setting makes you, or should I say “one” realise the stark differences between then and now.

Firstly there’s the dancing. And then there’s the way that women are not allowed to speak to a man, let alone spend time alone with him, unless they have permission from their chaperone or are accompanied. It draws my mind to a club scene. Where women are not dressed in ball gowns, far from it, they generally wear as little as is socially acceptable, sometimes even less! and men do not have to ‘request a dance’ with the woman they like, a rehearsed and structured dance, the sort of thing that looks ridiculous to our modern eyes! Continue reading

The sound of a hundred memories

Music.

Put on a ‘old’ song and instantly you will associate it with an event, a place maybe, or a certain person… at least that’s the way it is for me.

Like, you’re in a club and that song comes on that just reminds you of that one person you really can’t stand, or you hear one that reminds you of your school days and brings a smile to your face. Know what I mean?!

I think one of the strongest list of songs I have in this way are those that have actually made it onto a playlist, titled ‘Nepal’. (Sad?!) While travelling, you come across so many bizarre, different and amazing moments and experiences that you never expect to experience. While in Nepal, a good friend of mine who I met out there, Kate, and I would sit outside on the roof and listen to her ipod, and with every song we listened to we would be like ‘it’s talking about us’ or, ‘this is happening to us!’ Sad I know, but now when I listen back to those songs it brings a wee tear to my eye, and makes me feel all reminiscent of my travels.

But I think the point I want to make is something more than that. I think it’s the way that music has such a power over our emotions. Take an emotional movie scene, for example. More often than not the music in the background is what makes the scene. Imagine all the dramatic music that features in almost any emotional scene, from heartbreak to joy, from fighting to sleeping. Picture one of these scenes, and the way that the music can capture your attention and make you hold your breath almost at moments. Now imagine the same without music. Awkward…

Music is the way that some people communicate best. When there are no words, sometimes a song can explain the feelings we can’t seem to describe.

A random rant on music? Pretty much. I just keep hearing songs that remind me of travelling, or of friends I don’t often get to see, or of  a certain point of my life. I think music is a great memory stirrer, whether they be good or not so good memories, music is key to jogging these, and transporting us to a place we may have forgotten.

Music is so much more than the latest top 40 or the best selling artist on the radio. It is a powerful way of connecting with our emotions. Well, I reckon so anyway!

Music expresses that which can not be said and on which it is impossible to be silent 

Victor Hugo

Campaign for real beauty

Following on from the negative images that the majority of make-up and fashion advertising brands throw at us, Dove’s ‘Campaign for real beauty is one of its kind.

And it’s a good kind.

Their aim? Have a read of this!…

“We want to help free ourselves and the next generation from beauty stereotypes. Every woman is beautiful. That’s why Dove wants to help women and girls liberate themselves from misguided concepts of beauty. Discover true self-confidence and show others how to feel good about themselves, too.”

The self-esteem fund aims to change the way that women and young girls perceive and embrace beauty. What a valuable cause! If more companies used advertisements like Dove do, the pressure that many women and young girls feel to look a certain way to fit the standards of society would surely be less. Continue reading

Basic Information Before Leaving Earth?…

The bible

There are many people who would say that the bible is made up, that it is something Christians read far too much and put too much emphasis on… But lets just say this isn’t the case…

I remember asking my Dad when I was little how he knew that the bible wasn’t made up, and he made the very logical point- why would anyone bother? and also, why would they bother to write so much? Also, the number of different books in the new testament all complement each other, despite being written by different people they all give the same account of events, and can be backed up in certain instances by other historical documents of the time. Continue reading

Faith

Faith. The dictionary definition is:

  1. Complete trust or confidence in someone or something.
  2. Strong belief in God or in the doctrines of a religion, based on spiritual apprehension rather than proof.

…’based on spiritual apprehension rather than proof’…really? Is this possible? Is it not ridiculous to imagine that you could believe in something that 1/ you can’t see and 2/ you don’t necessarily have solid, hard evidence for?

HAVING faith in anything is not easy. It requires a great deal of trust and a wholehearted belief in that person, that they are not going to let us down if we give them our trust. Sadly people are not perfect, and do often let us down. That is partly why so many find it hard to put our faith in God, an entity that we can’t even see let alone be able to believe that they will not let us down. Continue reading