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

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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?!
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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