Monday, 31 January 2011

January in review

Well, the first month is over and the proliferation of organisations and charities out there has meant that finding one every day has not been in the least bit challenging.

I've learned a few things. I've learned that if you offer help, people generally ask for money rather than your time. I've learned that 'thank yous' are rare, particularly in charity shops. And I've learned that I seem to feel a lot better about contributing to charities that help people, particularly people that are affected by circumstances beyond their control - say a flood compared to a war.

I'm looking forward to the weather changing so I can offer more physical help! I've already got a river clean up to go to and am in training for some races; 5Ks, cycling events and even a 10K! Yikes!

Monday, 31st January - the MSE Charity

This is something I've been meaning to do for a long, long time. A few years ago, when I was a journalist and earning the pitiful salary that a reporter earns in return for a long week including evenings and weekends, I was struggling to make ends meet. Earning a small salary is made quite a lot worse when you live in a wealthy town, and I despaired of ever getting out of the depressing cycle of all of my money going out of my account on payday. Happily though, I came across which quite literally changed my life. The website was set up by Martin Lewis who, as well as being a consumer champion, is an award-winning campaigning TV & radio presenter, newspaper columnist, a bestselling author and top chap to boot.

He has probably saved countless lives. I don't know how many times I've seen desperate people on his forum who see no other way forward but to end it all. With his advice, as well as the people on the forum, they've decided on a plan of action and turned their finances (and fortunes) around.

Martin started the enormous campaign to reclaim illegal bank charges, with over 6 million template letters downloaded and a billion pounds paid back, and he has also run massive financial justice campaigns to reclaim Council Tax, Mortgage Fees, PPI amongst others.

His MSE Charity helps to fight financial and consumer illiteracy and I was delighted to put something back into a website that I got so much from.

Thank you Martin.

Sunday, 30 January 2011

Sunday, 30th January - Thames Valley Air Ambulance

I put some coins in the pub collection box for the Thames Valley Air Ambulance which services Berkshire, Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire. This a vital service which can cost thousands of pounds per day to run, flying every day with life saving medical equipment and two fully qualified paramedics.

Friday, 28 January 2011

Friday, 28th January - Iain Rennie Hospice at Home

A much-needed and appreciated lunch in Beaconsfield thanks to our boss saw me dash away for two and a half minutes to check out the Iain Rennie Hospice at Home shop right opposite! Time constraints meant I couldn't check out the books, clothes or homeware with my usual rigour, so I picked out a birthday card with a nice Irish theme!

Iain Rennie Hospice at Home is a charity that provides specialist nursing care to patients with terminal illnesses in the CHilterns region of Hertfordshire and Buckinghamshire. We heard about this charity for the first time when we lived in Chesham and took part in the Santa dash a couple of years ago. Dressed up as Santas, along with a few hundred other people, I remember giggling to myself as I sprinted off, thinking that I would leave my partner at the starting line as he'd been drinking quite excessively the night before. The joke was on me just seconds later as he overtook me and I saw his Santa-like form get smaller and smaller until I caught up with him ages later at the finish line!

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Wednesday, 26th January - the Salvation Army

Very little effort on my part today; the Salvation Army (I'm fairly sure this is a genuine charity appeal and not a business entreprise) put this bag through my door for me to fill with things for them to sell in their shop. The shop here in Newbury is brilliant; it's in a lovely spot right next to the canal and has a real rummage feel to it. I've often been in and been amazed at the items crammed in there; I seem to remember buying a fabulous 1930s home economics book which had a wealth of information, including "how to set a tray for an invalid", and an old dress from "St Michael" that I wear as a top!

So, there's no excuse for not decluttering here. Once I've filled this bad boy with books, clothes and probably bedding, I'll leave it outside for them to collect on the designated day.

The Salvation Army is a worldwide evangelical Christian Church and human service agency that is also one of the largest, most diverse providers of social services in the UK after the Government. It was founded in East London in 1865, and works in 120 countries worldwide.

The Salvation Army also supports the work of the emergency services by providing refreshments, shelter and counselling at major incidents.

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Tuesday, 25th January; Helen and Douglas House

Now this is how it's done!!

Helen and Douglas House provides respite and end-of-life care for children and young adults with life-shortening conditions, as well as support and friendship for the whole family.

Helen House was the world's first children's hospice, opening in November 1982. It sprang from the friendship between Sister Frances Dominica and the parents of a seriously ill little girl called Helen who lived at home with her family but required 24 hour care, and Douglas House is for young adults and was opened in February 2004, providing young people with the time to do the things they like to do with the support of the nursing and care team.

They have a charity in Bartholomew Street which is the best charity shop in the town - friendly volunteers, a clean and tidy shop, items that seem to be pitched at the right price, a bookshop where you can buy coffee and a lovely view of St NIcolas CHurch which is really the heart of Newbury.

Today I bought a lovely card with a painting of Newbury's Kennet and Avon Canal which I shall be sending to a very special friend to say thank you for being generally amazing. The lady in the shop had a chat and said 'thank you' - often a phrase that's overlooked!

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Sunday, 23rd January

Not sure where these will end up, and this is a bit of a last minute cheat, but I've handed over a box of bandages and other medical bits and bobs that I came across after a massive declutter (I will soon be able to see carpet!).

I thought initially that these might be of use to the St John Ambulance for their work or even for their training but the local office that I called weren't interested.

I then turned to TV presenter Kate Humble's brilliant website called after hearing her being interviewed on Excess Baggage on Radio 4 last year. The simple, but genius idea, is that you plug in where you're heading to on the website's map to see if there is a charity there that needs supplies.

It can be anything from clothes, shoes, sports equipment, books, toys to balls, balloons, pens, pencils and frisbees. I was headed for India, but unfortunately, the charity I contacted never got back to me so I left the bandages and took a pile of colouring books and crayons, distributing them to bemused children willy-nilly.

However, a relative is heading to South Africa and has offered to take the bandages etc. so however tenuous, I'm going to claim this as my charity for today...

samedi 22 janvier - Raoul Follereau fondation

J'etais a Paris hier avec deux amis qui voulaient chercher du vin dans un caviste dans Le Marais. Je n'avais que quelque cents avec moi que j'ai mis dans une boite de collection for une fondation qui s'appelle Raoul Follereau, contre la lepre.

Apparently leprosy still exists, and in fact, World Leprosy Day is coming up on January 31. Leprosy is one of the oldest recorded diseases in the world and targets the nervous system, especially the nerves in the cooler parts of the body - the hands, feet, and face.

Friday, 21 January 2011

Friday, 21st January; Save the Children

I am a shopaholic. But not the usual kind. I hate clothes shopping and shoe shopping. My problem is with books. I cannot walk past a bookshop or a charity shop without going in and scouring the shelves. This problem has been exacerbated by my refusal to pay a £15 library fine at Newbury Library which I was slapped with when the husb offered to take my books back, but forgot and took them the next day, as busy people are wont to do sometimes. He then chivalrously tried to pay the fine for me, but wasn't allowed to with the "the data protection act" being quoted at him. I went in to do a bit of quoting too; excerpts from our council tax bill.

Anyway, I digress.

This pic shows my current pile of books to read that I have bought since Christmas, including a lethal visit to the Save the Children shop today as they have a two-for-one offer. I decided to buy "How to be green" and "Cityboy, beer and loathing in the square mile", as they were the most differing pair that I could find!

Save the Children is an international charity that works to help children and at the moment is currently working with families affected by the Haiti Earthquake, helping malnourished children in the Afghanistan Emergency and assisting Sierra Leone in building stronger health systems.

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Thursday, 20th January: RNLI

I hope I can be forgiven for treating myself to a coffee at a service station in the early hours of this morning. I usually make myself a flask of tea when I have a long journey which I then leave by the kettle... Anyway, today I left home before 5am for a meeting, so about 7am, it was time for a Costa Coffee at Sedgemoor Services on the M5 who had a collection box for the RNLI that I was happy to empty some coins into.

The Royal National Lifeboat Institution is a wonderful charity with courageous volunteers who work to save lives at sea. I sadly live in landlocked Newbury in Berkshire which is almost as far away from the sea as you can get in the UK, but I grew up within 100m of the beach and know how important the work of the the lifeboat search and rescue service is.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Wednesday, 19th January; Dogs for the Disabled

I dropped a few coins in the box at their collection in Tesco in Banbury, but actually intended to something else today (that I never got round to thanks to spending most of the day in traffic). So today's charity was Dogs for the Disabled who provide specially trained assistance dogs to children and adults with physical disabilities and children with autism.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Tuesday, 18th January - Barnardos

Barnardo's is the world's largest children's charity, famously started by Dr Thomas Barnardo in 1867. It runs projects all over the UK to stop everything from drug misuse to disability; youth crime to mental health; sexual abuse to domestic violence; child poverty to homelessness.

I happened to be in Chichester for work and went into the shop as I thought I would stock up on birthday cards. If you know me and you have a birthday this year (hahaha!), expect one of these soon!

Monday, 17 January 2011

Sunday, 16th January - CLIC Sargent

Through the power of the internet, I've been made aware of a young lady called Dannie who is raising money for the children's charity Clic Sargent. She's doing this by trekking for six days along the Great Wall of China.

She says: "I'm walking for six days straight, all in order to support such a fantastic charity that understands and cares for the needs of children with cancer and their families. Life is short and precious and it would be wonderful to support charities who want to ensure children live the longest and enjoyable life.

"All the money will go directly to the charity and none of it is going to funding the cost of the trip, as all money should go to what is most important - the children."

Good luck!

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Saturday, 15th January - Royal British Legion, Women's Section

As Withnail would say "We'll have tea and cake!"

There was a coffee morning at the Town Hall this morning in aid of the Women's Section of the Royal British Legion, which seemed to be calling to me. Who says no to cake??

The Women's Section provides care and support for the ex-service community, including welfare work schemes, financial help to ex-servicewomen, wives, widows and the widowers of ex-service personnel and their children.


Just across the road, there was a very impressive display by many of the local charities holding their annual volunteer recruitment show, called the ‘Big Wild West Berkshire Volunteering Show’ where many of the charities and organisers were dressed as cowboys!
A great idea and a nice opportunity to speak to people from local charities; I appear to have signed up for at least three!

Friday, 14 January 2011

Friday, 14th January - Shelter

Today's charity is Shelter who work to ensure that everyone has access to affordable accommodation. While a couple of people (my partner's family and friends, mainly!) have laughed at my partner and I because our house is tiny and needs work, I thank God almost daily that I am lucky wnough to have a roof over our heads as housing is so desperately important.

It just beggars belief that in today's advanced society that there are people who are homeless or badly housed; while at the same time there are people living in massive mansions and with huge property portfolios (I'm looking at you Robbie Fowler). As my favourite comedian Mark Thomas says; "no one should have a second home until everyone has a first one."

ANyway, less moaning and more proactivity! I went to which is a review site where members of the community can post reviews of everything from films, books, food to scourers, tissues, TV programmes (I've reviewed things from Midsomer Murders to different types of teabags) and for each one you get points. You get more points when people rate your reviews and in return you can rate them back. It's a very useful website for impartial advice.

And what do points mean? Prizes! Cash, amazon vouchers or a donation to charity - in my case a donation directly to Shelter who use their money to give advice to anyone that needs it and Homeless projects in major cities.

"We take great pleasure in passing on your donation on your behalf, and you can be sure that the charity of your choice will be able to put your donation to good use."

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Thursday, 13th January 2011 - Woodland Trust

Oh dear. I didn't do too well today.

I decided to have a clear out and took all of our Christmas cards to TK Maxx as they had a collection box on behalf of the Woodland Trust who recycle the cards and use the money to help plant native trees (the Woodland Trust's remit is to ensure the country has native woods and trees enjoyed and valued by everyone).

It is the last time that the Woodland Trust intends to do a Christmas card recycling campaign, but their "More Trees, More Good campaign" is an ambitious one which aims to double the number of native trees and woods as only 4% of the UK has native woodland cover for the sake of wildlife and also to combat climate change.

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Wednesday, 12th January - Palestine Solidarity Campaign

You've guessed it - my charity for the day was West Berkshire Alzheimer's Society! If there is anyone out there reading, then you're going to be bored by the lack of variety for the last couple of weeks. So we have a change of charity today. While it was meant to be the Alz Society, in truth, I was simply too busy at work so didn't have time to go to the office.

However, fittingly, I went to see one of my very favourite comedians last night, the brilliant Mark Thomas. Mark has a new show called "Extreme Rambling; Walking Israel's Separation Barrier. For Fun" which we caught at Reading. What an evening! Mark recounts his incredible (and brave) journey of 750km hiking from the top of the wall in Besan, right down to where it stops suddenly in Beit Yatir.
The show was utterly rivetting and an amazing insight. So I gave a small donation to my chosen charity for today which had to be the Palestine Solidarity Campaign which supports the Palestinians into returning to their own towns.

Monday, 10 January 2011

Sunday, 9th January

I'm not sure why I'd kept a pile of empty inkjet cartridges - I think some sort of misguided belief that I would empty the ink out of the inkwell on my desk and refill the cartridges?

Anyway, I sent the eligible ones off to be recycled for Action Aid. For every recyclable printer cartridge donated to ActionAid, they receive £1.00 which is enough to buy "16 cocoa seeds for a poor farmer or four campaigning postcards to your local MP, supporting the rights of girls to go to school."

Saturday, 8 January 2011

Saturday, 8th January - Oxfam

Calling Kate Middleton! Your search for the perfect wedding dress is over! Today, I donated my wedding dress to Oxfam!

While I was planning on keeping my wedding dress for my next marriage, the new husband pointed out that if I do marry again then I probably shouldn't wear the same dress!

I really enjoyed wearing this dress on my wedding day, but to be honest, it takes up lots of space in our tiny house and I thought it would be lovely for another bride to make use of it and for it to star in her big day too. So I decided to donate it to Oxfam who say that the money raised by the sale goes to people living in extreme poverty around the world. I took it to my local store who are able to transport it to one of Oxfam's dedicated bridal boutiques. There were two women behind the counter and while one of them looked very unimpressed with me when I joked that I was sorry to see the dress go, the other one got me to sign a gift aid form so they could claim some tax. One of the ladies seemed to recognise that it's not an easy thing to hand over - it's not the dress as such or the money, but the memories and what the dress represents. I think I was just angling for a "thank you" from one of them!

While the unimpressed woman took my dress away, the other lady told me that she'd kept her dress since the 1980s and that with all things with big shoulders making a comeback that now might be the time for her to donate hers too!

Note: That's WATER in my pint glass. Water.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011


(Gratuitous bra shot.)

Today I sent a bra to the Bra Appeal who turn old bras into brass!
They sell the bras as textiles and then use the money to support (support -haha!) breast cancer research and also helps create employment in poorer environments.

Saturday, 1 January 2011

January 1 - Happy New Year!

I've had a few emails from a friend from my hometown who is running the Dubai Marathon in aid of the Ipswich Hospital NHS Trust after the sad death of his friend's mum from cancer. This challenge was just the kick I needed to make sure I made a very small contribution to someone who is making a very large contribution.