The RNLI – the charity that saves lives at sea

Paul's Iphone 1252

The other crisp Sunday morning we had the great fortune to time our weekly promenade walk with the routine training exercise of the volunteer RNLI team in St. Annes. There are 237 lifeboat stations around the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland and 346 operational lifeboats covering 19,000 miles of coastline.  It was fascinating and inspiring to see these committed men converge in their own free time on a Sunday morning and in a disciplined manner prepare and launch such an impressive safety vessel.

Paul's Iphone 1259

I was surprised not more people were there to watch the lifeboat being lowered down onto the St. Annes sands and towed out towards the Ribble estuary.  I guess in many ways it summed up nicely what the RNLI is all about though, focused on the cause and with little fuss.  These men did not crave limelight or financial reward, it was obvious that they were doing something that they believed in and as Darren, one of the crew said to me: ‘the best thing about volunteering is being part of a team of people who don’t want to let anyone down.’

Paul's Iphone 1264

Without their volunteers the RNLI could not save lives at sea.  These volunteers account for 4600 crew members, 3000 shore crew and station management, and 150 volunteer lifeguards.  There are also tens of thousands of other volunteers that raise vital funds, awareness and give safety advice for the RNLI.  In 2012, the RNLI made 8346 launches of which 3120 were in darkness.

This resulted in 7964 people being rescued at an average of 22 people per day.  328 lives were saved.

Paul's Iphone 1265

 

As I read more about the RNLI and in particular the St. Annes station and crew I noticed a phone number at the bottom of one of the information posters.  Next to the number was a name and a notice to contact him if anyone was interested in volunteering for the station and crew.  I took a photo of the notice on my phone for future reference and turned to my kids and said: ‘I know what my next Global Citizenship Award target is going to be…’

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Teaching people, not content

singing

 Post contributed by Karen Partyka

In the music department we start preparing for Christmas in September so in many ways it is a relief when the Christmas concert arrives! This year I was taking the Junior Choir. I had 30 wonderful pupils aged 11 to 14 who came to rehearsals every week without fail. I had chosen two songs to perform at our Christmas concert and we worked for many weeks. The pupils were very excited about our concert and they were all looking forward to it.

old people

I knew the pupils would get something from being in the choir and performing in the Christmas concert. I also organised that during our last week of school the junior choir would visit two care homes to sing Christmas carols. Some of the residents were quite sick and frail, the pupils had bought small presents for the residents. The residents were very touched by the presents and some were very emotional, that children who did not know them had brought them a gift.

choir1

However, I have a senior student in my music class, who I will call John. He moved to the UK two years ago and did not speak any English. Through that time he has managed to learn English and learn about British culture. He lives with his mother but his father lives in a different country. He has found the last two years extremely difficult, he could not speak English at the start so it was difficult to make friends, culturally he did not fit in and in many ways he is different from other students his age.  He loves music!  He is in the music department before school, break time, lunchtime and any free periods. He loves listening to music, composing and performing music.

guitar

As we approached the concert John was not in a group that was due to perform but just a few days before the concert the principal of music asked John to be involved with the backstage team and he was given the role of operating the curtain. He was delighted, he was desperate to be needed and feel involved. Over the next few days I watched as he worked and prepared with the backstage team who were all boys and close in age to him. In the short space of time he started to make some connections and even friends with these boys. On the day of the concert the backstage team were ordering Dominos pizzas. I could hear John laughing with the other boys and it was priceless. He had found some boys who had similar tastes and interests and just maybe he was now on a slightly easier road.

On the evening of the concert I arrived at school and bumped in to him. I was blown away. He scrubbed up so well!  Being a typical boy he didn’t seem to wash his hair very often, but that night he was showered, hair brushed and put up in a ponytail as he has long hair. He had black professional clothes to wear. He looked the part! During the concert I was so proud as everything he had to do was done to perfection, all his cues he executed superbly.

choir

The whole concert went really well, the pupils had a wonderful night. All the hard work was worth it just for John to be involved, all the work was worth it that he had the opportunity to feel needed, given the chance to be a part of something and start to make some friends. Secondary school can be very hard especially if you are a little bit different, but even if you have just a couple of friends it is a whole lot easier. The term has finished and John is working towards his qualification in higher music, it has been touch and go whether he will be presented but at this moment in time it is full steam ahead!  I want all the pupils in my higher class to do well and gain high grades, but my biggest achievement will be if I can ensure that John achieves his higher music.  For him it will show him he is worth something, I know he is bright and he can achieve.

A Christmas Gift

waiting

waiting

A picture tells a thousand words.

It is never easy being away from loved ones, especially when unexpected and for reasons that seem unfair.  It makes you think how many thousands and probably millions of families will not be together around the world this Christmas.  Some possibly never reunited again for reasons out of their control.

airport hugs

airport hugs

One of my colleagues took an assembly yesterday and reminisced about his outlook on Christmas as a young man (many) years ago.  It was a touching story that was based around the fact his father for 12 years always invited an elderly, widowed neighbour around for Christmas Day.  He and his brother resented this as they always missed out on watching the Christmas movie they had looked forward to for weeks since scanning through the Radio Times delivered at the start of December – the example given on this occasion being the Star Wars movie: The Empire Strikes Back.  When this elderly lady died their father was left a letter in her will acknowledging the kindness and importance of that one day of each year to her. For 12 years – the thing she had most looked forward to was being with his wife and children and spending time with them on Christmas Day.  My colleague concluded his assembly by telling our Year 7, 8 and 9 students that that message had totally changed his outlook on Christmas and what a real gift should be all about at this time of the year.

 

The Season of Giving

Contributed by Brittany Tang

Christmas post

Here in Michigan, the winter months seem to set a much needed peaceful atmosphere in the hustle and bustle of exams. As the snow falls gently from the sky and accumulates on the ground, sparkling ever so slightly, a quietness blankets the city of Ann Arbor. Students study in the warmth of the residential halls and cozy up next to soft velvet blankets, sipping hot beverages as they work hard to make their mark on the world. I’ve met some very inspiring individuals who are motivated to constantly do their part to benefit others. They lead organizations that help the impoverished, raise money for better education/health systems overseas and work hard to share with others their philosophies of kindness and global citizenship.

As Christmas approaches, I think of those who aren’t so fortunate to have a warm place to sleep during the bitterly cold and windy evenings. I also think of the children and adults who have limited access to medical and educational resources whose Christmases are consumed with worry and distress. In my local community, these people are the homeless. They roam the streets during the summer, spring and fall seasons and desperately seek shelter during the winter. I do my best to help these individuals by volunteering in the Food Gatherer’s kitchen in the basement of the homeless shelter. We make hot soups, pastas, and steam vegetables. There is always coffee, juice and water as well as fruit and dessert and all of the food that is used to make the meals is donated by local grocery stores and educational institutions. It is so heartwarming to see volunteers filling the kitchen with smiles, enthusiasm, excitement and the hope that they can help make a homeless person experience a few moments of joy by eating a delicious meal.

Is it about giving or receiving?

Is it about giving or receiving?

The giving doesn’t stop there. It’s wonderful! In my residential hall, students are collecting donated hats, gloves, mittens and scarves in an event called the “giving tree” with the hopes of sending these donations to Safe House. This organization provides support for individuals who have been impacted by domestic violence and/or sexual assault. We are also holding a knitting session one evening to make our own winter attire to donate.

The holiday mood has engulfed my dorm. The halls are decorated with paper snowflakes and the doors are covered in Christmas wrapping paper. Despite the small stresses of university, joy is in the air and the desire to help others is prominent and it is a beautiful sight!

To read other posts by Brittany please click here.

Project Nepal – a personal service learning initiative

Post contributed by Manoj Chapagain

Service Learning

Service Learning

Whilst I was at secondary school in Thailand I always wanted to do something that would help my village community in Nepal. During my last year of my high school, I asked some of my friends and teachers to help me raise money to buy computers for my village school where I studied during my childhood. We called this project “Project Nepal.”  This started August of 2013.

 

Joyce centre, Manoj far right

Joyce centre, Manoj far right

My friend Joyce and some other friends encouraged me and were willing to support me fully. We started doing fund raising events such as a dodge ball tournament, a computer game tournament and many other events at the school. In addition my friend Joyce who helped me enormously to raise money by asking her friends back in Taiwan to donate money to the project. She has contributed the most to this project.  All together we raised $3400. Furthermore, Mr. Alex (a friend of Peter Dalglish’s in Bangkok and my friend too) contributed approximately $500 to the project, totaling up to 364250 NPR.

The Project Nepal team

The Project Nepal team

The school already had a room that needed painting, carpeting, a fan and many other things.  When I got back to Nepal in the summer I went to the village and started overseeing this. Now the room has 7 computers from Project Nepal and another five computers which were donated to the school by a cement factory. The installation for internet is still in the process.

P Nepal7

Five students and two teachers visited the school for a week to see the school and set up the computer lab. They stayed in my village in my home for two nights and it was amazing to see my friends in my village and for them to experience a little bit of the village life. Everyday we used to walk to the school where my friends played games, interact and teach English to the school kids.

P Nepal

It was fantastic for me to see students from my school interacting with kids in my village. It felt great because I was part of the village school during my childhood and then I also became a part of my new school’s family. It almost felt like joining two families together.

 

P Nepal1

This is the first Project Nepal “PROJECT” and it was successful. I was really pleased with our work and of course the credit goes to everyone. When I go back to Nepal I will check how much progress they have made and if any change has come to the school for the students.  I also hope to do many other projects in Nepal with and for the Nepalese people.

To read more posts about Manoj please click here.

The Rice Challenge – An American Perspective

Contributed by Sara Menges

Proactive and Innovative

Proactive and Innovative

Thank you Paul Crouch for nominating me to do the rice challenge! And thank you to Robyn Fox for this wonderful idea of donating rice to raise awareness for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) in place of the ice bucket challenge. Since water is such a precious commodity and Los Angeles is facing a drought right now, I was especially pleased to be able to contribute to the ALS movement in this way.

With the Thanksgiving holidays coming up, I decided to donate my bag of rice to the Union Station Homeless Services (Union Station) organization. Committed to ending homelessness in the community, Union Station helps homeless men, women, and children rebuild their lives. Every year they also host a Thanksgiving Dinner-in-the-Park community event that provides holiday meals for homeless individuals, seniors, very low-income families, and those with no place to go during the holidays.

2013 Thanksgiving Dinner-in-the-Park Credit: SOSA PHOTO, www.pasadenanow.com

2013 Thanksgiving Dinner-in-the-Park
Credit: SOSA PHOTO, http://www.pasadenanow.com

I decided to call and ask if a big bag of rice would be useful for their kitchen staff and in preparing for the festivities. The response was very positive! The lady I chatted with on the phone loved the rice challenge idea and thanked me for thinking of Union Station. With this go ahead, I loaded my 50 pound bag of rice into a suitcase and rolled on down to the Adult Center I was advised to drop it off at. The staff at the center looked a little confused at first but laughter and smiles quickly proceeded after I explained the challenge.

Donating my bag of rice!

Donating my bag of rice!

This challenge was a joy to complete for the impact it would have on the center and for the impact it had on me. It never ceases to amaze me how therapeutic a random act of kindness can be. For the rest of the day, after the donation, I felt like I was walking on air! I also noticed a significant shift in the conversation I was having with my friend who accompanied me. Rather than listing all the problems he had to deal with that week, he was instead talking about the different things he could implement to tackle them more easily. It’s as if the whole experience allowed us both to reduce the stress levels in our body and flood it with more positivity instead. I guess Booker T. Washington had a point when he said “If you want to lift yourself up, lift up someone else.”

To spread the message and joy that comes with this challenge, I am now nominating Cassie Pais, Elizabeth Williams, and Marissa Merrill. How will you donate your rice? Who will you choose to uplift? Can’t wait to see!

The Rice Challenge – a Scottish perspective

Post contributed by Karen Partyka

buying the rice

buying the rice

Over the last few months I had seen many of my friends and colleagues do the Ice Bucket Challenge but for some reason it did not feel right for me. I had read on Paul’s blog about the rice challenge that some people were doing instead. It started in Angola where water is scarce and it would not be appropriate to waste water so they changed it to the rice. Then last week Paul nominated me to do the rice challenge. I had seen Paul donate his rice but living in Scotland I knew it would be quite different. So first of all I looked online for local food banks and found one quite close. Unfortunately the first thing I saw on their website was an appeal for urgent items, there was 5 items and 3 of these were chocolate, brown and tomato sauces. I reflected on if you were truly desperate for food, would chocolate or brown sauce be one of your top things. I suppose it goes back to poverty in the developed world is a very different poverty than that in the developing world.

at the food bank

at the food bank

I bought my rice and visited the food bank with my mum, there was no big ceremonial handing over of the rice and the people working there were polite but not particularly talkative. I had wanted to find out more about who visited the food bank, what were their situations but this was not possible.

When I returned home I remembered seeing a woman being interviewed on the BBC a few months ago. Her name was Jack and was a single mum with a baby son. She had to give up her job as it was impossible to work and look after her child. She calculated that with the money from her benefits and her outgoing expenses she had £10 left each week for food. She took a different approach from visiting a food bank, she went to the library and started looking for recipes which were healthy but also kept within her budget. She then started visiting her local shops to find out what time they discounted their food each day and with this information she started to live her life with her £10 a week. Jack started her own blog with her recipes and has built her life from quite a humble start with her son but she demonstrated that working hard and being resourceful is the best teaching tool for her son.

Her website is http://agirlcalledjack.com

Jack and son

Jack and son

In comparison to this there are quite a few stories of families in the UK who are living on benefits but who seem to spend their money on unusual things in their circumstances. One example is a family with children in North Wales. They do not work and their only income is through benefits.  Each week they spend £15 on Sky TV, £32 on mobiles and £240 on shopping which includes 24 cans of lager, 200 cigarettes and a large pouch of tobacco. It astounds me that a family would spend so much of their benefits on lager, cigarettes and SKY TV.

I remember meeting a lovely man whilst I was in South Africa on the RSIS service project, he was the gardener at the centre. He was a gentle man who was a grandfather and was already in his 70s. He was very cheerful and did not ever give you any idea of worry or need in his life. But one day through general chatting he told me that he walked to work each day as it meant he saved the money of the bus. The walk was 3 miles each way, so 2 hours of walking each day just to save his bus fare. The money he saved was not huge but he told me that it all adds up. Would people in the developed world consider doing this to save a little bit of money, unfortunately I think not.

All people have to take responsibility for their lives and to better themselves. I wonder in the UK, do people just expect to be looked after. If there was no welfare state would there be a motivation that it is up to you to better yourself, not the government to provide.

It is a terrible thing in this world that in the developed world we have people in poverty, children in poverty and families visiting food banks but there are procedures in place to ensure a child will not die of hunger in the UK. If we saw a child living on the street in the UK it would be reported straight away. In many developing countries countless children live on the street and people walk by them each day as they slowly die of hunger without a second glance behind. Each year 2.6 million children die of hunger.