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The Not-So-Needy

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The Saturday after my last post I bought a smoothie, some tea, a pasta salad and a flapjack. I found the beggar sitting outside my local supermarket and gave it all to him.

The man wore a grey wool hat. He had a vacant expression in his brown eyes and a straggly brown beard. He wore a scuffed grey overcoat and was sitting on a sheet. I explained that I was touched after watching the programme and hoped it would help. He did not smile or show appreciation with any facial expression but thanked me as he stared vacantly at me. This was not the response I was expecting but perhaps he was just really hungry.

Two men watching told me afterwards that he got picked up in a brand new Audi every day and lived on the other side of the city. Perhaps the Audi driver was his drug dealer that he owed money to, who knows. As I came out of the supermarket I saw him coming out with only the tea as he walked off. Had he just claimed a refund for the items? Or thrown them away?

The next weekend I saw him sitting in his usual spot enjoying a pizza.

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I felt a sinking feeling that people appearing destitute might be earning some extra money on the side or for someone else. Indeed, Nottingham homelessness charity Framework warns against giving to beggars as there is no way of knowing where the money is going. This warning came after someone who was not homeless was found with £800 of profits (pictured right). The only way to truly help a street person is to buy a Big Issue magazine or give to charity. I saw a good one called CentrePoint that buys them a room, offers counselling and trains them in skills they need to get work. You get regular updates on their progress. Next time I feel guilty I will give to them.

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Well if it’s on Prince William’s charity list…

Homeless people keep half of the profit they make from selling Big Issue magazines and it was an initiative started by a man who used to live on the streets himself. I went further up the road and bought the magazine. The man was called Ronaldo and smiled broadly as he asked how I was. He told me the magazine was £3.50 and kept me talking. When I asked how he was he smiled and said, “I’m good, it’s a nice day, it isn’t raining”. I thought it was inspiring that someone with nothing could be so positive. Later I realised he’d added a pound on to the retail value of the magazine, but I didn’t mind because I knew he genuinely needed it.

The magazine’s slogan was “supporting working, not begging” and the website states it is a “hand up, not a hand out”.

I would rather do that.

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Food for Thought

homeless-robbie-from-preston I am someone who likes the feeling of fullness. I am always eating. I buy food for one so I am guilty of contributing to our massive problem of food waste.

While I scoff myself and throw half-eaten food away, others are so starving that they dig into bins for something to eat.

I am talking about the “hidden homeless” that we walk past every day. I recently saw a programme about this desperate group of people called “Where am I sleeping tonight?”. The hidden homeless are not registered as homeless and therefore do not receive additional support. Those that sofa-surf (sleep on friends’ sofas) or sleep on the streets because they feel safer there than in hostels.

Research by the homeless charity Crisis indicates that as many as 62% of the homeless fit this category. For every month that the respondents spent in accommodation provided by the council, they had spent over three months sleeping rough.

There are estimated to be 1 700 hidden homeless people a year. The documentary really opened my eyes to something I had no idea about in my sheltered existence (literally). They lived with so little, not knowing where they would sleep at the end of the day or whether they would be safe. They were completely dependent on the goodwill of others just to stay alive.

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It could have happened to any one of us if we had been less fortunate.

One boy of just 17 had struggled with anger-management issues and had beaten up his family until he got kicked out. He wished he could turn back time or that they could see how he had changed.

Another boy had fallen out with his mother, who then moved away leaving him with his grandmother. She fell out with him so he had to go. He said he hadn’t eaten for about a week and his eyes bulged with ravenous desperation as he waited in line for food, white as a sheet.

A girl was sofa-surfing as a messy divorce had made home hell. She said it had been friends at first, then friends of friends and then people she did not know at all. One man had tried to make a move on her and she had to find somewhere else to stay that night.

These vulnerable young people seemed to have little or no chance of escaping the endless cycle of hunger, cold and sleep deprivation.

Once someone I knew did a sponsored rough sleep for a homeless charity and he said it was he hardest thing he had ever done. He did it at the start of winter and he didn’t sleep at all because he was so cold in his sleeping bag and the concrete was so uncomfortable. homeless

The programme got me thinking. Surely there is something we can do to share the wealth. I have been brought up with everything and I take basic needs like food and shelter forgranted.

I have given food to beggars before. Just extra food that I will not eat or snacks like cereal bars. They are always gratefully accepted.

But I want to do more.

I am planning on buying a full lunch for a homeless person so they can at least have one proper meal that day.

I will get a sandwich, a flapjack (more filling than crisps) and some fruit. Perhaps a hot drink to go with it.

I want to start a movement like the famous “Pay It Forward” one. This one involves buying food for the needy. Some incredible people already do.

So how about you join us, reader, and buy a homeless person a sandwich.

If you do it let me know how it feels. When I have donated before I have always felt content. It is a feeling that only helping someone in need can bring. A deep satisfaction that you are making a small difference in an indifferent world. The Gift that Keeps on Giving

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Top 10 tips – blood donation

Donate blood

I wish I’d known a few things to make my first donation easier. Here’s what I learnt or found out:

1. Wear layers if it’s cold outside but make sure you’re wearing something less warm to donate in. My friend was wearing a t-shirt and jeans and was fine. I was in a wool dress and nearly fainted.

2. Do drink 500ml of water before you donate – this helps avoid fainting too.  500ml-Water-Bottle

3. Take gloves/hand warmers –  your hands might get cold with the drop in blood pressure especially if you have Raynauds.

4. Eat iron-rich foods before and afterwards – black pudding is the best for raising haemoglobin levels but if you can’t stomach this then spinach, nuts (in large quantities) and red meat are all great. Women should also avoid donating around their periods as iron levels will be lower then. If you have heavy periods you may not pass the haemoglobin (iron levels in blood) test before donation.

Fe is the chemical symbol for Iron

5. Don’t try and get up too fast afterwards. Take your time. Ensure you leave at least an hour and a half for the whole process. As my body was not used to it I had to rest for a while afterwards.

6. Don’t do any strenuous exercise for the next two days. I rested as I felt a bit weak, although I was fine to go shopping a couple of hours later (window shopping so I didn’t have to carry anything).

This is photo is taken by an incredible teenage blogger who thought she might not be able to donate, having only one kidney. She documents the process with photos.

This is photo is taken by an incredible teenage blogger who thought she might not be able to donate, having only one kidney. She documents the process with photos.
http://mylungsmylife.wordpress.com/2013/09/04/my-first-blood-donation-session/ 

7. Try to avoid using your donor arm as much as possible for about 24 hours, and leave the pressure pad and bandage/plaster on until then too. This will minimise bruising. I didn’t have any because of this and I also avoided using that arm for two days.

8. Go with someone, preferably someone who has been before. This helped as they could tell me what to expect and 020support me. Maybe they’ll warm your hands and take that picture too! If you tell the staff you have a needle phobia they can give you extra support.

9. You don’t need a local anaesthetic- it isn’t painful. It’s just like having a small quick injection and then you don’t feel a thing.

10. If you feel ill after donation, ensure you contact the number you are given so that they know your donation may not be safe. Of course it goes without saying that you should be honest when answering questions before.

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See this link: http://www.blood.co.uk/index.aspx for more information on blood donation in England.

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Charity Aid still vital in Philippines

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After the United Kingdom, the United States and Canada my blog is most viewed in the Philippines.

I have donated to the Typhoon Haiyan fund before but recently I was able to contribute a little more. Thousands died and a staggering 11 million people were affected. The videos and photographs of the devastation were horrific.

Charities have helped 1.6 million so far but there is still a long road to recovery ahead. Of course the disaster also impacted on infrastructure – depriving millions of basic needs such as food and shelter. Some cities are still reliant on electricity from generators and many survivors are entirely dependent on aid.

Today I finally got round to it and gave £25. After Christmas and the holiday and with only a temporary job, I couldn’t afford to donate much but something is better than nothing. Just £25 can give water purification tablets to ten families for a month. I did this through The Disasters Emergency Committee website, a hub uniting all the major charities. The country remains crippled by foreign debt, with £8.8 billion to repay in 2014. So charities have a crucial role to play in helping the country back to its feet. Just a quarter of the $791 million (over £483 million) appealed for by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs to cover needs over 12 months has been donated.

So when you’re sitting cosily by the (fake/real) fire with your (fake/real) tree, or having that turkey curry buffet, or just enjoying the holiday, spare a thought for the millions reliant on charity to supply food, clean water and shelter. Help continues to be needed even though the bright lights of the media have since moved on.

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My First Charity Event!

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About two weeks ago I went the distance for a good cause. I’d done 20 miles a couple of times, but hadn’t had the chance to train for the 40 mile British Heart Foundation cycle at all. It was around a forest near Mansfield with cycling tracks of varying abilities.

In the weeks before I’d begged colleagues, family and friends to donate and was humbled by the response. Every pound was an achievement, and I excitedly monitored the charity web page http://www.justgiving.com/overrideladies (which is still open for donations. Special thanks to Fiona, a blogger who donated!)

I was anxious. What if I injured myself? What if I had a puncture? I hadn’t had the opportunity to get an inner tube kit and wasn’t sure how to change a tyre if it did blow out. What if I couldn’t finish it? There was rather a lot of uncertainty, but at least I knew I could get there. I woke my lovely boyfriend up at 6am and soon we were off. There was no turning back now. Just as we arrived the sun rose into a hazy pink gold and blue sky. Beautiful.

I had a cycling shirt and then winter running outfit over the top. Full length lycra trousers, a waterproof jacket from my boyfriend and a bag full of cereal bars. Great for that extra push.

I was anxious to start ahead of the slower riders, so I went right to the start line. There was a great sense of community, we were all in this together, and an excited tension. We were reminded it was not a race. I was treating it like one though, for all those who had supported me and would ask for my time. I saw a lady from my cycling group at the start but when I went back to the crowd I couldn’t find her again and I didn’t have their phone numbers. I found out later that they set off in the second wave.

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Copyright mysportspix.net (purchased copy)

The starting horn sounded and we were off in a blur of spokes and helmets. For the first 20 miles going out I was powering through, pedalling furiously, showering myself with mud and puddle water. We went past farmer’s fields, into a park, past a cockerel strutting his stuff, past caravans, lakes, over little bridges and round country lanes. The scenery was lovely, with golden bronze trees everywhere and farmer’s fields. There were army cadets helping us across busier roads and at water stops along the way (though I preferred to pedal on, I didn’t want to lose momentum).

On the way back several people got punctures tires hissing suddenly from the carpet of prickly conker shells. They had their bikes upside down replacing the inner tube. I could see why mountain bikes had been recommended. Quite a few cyclists with thinner tyres suffered. I zoomed past, hoping the next lot wouldn’t stop me in my tracks.

Then we were on the way back. I wasn’t sure how far I had to go as I could only get the distance in kilometres. Didn’t someone say there was 0.8km in a mile? I started to lose heart a bit. The route looked familiar but I couldn’t remember how far out I was. As I passed the farmland again I saw a band of rain sweeping through. I was glad of the jacket but I didn’t want to stop to zip it up so I did get a little drenched. When it stopped, I swung my bag round and text, drank or ate cereal bars as I cycled. The speedier  sportsmen zipped past, sweat flying off them. Some had hearts on the back of their rucksacks showing who they were riding for.

Finally we were into the forest again and I felt relieved. I’d had great fun but time was starting to drag now and after 30 miles my legs started burning. Every push became painful and I was grateful for the downhills. The route had been fairly flat, especially after compared to the hills where I live, and I had expected to feel the strain long before now.

Other participants spurred me on, yelling out encouragement as they passed. We kept saying to each other “surely it’s not much further!” and finally we heard the cheers of the crowd and the megaphone announcements gradually getting closer. It took me a while to work up a last sprint as I was drained (despite the many cereal bars) and my circulation was on fire. But finally we came out of the wooded track and onto the finishing field. It was over and I had done it. Twice my furthest distance, off road and in only four hours. Ten miles an hour was a speed to be proud of. I put on my medal and the camera flashed in my tired but triumphant mud-splattered face.

Will I do it again? I’m not sure. It was a little too long. 30 miles would have been enough, but I’m sure it would have been easier with training. I am so grateful to all those who had a heart and donated. I have so far raised £170. Thank you.

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Have a Heart

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Heart disease is the UK’s biggest killer resulting in around 82 000 deaths a year.

A massive 2.7 million live with it here. It doesn’t just affect those who have diabetes, high blood pressure, who smoke or are overweight. It can be genetic or it can be caused by fatty deposits building up in our arteries as we get older. It could affect you at Thyroid-hormones-and-heart-diseasesome point in your life.

There are some great tips for maintaining cardiac health here.

I used to care for an elderly lady who had a pacemaker so the British Heart Foundation is an important cause for me. Thinking of her is what will drive me in my 40 mile charity bicycle ride on 27 October this year, which I will be doing with my group. Of course I practice what I preach and have given money and I will also donate my organs in the event of my death, so that someone else may live a life as full as the one I often take for granted.

Have a heart and please donate to our bike ride JustGiving page today. You can give in a variety of currencies through a secure process. It doesn’t have to be much but it would be much appreciated not just by me but by the people whose lives the research/treatment will save or improve.

Thank you.

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