Monday Meditation: Appeals for Help for Homeless People in the Prolonged Icy Weather

295843B4-63EE-4573-BC5B-133F6C8D6401As I write, the latest fall of snow is melting. We had the littles here for the weekend and they had a lot of fun playing in it, as did their dad, a little too much as it turned out – if you enlarge this photo, you’ll see a hole in the right garage window!

Towards the end of the first prolonged period of snow when it had hung around for about 10 days, I braved the outdoors during a brief fine spell for a short walk. I had been cooped up in dry central heating for so long. How good it felt to fill my lungs with the sharp fresh air!

As I gingerly walked along the roadside, avoiding the sometimes slippery paths, I pondered about how we coped without central heating when we were young children, when there was often ice on the inside of the windows and a bath was a weekly affair to be dreaded and shivered over. I remembered about chapped red legs from wearing wellies to walk to school. Dead white fingers when I walked my young son to school and I couldn’t untie his shoes. And then I thought about all those having to work in these conditions, but most of all, people who were even now having to spend the nights outdoors in flimsy clothing. I chastised myself for complaining the other night about not being able to sleep when it was -10C . I had a thick duvet, two hot water bottles, woolly socks, central heating and a comfortable bed. How many didn’t have any kind of bed, or slept in damp rooms with ill-fitting windows and no heating?

I came home and went online to see if there was a charity for homeless people in my area – how did I not know that already? We support the local Foodbank, but as I thought, there was no dedicated charity for homeless people in our immediate area, although I found one for the nearest large town and made a donation. Nowhere near enough. It felt like conscience money.

719CAC7A-861A-4A48-8CAE-9F7A86FDE4F0This past weekend, the icy winds and another 3” of snow have returned and I read an appeal on Twitter from @StreetsKitchen in London (also StreetsKitchenOffical on Facebook) for warm socks and underwear to give to homeless men. I went on Amazon and ordered some to be delivered there. (They had recently also appealed for sleeping bags). A drop in an enormous ocean, I know, but many people have responded, so let’s hope a few more people will be supported during this freezing weather.

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Please click the link if you’d like to know more or can help in any way. They need food donations too. Or please think about donating warm clothing to your own local charity, or your time to hand out warm soup and drinks.

 

Copyright: Chris McGowan

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Monday Meditation: Cleaning Up the Neighbourhood

Last week, in my post Monday Meditation: My Walk Around the *Neigh*bourhood, I wrote about my walk up to the horses’ field and shared some happy memories of times past: spending time with them, taking treats and sharing precious moments. I wanted to keep the tone of that post positive, so I didn’t go into detail about the less pleasant aspect of the walk. This week, I shall elaborate on what made me so frustrated and angry.

This is what greeted me when I arrived at the field:

I was aghast at how much rubbish there was, just around the gate. I began to look up and down the grass verge along the busy road, and in the hedges.

So many plastic bottles, drinks cans, crisp packets and wrappers, whisky bottles, takeaway cartons. There was even a carrier bag full of takeaway cartons thrown into the hedge. My thought was: the clue is in the name, it’s called ‘takeaway’, ie you take it away! Some of it could have been blown there after a refuse collection: bits of cardboard, crips packets etc, but it was obvious much of it had either been thrown from passing cars or dropped by people congregating or walking past. (There is a waste bin a few yards away).

As I looked, I wished I had brought a bag with me, but then realised one bag wasn’t going to do it anyway and I couldn’t have picked up all the litter and carried it by myself.

I walked home, slowly, subdued, pondering on why people would have so little regard for their environment, and the amount of damage to wildlife.

39DF2B78-A987-4713-BBEC-A8B5823CDBC5This field and verge is the first thing you see when entering our small country town, and it doesn’t exactly make you want to stop and support local businesses or visit local tourist attractions. Our town has a long history and still has some Tudor buildings, a canal, a lake, lots of Blue Plaques detailing where famous people lived or visited, old pubs and so on.

B22E4613-CE66-44EB-9FF8-0DA7489D089DIt used to be on the route taken by the Royal Court on its way north, and provided fish for royal banquets. Charles Dickens stayed here, it’s rumoured he got his inspiration for Miss Haversham during that visit. Princess (later Queen) Victoria stayed at a local inn which was later renamed in her honour. We still have cobblestones, an annual carnival, Old Tyme Market, a nocturnal bike race.

On my way home, I began to notice all the litter under the hedgerows, and flattened cans and bottles in the gutter at the roadside. There was even a plastic wheel hub on the pavement.

This is a rural area, not an inner city. I couldn’t understand it. I realised as I walked, eyes down, how much litter we walk past every day, we have become innured to it. We live in an area surrounded by several schools, and a lot of the rubbish is from the school kids on their way home. Other things, takeaway cartons, beer cans, for instance, is what is discarded on the way home from a night out at the weekend. Some is discarded by parents parked outside schools waiting for their children, or dropped by the children getting into the cars: hairbands, hairslides, bits of paper, sweet wrappers, cigarette ends.

I told my husband when I got home, hoping but not daring to ask that he would say what he did: I’ll help you.

Next day, in cold but fine weather, we set off with large recycled charity bin-bags (the ones that regularly get pushed through our letterbox and collect in the cupboard of our utility room), disposable gloves and two grab sticks.

This was our haul:

We gathered all this from about a hundred and fifty yard stretch by the field and then another 2 bags on the way home, including the wheel hub that was still lying on the path. It was pretty hair-raising at times with traffic hurtling past as they came off the by-pass onto the residential area.

It took about 2 hours and at one point the first bag split, but some gardeners working on a new housing development nearby let us empty it into their skip. They told us, if we needed to do it again another day, just to go around the corner and use the builders’ skip. They appreciated what we were doing.

Just as we neared home and were pretty tired, a local authority highway maintenance truck driver nodded to me and gave me the thumbs up, which made me smile. I found myself humming Lonnie Donnegan’s ‘My Old Man’s a Dustman’ as we headed for home! (See video link below*)

It had been an exhausting – and cold! – couple of hours’ work, I hurt all over and wanted a hot shower, but I felt so much better about this day’s walk than the previous one, I was no longer angry.

I felt proud that I had actually been able to do something for the community.  We must have walked and driven past all this litter so many times, I don’t why it had such an effect on me this time, but I’m glad I noticed and that I was able – with my husband’s help – to take some action, and not just send off an irate email to the Refuse Department of the Local Authority!

We became even more determined to ditch as much plastic as we could from our regular shopping. I regularly support campaigns and sign petitions calling for a ban on single-use plastic items: straws, bottles, takeaway cutlery etc. but I realise, that’s not enough.

Sitting at a keyboard is easy, actions are what count.

Related posts:

Let’s Ditch the Plastic

Earth Day: Microbeads – What Are They Good For…?

* A fun video: My Old Man’s A Dustman by Lonnie Donnegan

Copyright: Chris McGowan

Garden Glove Love: Update

To read the original post please click here.

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A young mother sorts through rubbish in Kathmandu, using gloves from the original Garden Glove Love scheme: photo credit Liesl Clark

Some of you will recall a post I wrote earlier this year about a scheme set up by Liesl Clark of Pioneering the Simple Life. Liesl is a documentary maker and she and her family have close ties to Nepal: they volunteered there after the devastating earthquake and have been involved in various schemes to help local people, including setting up children’s libraries.

Liesl’s family are returning to Nepal this summer and they are taking with them lots of used, new, discarded, odd and paired gardening gloves to give to the child rag pickers. These children and young people support themselves and their families by picking through rubbish tips for recyclable items which they sell to India. They suffer injuries and infections from this work, sorting through sharp rusty objects, glass, faeces, chemical containers and so on.

imageSo often we read about the awful circumstances of people’s lives and feel helpless to change them. This was one instance where I decided this was something that was easily doable. Within minutes we had found 3 gloves in our house and shed.

We composed a letter to our neighbours, which my husband posted, telling them about the scheme and asking them to have a look around their homes and gardens, sheds, roadsides etc. I heard nothing for a long time and thought that was it. I’d failed miserably.

Then slowly, they began trickling in. We found a bag of gloves on our doorstep one morning, we still don’t know who left them, imageand a neighbour brought a bag of new ones in children’s sizes, then the lovely lady who eventually took our piano also brought some. Gradually, we built up quite a collection.

This was the pile that were new or unsoiled.

Then there were the very soiled ones that had to be washed and hung out to dry – a difficult task as it wouldn’t stop raining for more than an hour at a time!

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Eventually, they did dry out and were parcelled up. Liesl has arranged for an archaeologist friend to take them out for us.

And off they went.

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We wish Liesl, her family and Mark bon voyage and hope we have helped in a small way to improve the lives of some of the most economically deprived people. They have welcomed Liesl and her family and friends into their community, taken care of her children, taught them skills and customs, enabling them to experience a different culture and a new perspective on the world. Liesl has made a documentary about their lives after the earthquake. She continues to support them and to highlight their strengths and their needs.

This was the least we could do.

Copyright: Chris McGowan

“a life to which I feel myself a stranger.” -Swiss Long Rider Ella Maillart

A welcome update from Marc on his Long Saunter South through Central and South America, where he raised money and awareness for children in orphanages and special needs schools, and news of Red, his faithful steed!

The Long Saunter South

Several months ago I returned home, to my loving family whom have been there with me every step of this journey. Still, months later it does not feel real. Taking in what happened and feeling out of place in my home town. It can be hard to process the changes that occur, not only within but the advances in the “civilised world” wifi, fingerprint recognition, smart phones, faster connections and no, I am not on snapchat. A lot can change in four years. Life seemed a lot more simple out on the road ….. however, I am not missing the chicken soup.

Lotus-Root-Rice-Bean-and-Chicken-Feet-Soup

Red, my horse, I am reliably informed is doing well, I wake every morning thinking of him, sometimes still disorientated enough that I jump up shouting his name, looking for him. He is safe and healthy with the wonderful family I got to spend time with in Ecuador…

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Time to make a difference

Read about Marc’s journey through Central and South America, first by ATV then on horseback, volunteering for children’s charities in orphanages and schools, helping children with HIV and disabilities and coaching young athletes with Olympic dreams. Truly inspirational reading.

The Long Saunter South

Taxco, Mexico 2012. Jumping on an ATV I set my sights on Peru. Nearly four years later, 5000kms by ATV, 6000kms on horseback and after the most testing, rewarding and eye opening years of my life we are close to realising the goal. To make a difference.

I had previously  reached out to children’s charities in each of the eleven countries I planned to pass, hoping to volunteer with and raise funding for each of the chosen organisations. Never could I have hoped to connect with so many wonderful people or be fortunate enough to be given the opportunities handed to me. From seeing the courage of children born with HIV to having the honour of coaching disabled athletes aiming to compete for a place in the Paralympics.

Too much for one blog so we start at the beginning, Oaxaca, Mexico and my very first volunteer location.

376669_336214746466440_2067175528_n“Harold and Jodi Bauman…

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