My Story of Emotional Abuse: Raising Awareness

An astonishing amount of women suffer in silence through emotional and domestic abuse and while this is addressed – definitely not as effectively as it could be – a lot of the people under the radar, seem to be teenagers. Teenage relationships, as we all know, can be particularly intense, with hormones flying around and first sexual encounters, but this does not mean that it’s acceptable for boys, older boys particularly, to be able to (in this case, copy his father) be abusive and get away scot-free. If this behaviour is acceptable from a teenage boy, then that teenage boy will grow into a man and the chances are, he will think he can carry on in exactly the same way, sometimes with devastating or fatal consequences. 

I have a group of five amazingly brilliant best friends and out of the six of us – including myself – three of us have suffered through emotional abuse during relationships in our teenage years. That in itself is absolutely shocking. 
My story began when I was only fourteen years old, with a boyfriend a few years older than me, but certainly not any wiser. It began with a bit of possessiveness and with him being very controlling. He would decide what I would wear (literally measuring my skirts and tops with a ruler or tape measure) then he stopped me from seeing my friends, particularly (God forbid) male friends. I had to save the phone numbers of my male friends in my phone under fake girl names and even that didn’t have him 100% convinced. 
He would essentially keep me prisoner in his bedroom over entire weekends and entire school holidays. (I know what you’re thinking – why didn’t my parents do anything? They did keep in contact of course and encourage me to come home as much as possible but to them I seemed happy and of course, what teenager would listen to their parents?) He would go out to see friends, go to the pub, go on driving lessons whilst I was sat in his bedroom staring at the same four walls and watching the same DVDs on repeat. 
I would constantly have it drummed into my head that he loved me and he was the only one who did. If I was to ever leave him, I would be alone forever because I was fat and ugly and why would any man ever want me? Luckily, I have always been pretty self confident, but this did get to me. I began to believe the things he was saying to me and formed a very unhealthy attachment to him. I didn’t want to go anywhere without him and I would do everything I possibly could to make him happy. The thought of losing him made me feel like my world would end. 
Unfortunately for me, this led to domestic abuse, hitting, throwing around the room and once I even ended up ‘falling’ down the stairs after a scuffle and an apparently ‘accidental’ shove. I was with this guy three years before I realised what an absolute idiot I had been listening to his crap. I walked away and haven’t looked back since. 
In hindsight, I look back and think, what the hell do you mean I was fat and ugly and no man would ever want me? I was certainly neither of those things and I’m sure I could cope if men didn’t ‘want’ me, after all, I was created as an individual, not just for the pleasure of Tom, Dick or Harry. Fortunately, I quickly recovered from this horrendous time in my life and bounced back with the same amount of confidence and twice as much determination. If the Spice Girls taught me anything as a child, it was Girl Power, right?! 
The danger with emotional abuse, aside from of course it leading to domestic violence, is the amount of women and girls who suffer in silence, often putting it down to a mutual disagreement or a ‘fight where he got the better of you.’ If you’re in a relationship like this, or know anyone who is, it’s vital that they receive the help and advice they need before it destroys their life or escalates. A relationship is supposed to be based on mutual love and respect and emotional, mental or physical abuse is certainly neither loving nor respectful. Women are not doormats for abusive, cowardly men! 
Advertisements

Why Has The International Media Allowed The Charlie Hebdo Attacks to Overshadow The Boko Haram Massacre?

The Boko Haram massacre which recently took place in Nigeria, leaving more than 2,000 people dead, has been almost ignored by the world’s media, overshadowed by the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris. The massacre has left towns in Borneo almost empty and went just as unaddressed by African leaders as it did European leaders and the global media. Does this tell us that the lives of European people are held in higher regard than those in Africa? Or is Europe just so narcissistic, that nothing could be as important as the dreadful attacks in our back yard?

3.7 million people joined the march of solidarity in France, yet social media and the media itself didn’t seem to bat an eyelid at the massacre that has been described by Amnesty International as the ‘deadliest massacre to date.’ The Boko Harem terrorists have been described as becoming a de-facto state, essentially controlling the entirety of Borneo. As much as Islam is a very present threat to Europe and the West, surely these hateful terrorists of equal if not far worse proportions gaining such power in Borneo is worthy of mass media coverage where possible?

The president of Nigeria, Goodluck Jonathan, spoke in acknowledgement and solidarity in regards to the Paris attacks yet didn’t even acknowledge the Boko Harem massacre. There may have been reasons behind this, undoubtedly due to security and perhaps his desperate attempts to win the upcoming February election, but any western leader would instantly be made to feel ashamed and embarrassed by the lack of acknowledgement that these people have been murdered in cold blood. The same terrorist organisation has also been linked to the killing of another 16 people after the initial massacre, in a suicide bombing. What has to happen before the media in the West start to pay more attention to stories of massacre and killings in Africa? Have the world’s media have let us down by not reporting this harrowing event, instead just printing the same stories on the Charlie Hebdo attack? Are African lives not just as newsworthy as those lost in France? Perhaps this should be a time for reflection and realisation for the media and everyone else in the world, for more than one reason.

Sleeping Rough For Charity, International Fame, Two Nights At The Museum and Wandering Around India.

I welcomed 2015 sat on my sofa with three of my best friends and a little ginger tot. It was the best decision I ever made – to stay at home for New Year’s Eve with Chinese food, champagne and too many sweets. This past year has been particularly eventful and thankfully, another positive year in a long line of positive years. It started in January, when I raised money for the homeless youths of Hull by sleeping rough at Hull Trinity Church alongside a few good friends. The feeling of raising money for the homeless was amazing. From a selfish perspective, it felt brilliant knowing that I could help out a few people who had ended up on the streets but then again, it didn’t feel so great when it came to sleeping outside all night in the rain with only a sleeping bag to keep me warm. It did however, help me to empathise as much as I could after spending only a single night sleeping rough and made me eternally grateful for everything I have. The year also brought two very special trips with Hull Children’s University to the Natural History Museum, where I slept over (on two occasions) underneath the dinosaur in the main hall. The experience was a – twice – in a lifetime experience for which I will be forever grateful to Hull Children’s University. This local charity is full of amazing people, including Rose, Natasha and the founder John Buttrick, but more importantly, they offer such fantastic experiences to the children of Hull, many of whom would not have been able to experience anything like this if it wasn’t for this brilliantly devoted charity. I also had the chance to go with a primary school to check out behind the scenes of the BBC’s local news studio ‘Look North,’ which the kids went crazy over! They’ll always be close to my heart and I look forward to spending more time with them and their lovely children in 2015. 2014 was another year of travel. June brought me a trip to Milan, where I met up with my lovely friend, Francesca, who I originally met in Sydney in 2011 and hadn’t seen since, until I arrived in Italy. We ate pasta, drank wine, mooched around the city and took an excessive amount of selfies. Then, myself and my friend Beth jumped on the train to Verona for the day where we visited Juliet’s house and Juliet’s balcony which was an absolute dream. I only wish I had been able to spend more time there. The city was beautiful. We went inside the Roman amphitheater and wandered down the pure white marble streets, browsing the high fashion shops. Unfortunately only window shopping. (This time!) Later in June, my beautiful niece turned two years old and so began her obsession with the film Frozen, meaning of course I ended up knowing the songs word for word. August, I turned twenty-three, my best friend’s little boy turned one and I went backpacking in India with someone who has a fascination with green tea and bunnies and who ended up being one of my closest friends. India was one of the most amazing places I’ve ever been in my life. I confess I wasn’t really too fussed about going before we booked it but before we went, I mustered enough excitement to make me put the negative news stories we were constantly hearing, to the back of my mind and focus on the positives. Delhi was amazing, as was the Taj Mahal and eating dinner whilst overlooking one of the wonders of the world was like a dream in hindsight. It was hot and we were sick. Very sick, but I wouldn’t change the experience for the world. A complete eye opener. October brought international fame. I read my name and saw my best friend’s legs in every newspaper and magazine I’ve ever heard of and plenty I had in fact never heard of. We were whisked down to London to go live on Channel 5 News and completed endless interviews via email, telephone and radio. November brought much more of the same and brought the offer of blogging for The Huffington Post. These two months were the proudest of my year and receiving messages from women whose lives were affected by eating disorders or just generally thanking me for spreading the word that every woman is as beautiful as they feel was breathtaking. This is one of the best messages I feel I could have put out into the world and for that I will be forever proud of myself and Georgia. 2015 will hopefully bring a graduation, charity events and many, many more things and to all of my friends and family, I wish you all health, wealth and happiness.

Re-open Dock House!

Tags

, , , , , , , , ,

https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/re-open-dock-house

If you look at what the government do to help the homeless, you might be excused for thinking that they really couldn’t care less. After following a link to the 38 Degrees website, I came across a petition with the aim of re-opening a hostel for the homeless in Hull – Dock House.

Almost a year ago, myself and hundreds of others participated in the Sleep Easy 2014 charity event, where we slept on the streets of Hull to raise money for homeless young people in the local area. We received an amazing amount of support from friends, family and members of the public. People donated money – which of course was the aim of the game – but also brought the participators Cadbury’s Creme Eggs and moral support to cheer us up in the blistering cold. Being homeless isn’t just about sleeping on the street in the cold, as we proved last year – anyone can do that. It’s more about why that person ended up on the streets in the first place. Mental health plays a huge role in why people end up living on the streets, along with domestic or sexual abuse, drug use and just generally having unhappy home lives. Starting with the basics however, are places such as Dock House in Hull where homeless people can have a hot shower and an sleep in a warm bed for the night. The basics can never be over-looked. Yes there are very important and very deep issues surrounding homelessness, but doesn’t everyone have the right to a roof over their heads and a warm place to sleep at night at least?

So last year, I was kept smiling through the torrential rain and freezing cold, by a friend – Deborah Stevenson. We camped alongside Hull Trinity Church – the one that’s due a re-vamp for the 2017 when we’re the City of Culture – sheltered from a lot of the rain just because of the size of the Church, however, the vicar of Hull Trinity Church, Rev. Matt Woodcock along with a few other brave souls, slept at the front of the church, with the rain and wind attacking their cardboard and sellotape shelters. It wasn’t a nice experience to say the least, but we didn’t have half of the problems that the majority of homeless people face. We could look forward to a nice hot bath to warm us up and a hot cup of tea to warm us from the inside, and a comfortable bed to sleep in when we got home.

The homeless matter just as much as those who are about to get onto the housing ladder, but of course, money is what really matters. Isn’t it time we looked at what money can cause and realise that the human cost – in every situation – should be far more important that the financial cost.

Photo from The Hull Daily Mail.

Please, everyone, take two minutes out of your day to sign this petition, whether you are from Hull of not. There’s hundreds of people out there who will appreciate it.

https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/re-open-dock-house 

An international whirlwind.

The readers of the Metro vote.

The readers of the Metro vote.

As you might know, the past few days have been overwhelming, manic, exciting and surreal for myself and Georgia. After tweeting a photo, expecting a definite retweet from our friend Alex Mills and probably nobody else, the world’s media descended upon us.

So, in my previous blogs, I’ve explained the issue in hand – the fact that we both believe the super-skinny mannequins used throughout Topshop stores are, for most girls, an unattainable body image. We’ve also said that as much as it would probably be for the best that these mannequins are removed after eating disorder charities claimed that these images may act as a trigger for those already predisposed to eating disorders; it would be almost as equally as effective to just ensure that a diverse range of body types are portrayed. (The rest can be found in my previous blogs if you’ve missed them.)

image

So after a retweet from Dan Wootton from The Sun newspaper and an article on BuzzFeed was posted, the rest of the media latched on to what is definitely a very important issue. The photo along with articles on the matter were printed in a dozen national newspapers, glossy magazines, then international magazines and newspapers, websites, Hollywood news – spread across America, many radio stations and local, regional and national TV shows.

The response we’ve had from this has been overwhelmingly positive with about 1% criticism. We appreciate that not everyone agrees with us, or even cares about this issue, however, we’re happy with a generally positive consensus.

image

So after being all over the radio, on the TV for Look North (local news) and ITV’s Calendar, ITV’s Loose Women and The Wright Stuff, we were whisked away to London to Channel 5’s studios. In the meantime, back to reality – my cat had been sick all over my lounge floor and we’d had about 4 hours sleep between us. Glamourous! We arrived in London, absolutely shattered and were taken to Channel 5 HQ where we met a lovely woman named Charlotte who welcomed us and thanked us for making the journey. We also got talking to the wonderful and inspiring girls from The Self Esteem Team, one of whom was on the news alongside us. The interview went brilliantly, our point was put across and we felt we answered the questions sufficiently. We then jumped on Hull Trains 8.30pm trip back to Hull. Homeward bound. (After a few glasses of fizz!)

Cosmopolitan!

Cosmopolitan!

We participated in another radio interview on the train home – as we did with our Capital FM radio interview on the way there – with radio 5Live. (It was pretty awkward having a live radio interview on a silent train with several people staring at us, far worse than being live on national TV.) We finally got home and chiselled off our studio makeup and collapsed into bed!

Made it onto E! News!

Made it onto E! News!

I want to thank everyone in the media for their attention to this issue and for being so sensitive in the way they have handled it, not only towards myself and Georgia, but for women world wide. Without a doubt, the best messages and emails I’ve had have been from girls and women who have suffered from eating disorders themselves either a long time ago or in recent times, thanking me for what I’ve done and for getting such attention for the issue in hand. Such brave women! Although I do have to say, I can’t take credit for such hard work as all I did was tweet a photo. I would also like to thank everyone on Twitter, Facebook and various other social media for their comforting, confidence boosting and down right sweet comments. You’ve all made it worth while.

image

After causing an international whirlwind with my best friend, it’s safe to say we’re both ready for a few early nights and a couple of bottles of wine! (For those in Hull – catch us on Viking FM local radio at 7am then again at 8am on Monday morning.)

The BuzzFeed article that kicked it all off.

The BuzzFeed article that kicked it all off.

Dear skinny girls…

A shout-out to all of the skinny girls who have seen my photo of my friend stood next to the Topshop mannequin. This blog is specifically directed at the girls who might be offended or who disagree with my post.

As I’ve said in every interview I’ve had, our intention was never to body-shame skinny girls. On the contrary, we encourage all shapes and sizes so long as you’re healthy and happy with the skin you’re in.

We appreciate that some of you think your legs are as skinny as the mannequin’s in the Topshop stores, but this does not mean we are shaming you.

The Twitter responses have generally been fantastic, with the general consensus being very positive. That being said, some of the tweets – posted by the wider public – have been in regards to skinny girls rather than the mannequin in question. Neither Georgia or myself wish to put down skinny girls in the slightest. In fact, we aren’t even saying that the mannequins should necessarily be removed, we are simply saying over and over again that we feel there is a need for a more diverse range of mannequins in Topshop.

Topshop have issued a response to the Twitter shit-storm, basically saying they’re not all that fussed and that a mannequin is a mannequin. While we completely understand and partly agree with this, the suggestion that a mannequin in the shape of a female body, modelling clothes meant for a female body is not at all representative of a female body is absurd. Yes, Topshop, your mannequins may not be SUPPOSED to directly represent a woman or girl but they bloody well do. I and thousands of other twitter users, including E! News, national newspapers such as The Independent, The Mirror and The Daily Mail, also local media such as ITV Calendar and BBC Radio Humberside and Look North – think it’s time to accept some sort of responsibility for the one single body-image you’re forcing upon influential young girls. Where’s the diversity?! All girls are beautiful!

Topshop’s idea of normal.

imageTwo days after walking into a Topshop store, my photo of an unhealthy looking mannequin has gone viral. We walked into the shop and were in absolute shock at what faced us. The mannequins were thinner than any human being I have seen in my life. I decided to take a photo of my best friend stood next to it – she’s a size 8/10 – to show the huge difference between her and the mannequin.

The photo has had over 6,000 re-tweets, the majority of them agreeing with our point about showing healthier sized images. We did however, receive some negative tweets, suggesting that what we were doing was essentially body-shaming skinny girls. This was definitely not our intention. We don’t have a bad word to say about skinny girls, we believe that all girls are beautiful and all should be comfortable in their own skin, whether they be a size 4 or a 24.

The mannequins in Topshop are all this size and misrepresent a normal body image for their demographic – young influential girls. We accept that there are naturally very thin girls in the world – which again, we aren’t saying is a negative thing – but considering the average dress size for the UK female is a size 16, this mannequin is clearly way off the mark.

Whilst we very much understand and appreciate that eating disorders are definitely not only caused by ‘a piece of plastic in a shop window,’ it’s also very clear that this is yet another portrayal of a very thin female body, which has been forced down the throats of society for decades. This clearly won’t help girls be comfortable with the skin they’re in.

Misrepresentations of the female body are all over the media, which means the media have a responsibility for the health and well-being of their readers/viewers etc. The point of my tweet was to hopefully get Topshop to show a more diverse range of body shapes and sizes with their mannequins. No, mannequins aren’t supposed to look EXACTLY like a human, but seeing how they are the first image of the female body you see as you walk into stores, they should portray different body sizes, not just very skinny.

We sincerely hope we haven’t caused offence with the photo and apologise to anyone who has been offended. We’re not offended by the mannequin and are very happy in our own skins, which I hope, along with this photo and the raising of awareness will encourage other girls to feel the same.

This one time, in Indyaaa.

It took very little persuasion from my friends for me to book a flight to India, so we drove to York and that’s exactly what we did. I came home, my cat hated me, he knew I was abandoning him for three weeks. After a series of unfortunate events – i.e Us leaving our VISA bookings until the absolute last minute then nicknaming the situation VisaGate due to the unwarranted stress it caused – everything was booked and we were ready to go!

We were given an idea on what to expect upon arriving in Delhi and I dismissed the ‘assault on your senses’ as metaphorical drivel – until we arrived. Sweat beads dripped from our faces, we would’ve faired better in the sauna at our local swimming pool. The humidity was unbearable and I genuinely thought I might die from drowning whilst breathing the air. The taxi ride from the airport to Paharganj where we were staying, was an eye opener. The lanes on the motorways meant nothing and the desperate poverty slapped you in the face. There was no getting away from the endless men, women, children and babies lining the motorways and roads into Delhi, sleeping on the dusty streets. It shocked me into silence and there wasn’t very much said during the journey.

Arriving in Paharganj was another shock. Obviously as an animal lover I was delighted to see the huge cows roaming the streets, chilling and just being generally sacred. The stray dogs on the other hand, didn’t make me too happy. They looked happy enough themselves and looked like they were being fed but it’s hard to get away from the western idea of ‘homeless dogs.’ I realised my outlook on this had to change if I wasn’t to spend every day of the trip feeding stray animals and crying because I can’t take them home.

The smell was the most shocking part. Deliciously disgusting. Beautiful, aromatic, dirty and vile. Huge piles of incense tried to cover the stink of the filth and the urinals. My sense of smell was definitely assaulted in Delhi. The emotional rollercoaster began on the first day; a dead puppy. Casually strolling through Connaught Place, trying to deal with the heat, we walked around the corner and there was a poor dog who had given birth to a large litter of puppies in the middle of a busy footpath. The runt had died. It was the shock more than anything but I became a hysterical blubbering mess. Of course everyone was staring at us anyway because we were white tourists but this was only an introduction to how much we’d be stared at.

Delhi was an amazing place. It’s true what people say about the love, hate relationship you might have with it. I unwittingly walked into a mosque with my shoes on, was shouted at by a Muslim man – him putting his hand on my head I later found out was a huge insult – he had obviously cursed me because I hit my head on a low gate way five minutes later. I hated Delhi that day. I hated it and wanted to leave. Nikki Graeme had nothing on me that day.

The rest of the time, I loved Delhi. I didn’t realise until we went back after the trip for our last days there, but I did love it. Janta Mantar, used for astrology, the bazaar’s, the elephant who casually strolled by and all of the other sights truly were amazing. This was our first taste of our new found celebrity status. People asking for photos with us – we were later told this was because they were Indian tourists perhaps from smaller villages and probably hadn’t seen white people before. Of course with my pasty English Rose skin and Aaron’s blonde locks, they went crazy. Agra was the next stop, monkeys, camels, babysitting (not out of choice) someone’s 10 month old child at Agra Fort, having another million photos taken with us and oh yeah, the Taj Mahal. The latter was definitely worth the 5am wake up call. Hayley read the story of the Maharaja who had it built for his wife who he adored, who had unfortunately passed away. I, of course, ever the cynic, looked past the romance and saw the fact that she was his ‘favourite wife,’ not his only wife. I don’t buy it, tradition or not. We marvelled at its magnificence. It seems cliché but it’s true! It genuinely was like nothing we had ever seen before.

A trip to one of the local pools was erm… eye opening. Hayley; ‘Awwww look, that little boy is waving at us.’ So we all wave back. He stood there for a good 15 minutes, making us feel quite uncomfortable, then of course he began to masturbate and whack his teenaged cock out to us. It wasn’t the ideal situation so we hid against the wall in the swimming pool and waited for him to leave. That must’ve been the reason behind the pool timetable which separated foreign tourists from Indian people, that I had been so appalled by earlier in the day.

Jaipur was the next stop. Jaipur meant illness and a few days of reading, sleeping and a few days of believing I was about to die. (This became the general feeling for myself and Hayley throughout the trip and afterwards, but, we ploughed on!) The palace of the winds was beautiful, beautiful architecture, beautiful art, beautiful sandstone, just the epitome of Indian-ness. There were many other sights in Jaipur – The Pink City and the capital of Rajasthan – but the most interesting part was the nephew of the hotel owner, who was a definite friend of Dorothy. We stayed up late every night on the balcony, listening to his elaborate stories about foreign tourists and the Indian Caste system. He turned out to be a weirdo but he gave us a good insight! We named his three cows after ourselves, of course.

Next stop, Pushkar. My absolute favourite place in India. Stunning, picturesque landscapes, glittering lakes with mountains alongside. If anywhere was the image of India that I was expecting, it was Pushkar. Quiet, peaceful, friendly and happy. The people were genuinely happy to see us, rather than pestering us into buying something from them, getting us in their rickshaws or trying to con us into some sort of ‘guided tour.’ We were welcomed and took a few days to relax and replenish. The hotel – The Milkman – had a few levels, one of which was a lovely little restaurant with floor Chinese-style seating, friendly staff and a chilled vibe. The music at times was questionable, we definitely felt like we were in a bad porno at times, but it was just so peaceful. We spent every evening down there, reading, taking, getting to know the staff and the family who ran the hostel, drinking lemon and ginger tea and smoking too many cigarettes. Our trip to another swimming pool caused a bit of a stir among the men stood on the hotel balcony. Well… I wouldn’t be much of a feminist if I hadn’t taken the opportunity to sunbathe topless. Screw the patriarchy! The down side to Pushkar was undoubtedly the animal welfare. A man received a torrent of abuse after stacking his donkey (definitely not a euphemism) with so many bricks the poor thing was shaking under the pressure. I made sure he understood my point and swore at him enthusiastically, telling him his Gods would undoubtedly send him to hell for abusing the poor little thing. I could’ve probably been shot, or stabbed, or both. I am woman, hear me roar!

The next place was Udaipur. The rooftop restaurant was unbelievable, fantastic views along the lakeside, including a view of the City Palace. Again, however, illness struck one of us, making our escapades limited. Leaving Udaipur was particularly eventful. A twelve hour sleeper train. It’s hard to describe what it looked like, but here’s an attempt. Our section of the coach was around a quarter of the size of a train coach on say, an East Coast Trains journey. There were two (approx 3 seater) benches facing each other and another long ways at the end, with the aisle inbetween. When it was time to sleep, we realised – to my dismay – that the backrest of the bench pulled up to be a second bed, on both sides and there were third beds on both sides even higher still. The top and middle beds were held up by chains and you had to wriggle like a snake to get in, whilst balancing on a partly built metal ladder attached to the end. The space between the beds was so little that you couldn’t sit up and the aisle inbetween the rows of beds was less than arm length. It was pretty cramped to say the least. I nearly fell out of the bed a good few times as the train stopped at different stations. It was not much of a laugh. We were fairly lucky to have non-staring, non-Indian people in our ‘compartment.’ An Israeli couple we conversed with all night were particularly informative about the Israel/Palestine war and gave us a whole new – personal – perspective on the crisis. Sounds boring, yes, but we were all pretty enthusiastic about politics.

By the time we arrived back in Delhi, I hadn’t slept at all and I was ready to drop dead. Feeling filthy, sleepy and exhausted, we headed back to the hostel in which we started. Good old Parhaganj – which I now appreciated massively as a pretty authentic Indian part of Delhi. The rest consisted of shopping for gifts and trinkets, sleeping, then boarding two flights with a German Under 18s football team of purely Aryan descent and eating rubbish European food in Munich airport. They did have a smoking lounge though so I could forgive the bad food. Despite ending up in hospital and being told I might have had malaria, I think I’ll definitely be going back at some point.

Home sweet home!

My experience of sleeping rough; Sleep Easy 2014

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

I could see my warm breath, puffs of steam as I lay wondering what it would be like to be in this situation without knowing I had the protection of the Street Angels, the Church, the Sleep Easy staff and the amazingly cool vicar. Pretty scary is my guess. But this is the reality night after night for homeless people right across the country.

I signed up for Sleep Easy 2014 after I heard about it through friends. Seeing the homeless always gets to me, it’s something I think about when I’m at home with my heating on; how the homeless guy I know from Hull’s old town, who I befriended after working for Fuel doing promotions – was doing, and hoping his sweet little dog was well looked after too. After signing up, I realised that a lot of people I knew were already signed up and had taken part in previous years. (Which pleased me massively to know I had friends who were more than passionate about an issue I felt strongly about.) Reading through Jerome Whittingham’s tweets and posts about the possible causes of homelessness, addressing mental health, drugs and abuse, without a doubt made me think harder and hopefully raise awareness amongst his followers – nice work Jerome! Then following the hash tag #Sleepy14 made me realise just how many people care about homelessness, particularly within their own area.

After a major amount of fundraising, a few million tweets, Facebook updates, begging for sponsors and a few newspaper appearances, the night of sleep 14 arrived. Friday 31st January.

The organisers couldn’t have picked a more beautiful venue for the night, Holy Trinity Church, which, until that night, I had never taken the time to fully appreciate and of course, their lovely, very modern minded vicar, Rev. Matt Woodcock – who was the most hardcore of the lot, sleeping outside with only a sleeping bag and tarpaulin to keep him warm, rather than a quickly assembled cardboard fortress (which a lot of effort went into from the guys who built them!) Myself and Deborah Stevenson,a friend who helped me keep smiling all night, took full advantage of the invitation to climb up to the pulpit. That was definitely a Kodak moment! We also took a few sneaky photos of Debs posing in the nativity scene.

The weather was terrible, windy and rainy and we were all nithered. The brave souls at the front of the Church, Anthony Houfe and John Meehan, amongst others, bore the brunt of the wind. We set up at the side gate of the Church, with a few members of the youth group to keep us company and tucked ourselves into our sleeping bags. (By this point I was hugely regretting my decision of giving up on mine and Mark Bateman’s cardboard pyramid masterpiece, which refused to stand on its own; not that cardboard really made much of a difference.) We shivered, used up all our tissues for our runny noses, and took solace in the Cadbury’s Creme eggs that were delivered by some kind soul. I struggled to get close to sleeping so myself and Councillor Alan Clarke took up our handmade Sleep Easy collection bucket and headed down the street in search of spare change from the generous, somewhat intoxicated by this time, public. This proved not so fruitful as the town seemed empty, but it was worth the effort if only for the philosophical conversations we had along the way. (Alan dropping in not so sly bits of Labour propaganda here and there!) We took a couple of trips, with the odd cup of tea inbetween, kindly provided by Holy Trinity.

My personal highlight of the night was a good friend, Katy Archer, stomping through the Church in her high heels, shouting my name, cradling her vodka and coke, telling me how she had come to sponsor me and she hopes we’re all okay. This didn’t receive a good reception from everyone, as the vicar had profusely stated it was to be a dry house, however, it made me giggle and we went her packing.

After laying, shivering in the freezing cold for what seemed like an eternity, with the sharp wind blowing on my face, musing on just how lucky I was to have such wonderful friends, family and a lovely home, the Church bells struck 4am. All fell silent and I realised Debs had stopped snoring and was shivering instead. So off we went into the warm room with the heater for the last hour or so with a warm cup of tea and my double sleeping bag. Spooning went down a treat but however warm our bodies, we were still chilled to the bone. The experience of Sleep Easy was one that will stay with me forever, not only because of the generosity and support from everyone who sponsored us all, looked after us and made us feel proud to take part in the event, but the experience alone. The need behind the event; the homeless we were there to help. If I had helped just one homeless person find stability, then I couldn’t be happier – and the coughs and sneezes were definitely worth it.

The aim was to raise money for the homeless youth of Hull and to raise awareness, Sleep Easy succeeded in raising awareness in at least one person, myself.

‘Tis the season of good will.

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

With it being Christmas, people seem to be more aware of the less fortunate, taking part in charity events and giving coffee to the homeless. This is all well and good, however, charity should be recognised all year round.

I’m definitely not preaching, because I’m sure we could all do more for those less fortunate, but this is just a blog about the charities I have chosen to help in the past and why I chose them.

‘Tis the season of good will.

1) Marie Curie Cancer Care;

Marie Curie have a huge, organised charity event in the Spring, the daffodil appeal. Simply buy a daffodil and wear it with pride, knowing that your money is going to a good cause, helping someone receive the care they need, either at the end of their life or helping them to cope with cancer. I chose to back this charity after my nanny was diagnosed with breast cancer last year. I couldn’t bear the thought of her not being surrounded by the people who love her at a time like that, which made me think of all those less fortunate, who don’t have close family to care for them. This is part of Marie Curie’s work. Alternatively, you can volunteer an hour, or a couple of hours of your time, to sell the daffodils in a local supermarket or at a fundraising event. It’s a bit embarrassing for about five minutes, but you get over it! (I’m proud to say I raised £200 in 2 hours this year! Thank you to all who donated!)

2) Small Pet and Cat Care;

This is a very small, local charity in Hull. A wonderful couple take in abandoned cats when they don’t have a warm home to go to. The cats stay in their own home and they rely upon generous volunteers and donations to feed the cats and keep them safe and warm. You can make online donations to the charity either in cash or by buying something from their wish list. (Food, treats, beds and litter, etc.) Another way you can help, is by fostering. This is such a rewarding thing to do, cuddles with beautiful cats and the knowledge that you’re not only helping out the cats, by giving them a nice warm foster home until they find their forever home, but the knowledge that you’re helping two very loving people to take help more cats in need. I was introduced to this charity by a friend, Kate Richardson, whilst looking for a cat of my own, this year. I added the group on Facebook and watched the lovely cats slowly but surely find new homes. At the moment, I’m looking after Julian and Lucian, two of six cats who lived together, after their elderly owner passed away in the spring. Two big, beautiful ginger cats, so loving and cuddly! If you can offer your home to this charity, it’s a wonderful thing to do.

3) The Rucksack Project;

Again, another local event. Packing up a rucksack with essential, warm items of clothing and canned food, books etc. The rucksacks are dropped off at The Church on the Way, on the corner of Duesbury Street, Princes Avenue, Hull. The rucksacks are collected, then distributed amongst the homeless people of Hull. I chose to join this event, as it’s only once a year, so why not? Being homeless must be one of the worst things imaginable and is often combined with mental health issues, drug use or running away from abuse at home, but being homeless at Christmas would be even more unimaginable. Christmas is about family and friends, and showing people how much they mean to you by buying thoughtful gifts and spending time together. But the homeless don’t have any of those things, which is why I feel the need to help as much as I can. Homelessness is much deeper than ‘donating a rucksack’ or buying someone a coffee and in my opinion, needs to be dealt with better by the government, however, I am but one person. I don’t own a house to offer a room, I don’t have money to help someone get back on their feet, but I can afford to join this event and hopefully put a smile on someone’s face for a minute. (This event is tonight – 21st December!)

4) Sleep Easy;

The sleep easy project is about raising awareness about homelessness. On 31st January, every year, people get sponsored to sleep rough on the streets, from 6pm to 6am in hope of raising money and awareness and gaining first hand experience. I know a few people who have taken part in this event in previous years, who say they gained a lot more compassion for the homeless, which can only be a positive when looking at some of the stereotypes homeless people come up against. I will be taking part in this event in 2014, January 31st, with friends joining too; Sam Whitaker, Jerome Whittingham, Claire Wigglesworth and Katy Archer.

Charity has always been important to me (especially animals!) and I think we all ought to do more to help, when we can. The New Year should be a time of reflection and I know that this year I’ll be making a resolution to be involved with charities a bit more, rather than saying something absolutely ridiculous like, I’ll join the gym or stop drinking wine, because let’s face it, that’s just a bit too far.

I hope you all have a Merry Christmas and a fantastic New Year! Xxx