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On world hunger, two year olds and rice crispie cakes…

As I stirred from a bizarre dream this morning, reluctant to wake, especially with all of us snuggled so cosily under the duvet, I groaned; “Monday already? Mummy has to go to work…” Ramona replied, “No, Mummy, no work.” I realised with a jolt that I was bringing up a work-shy communist.* Just kidding, but I did have an insta-worry that I am in danger of devaluing my work, seeing it as something I just do to bring home the (soy-based) bacon, and not because I am passionate about the role of campaigning in bringing about a fairer world.

I tried to recover my position. “Well, it is sad that I have to leave you, but mummy gets to go to work in order to help people who are hungry…”  I realised I was addressing quite a big issue that I hadn’t really addressed with my just-two year old before.  And I was being quite colonial in my description.

Ramona was  chewing a chocolate rice crispie cake, getting it all in the bed (gah, don’t judge me, it was her birthday party yesterday and Tim gave her some leftovers for breakfast. Judge him.) I went on, “You see, some people don’t have rice crispie cakes. And mummy, er, tries to make sure everyone can have a rice crispie cake….”

Ramona is too young, but I do want this to be part of our life’s rhetoric. That life sometimes isn’t fair for everyone, but that we can all play a part in making it better.

We can do it through our jobs, by nurturing our children’s empathy and efficacy, we can do it through our hobbies and spare time.

Some of my favourite people, the Craftivist Collective, have launched #Imapiece – crafting jigsaw bits with messages on in collaboration with Save the Children-  to challenge the horrendous truth that every single hour children are dying from hunger. Their central message is that we are all a part of the big picture, we can all join a movement, to craft a more beautiful future together.

I stitched my first piece of jigsaw in a spare hour last weekend… I went for “Prepare a feast!” – I was feeling hopeful, visionary, and imagined a massive banquet table, bending under the weight of nutritious food, enough for every single belly to be full.

 

I would love Ramona to understand this. For my hope, rather than any festering cynicism, to seep into her life and the choices she makes and the very way she see the world. I would like to give her Spectacles of Hope  and Action .

This morning she responded to my sleepy, confused explanation with a slobbery, chocolaty kiss. It is clearly too early in her life for this to all make sense to her. And it was certainly too early in the morning for me give it a bash sensibly, without the rubbish use of rice crispie cake analogies!

I need to really work on this… any tips, anyone?

PS Why not use your own crafty skills to dabble in the #imapiece movement? Read all about it here. 

*This is a bit of an in joke with myself, because when I was a young youth worker and writing alot about Fair Trade in youth publications, I got my first bit of hate mail, an aggressive letter from an ancient capitalist, suggesting I was imploring today’s generation to be “work shy communists”.  Mwhaha. That letter only steeled me in this fight against greed 🙂

Knock, knock, knocking on Number 10’s door

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It was a scorching morning, the sun bearing down on our squinting faces, as we posed for photo’s, fake knocking on the famous door of Number 10.

I was representing Oxfam, along with other activists from Concern, ONE, Action Aid, Unicef and Save the Children, delivering a huge box of names – over 600,0000 people calling for immediate action on hunger in the Sahel area. The Prime Minster is holding a summit with all the VIP’s in town on Sunday – we had to let him know that we were all watching.

We toyed with what expression to put on for the photographer – happy, because everyone looks nicer with a smile, and we were thrilled that such a HUGE number of people were behind this, or stern, because 18 million people are starving to death each year? We each opted for something different, to mix it up a little. Unfortunately I was the Furious Scowling One. With the unwashed hair and the stain on her tee shirt.

There were some press inside the gate, and we piqued their interest a bit. They bossed us about, moving us around to get a good shot. I hope they cover this, I hope they show telly watchers how many people are involved in this fairer-world movement.

After much dillydallying, we handed over the box. And posed, fake knocking a bit more.

I really had to Instagram the hell out of this to disguise my slovenly ways

Job done, and as we thought about heading home, someone mentioned we could stay a bit, watch the Prime Minister get in his car.

Er.

I wasn’t keen. I was anxious, I had had to get friends to look after my daughter, Ramona, and I was already running late for them. And, why would I want to watch a stranger I wasn’t a fan of get in their car? I have to admit, a tiny bit of me considered whether I might be able to shout something out, to get across to him how urgent this was and how passionate we were. Would I get the sack? Or gunned down? Could I call out but in a kind, friendly, I-don’t-have-a-bomb-or-custard-pie way? As I wondered, someone else approached.

They ushered us out from behind the barriers, and explained that the Prime Minister would like to say hello.

We gathered by the door and a second later his chummy, pleasant face appeared. Not wanting to let a moment slip, in my Very Best, Most Articulate and Confidently Loud voice announced, like some kind of Head Girl speech, “We trust you are going to do every thing you can to create a world free from hunger” He pledged to. “We are passionate about a just world and hundreds of thousands of others are too.” He understood and chatted a bit more. Mo Farah was coming! They were gonna set up a race track! But he seemed positive that his hunger summit would be worth it.

As he left, we celebrated, we hugged and high fived. Delivering a petition turned into something that bit more. Not because we were stunned by the (very) rich and famous but because we hoped that the Prime Minister picked up our energy, that our faces, a little gang of global citizens, might be in his mind as he heads up Sunday’s meeting of leaders. Maybe he captured our hope and maybe we helped fortify him, to make the decisions he must. We can only wait and see.

And now I can say I didn’t even wash my hair for the PM. THAT is how much I don’t care for his Toryism and THAT is how much of a hippy I am.

Be a Good Un, find out more and continue to take action on Sahel here.

Solidarity stitching and a jar full of hope

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 An inner-city meadow, a three piece band, jam sandwiches, a strawberry patch,  fifty stitchers, a barn of animals and my little toddler rampaging around.  It was a weird wee scene; both very local (I’m sorry, but East London is crazy. Everyone wears such silly clothes but I KNOW they are clothes that we will all be wearing in two years time. *gah* Those hipsters) and hugely global.

We were crafting up lids to fit on to jam jars, jars that would eventually be filled with a scrumptious tomato jam – based on a recipe from a Kenyan farmer, Christine.

In a way Christine is your typical farmer – but what makes her typical is pretty surprising. She is a woman, for starters (women are responsible for most of the world’s food production). And she also doesn’t have quite enough food to eat (small scale farmers like Christine make up 50% of the undernourished and women make up 80% of the world’s poorest.)

 But Christine’s jam oozes with bold, sticky hope.

A few years ago Christine was destitute, her husband had died of Aids and with no rights or access to power, Christine and her two kids were reliant on the kindness of strangers. Now, however, she chairs a small female cooperative group who grow tomatoes (one of those mega crops that is resilient to livelihood upheavaling drought) and they make this jam to sell at the market. The jam is BEYOND delectable and is a right old hit with the customers.

That is quite a story for one little jar to contain, don’t you reckon?

A jar of hope

I guess it was in an act of solidarity that we came together in one of London’s city farms to eat said jam on sandwiches, and to let our creative juices pour out over needle and thread.  We talked about hunger, the parts of our global food system that are utterly broken, the ways people can do something, who we were going to give our jar of jam to.

Stitching my first jam lid. I had to unpick it as it was properly ugly

We have masses of tomato plants in the garden and I can’t wait for the glut to hit *probably announced a bit to hopefully* –  I am going to fill my little jar up, pop my stitched up lid on and give it to my MP, Harriet Harman.  I will ask her to stand up on behalf of small-scale farmers like Christine, to fight the powerful tentacles of huge food corporations, and to promote local food systems in our urban village of Camberwell.

Freedom from hunger. (Bit rubbish eh, but you can understand how bad my first one was if I kept this one!)

Needless to say, Sunday was probably my ideal kind of day. Dreaming together of a future where everyone has enough to eat, crafting up world changey messages and letting Ramona frolick with the farm beasts (check out this little video of her encountering a rooster) combined all the things I love.

And I think it is here,  taking what you love and doing it for a more beautiful world, where change lies.  Hope doesn’t thrive when limited to certain behaviours,  and activists fizzle out after the one millionth petition signature. But if people can marry the thing that gives them energy – be it sewing, blogging, gardening, writing poetry, being a hipster-  with their passion for justice and fairness, change will come.

Solidarity Jam:

 Makes 6 jars

 Ingredients:

● 5 cups peeled and quartered tomatoes.

● Strips of the tomato skin

● 5 cups of sugar

● 1 lemon, sliced thinly and seeded

● 2 tablespoons butter

Method

Put tomatoes, sugar and sliced lemon in large, heavy pot and bring to slow boil over medium high heat, stirring occasionally. When foam rises to surface, add butter and continue stirring and simmering until preserves thicken, about 45 minutes. (To test, stick a fork in. When preserves cling to tines of fork, it should be thick enough to can). Pour preserves into sterilized jars, seal and process in hot water bath for 15 minutes.

This is your world. Shape it, or someone else will! 

Read about Oxfam’s GROW campaign and join the movement of people who share a vision of EVERYONE thriving and NOT A SOUL going hungry

It isn’t too late to join in. Perhaps you want to host your own lid stich-in and get solidarity jam making in autumn?

To get the full low-down on this beautiful project have a peep at Craftivist Collective founder (and the wonderful person I job share with here at Oxfam) Sarah, explain it in this AMAZE vid:

Have you found a way to do the thing you love for good?