RSS Feed

Tag Archives: oxfam

Landgrabs- where roots and rights count for nothing

Posted on

Ramona’s tiny Chucks pound the same streets my own small feet did. She squeals on the same squeaky swings. Chases the children of the squirrels I chased.  Somehow, despite living in  five different towns and two different continents in the 17 years since I left here, we are back at the place of my childhood and my daughter is growing up in my old neighbourhood.

It has always drawn on me, South London, always felt like the place I’d call home the most.  Despite having a nomadic and flighty upbringing, this is the land where my roots have dug the deepest.

My husband lived in the same house for most of his life. And they reckon most English people live within 5 miles of their birth place, which is baffling to me. And then there are communities who have lived and tilled the same land for generations and generations. Imagine their roots. Wily, strong and ancient.

I went to the breathtakingly beautiful country of Cambodia a few years ago with Oxfam, to hear the stories of people in communities they work with.  The people in the villages we visited were doing incredible, transformative stuff. Tapping into age-old farming techniques to protect themselves against a future littered with weather-related disasters and learning new ways to regenerate their land. Yet almost every single community were fighting a nightly battle with the tractors of corporations who would come in by stealth, move the fence posts, clear a space and claim it as their own. Every village had a team on nightwatch, patrolling the boundaries yet still they were all watching their land decrease in size knowing their chances of fighting it were slim. And they were the lucky ones- losing their land metre by metre instead of in one violent snatch.

Some of the heroic womenI met, transforming- and fighting for – their land

Even since I visited Cambodia three years ago an area half the size of Wales has been transferred from village farmers to corporations, more often than not in the form of “landgrabs” – villagers evicted without warning or compensation and with no recourse to action. It is heartwrenching imagining  some of the families I met, who were so stoically fighting a changing climate and invasive poverty now left with no land and no rights at all. Grandparents who were born there and who still worked the land, hand in hand with their grandchildren who were born there, forced off by men in hard hats and high vis jackets.

This battle for land is going on all over the world; roots and rights mean nothing in the face of The Paperwork. The almost bigger injustice is that the land once used for hunger-busting crops is often left derelict- to grow in value, or used for bio-fuels to feed the wealth of rich nations.

However, this injustice is preventable. In fact, already landgrabs campaigners have taken the New Forest Company to task on the eviction of 25,000 people in Uganda. Oxfam is harnessing it’s knowledge of the World Bank to call for a freeze on all dodgy land deals while the whole business gets sorted out.  This tiny video explains just how the “Power of We” could change things…

Can you spare two minutes to add your voice to the symphony of others, calling for justice?

I don’t know what it would be like for us to be chased out of our home, this grotty concrete paradise of Camberwell that I love. To be uprooted, even without generations of sweat poured into it, or a livelihood that depends on it. To be made homeless overnight, left with only the things we could carry.

I only know that I am on the side of the heroes who belong to their land, the ones who have built their lives around it and who use it to feed their families and provide for the future. And I want to join them to fight the big buisness villains who seek to evict them. And thankfully history tells us that together we have an excellent chance of winning this battle.

It is Blog Action Day 2012 and thousands of bloggers are writing along the topic of “The Power of We” – have a read and even join in.

Advertisements

A posh ceremony and bargain glamour

Posted on

It is not every night you tuck a loofah under your hair and get on the bus to a posh awards ceremony, eating dry Wheetos out of your handbag in case the three course dinner takes a while to arrive. I was excited and nervous in even measure- like the equilibrium people have when they carry a bag of supermarket shopping in each hand, and you ask if they need help. “Noooo! It’s fine-  I’m all balanced out.”

I was heading to the MAD blog awards ceremony. I was SO looking forward to meeting the tens of other bloggers I interact with almost daily on Twitter, but there was a tiny bit of anxiety about not knowing anyone in real life, and a big bit about whether I would be the kind of person they think I am! Such a strange thing.

Turns out, every single person I met there was in fact EASILY equal to their Internet presence. Lovely, funny, intelligent. The Real Life to Internet and back again vortex doesn’t really distort people very much at all.

I met a whole load of bloggers and Tweeters from scratch too- my whole table was full of people I’d never come across before and I can not tell you what fun we had. I genuinely laughed until I had tears streaming down my face and had to rest my forehead on the table.

I am afraid to tell you that I didn’t bring back any gongs in the two categories I was in, but rest assured they went to absolute GIANTS in those areas – Red Ted Art for Craft and Queen Frugal for Thrift. And getting to meet my rival crafty and thrifty nominees was just a total, magical joy.

I keep thinking about the chats I had with all the different souls dotted about the room and smiling.

I am going on a bit, I know. Sorry. It is just, people are great, aren’t they?  I’d link to them all but I am too lazy. (Obviously, not that great. HA TOTALLY JUST KIDDING.)

As if I am some kind of fashion blogger…  I feel you all were so diligent in your advice on what I should wear I need to update you on all that:

Despite pretty much every single one of you reckoning on The LoveBoat, I chose Princess Royal. (What, think this is some kind of democratic utopia?) I was fully prepared to do it, in order to make you all proud, and then I woke up with the MOTHER of shoulder pimples, putting that strapless number right out of the picture.

Also, I love fashion, I do; colours, fabrics, patterns, new clothes. But when I leave the house I want to also leave my thoughts about my outfit there too. I spend a bit of time getting my gear on, but then it is on and I am done with it. No tugging, tucking, straightening, smoothing, standing up tall, holding tummies in, for me. That it why I will never be a true fashionista.

Every single thing I own is second hand, and it fills me with total glee to surprise people with that. If they like my on-trend coloured trousers, and I can say they were £5 from the Hospice shop, that pretty much makes my day.

I wanted to hit the glamour stakes on Friday in order to be a walking advocate of  the pre-loved life and the Oxfam Fashion Team with their seriously chic Boutique in Notting Hill massively helped me do that. I couldn’t normally give two hoots about designers but wearing something that is ordinarily well dear did make me feel The Business  (I guess that is how the whole brand thing works, eh?)

Just so you lot wouldn’t think I was a total wuss for ditching the saucy frock I went BIG TIME on the locks. This, a huge amount of liquid eyeliner (Okay, actually I am too cheapskate for that, I just put a paintbrush in my mascara) and gluing glitter on my shoes added the razzmatazz the dress needed.

 

Is that bargain glamour and the BIGGEST BEEHIVE IN THE WORLD OR WHAT!!!

I started work on it at 3pm, thinking it would take several goes and hours to do, but I was so happy with it after 15 minutes – and some help from a loofah and a pair of tights- that I left it. Which meant I spent the afternoon peering down at Ramona from my lofty space instead of getting in the den with her, lest she touch it. It wasn’t the “Seen and not heard” philosophy that made parents of the Sixties so aloof with their kids- they just didn’t want them bashing in their boufs.

I can totally understand.

I needn’t have worried- Even even the wind turbine of the Northern Line didn’t make a single dent and it arrived in tact and the bits and pieces didn’t fall out once. HOORAY!

Linking up with all those other marv second hand lovers over at Lizzie’s place. 

Knock, knock, knocking on Number 10’s door

Posted on

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.

Streets filled with peace (not tanks, thanks)

Posted on

There have been a fair few surreal moments in my 5 years history as a campaigner with Oxfam.

I have taught Richard Branson how to do the running man.*

I have trundled around the streets of Tunbridge Wells dressed as a big cuddley polar bear.*

I have wheeled a GIANT Santa in front of the US embassy and sung carols.*

I have bantered with Esther Rantzen in front of an audience of hundreds.*

I have mimicked those New York builders sitting on the girder eating lunch- whilst pregnant nonetheless.*

And then today I ‘as bin gallivanting around the streets of London with a big fat genuine TANK. *

Come with me for a tick, back a couple of years, to another amazing and surreal experience with Oxfam. It involved spending time in rural Cambodia, seeing the work Oxfam does in poor villages out there, arriving home just days before my daughter Ramona was conceived.  (In fact, we joked for most of my pregnancy about how a little Cambodian baby might surprise us, bahahahaha, ooh, teehee.)

As a result of the Khmer Rouge and the Pol Pot years Cambodia had a huge share of weapons within its borders.  When the armed struggles began to fizzle out soldiers from all sides went back to their homes and took their guns with them. Some estimates suggest there were close to one million unregistered weapons in that small country. As you can imagine, the presence of guns in almost every home was having a dire effect on families, in much the same way the presence of guns has an effect in my own neighbourhood of Peckham.

Fortunately for Cambodia, back in 2003, some passionate peeps decided to tackle this injustice by launching the Control Arms campaign- fighting for a UN treaty on the arms trade.   Mobs  of people from across the world joined in with the One Million Faces campaign – I added my freckly grin, as did thousands of Cambodians- even those based out in local, rural villages joined this struggle for justice in the arms trade.

Such a global force couldn’t be overlooked and  just a few months after the  this creative petition was presented to the UN work began on a historic, legally-binding international Arms Trade Treaty. (Campaigning works, it really truly DOES!)

As we know these things take time but whilst in Cambodia I was gobsmacked to see that even just TALK of an Arms Treaty was making an impact. The momentum of the global campaign had fortified national efforts to stop the arms trade, developed the campaigning consciousness of Cambodians AND lead to the handing in and burning of thousands of weapons during Gun Destruction week.  (Campaigning WORKS! Yes! It blooming WORKS!)

Now, two years on from my visit to Cambodia we have entered the final stages of an Arms Trade Treaty, and I have a little tot. Once you have children, your hopes for a more peaceful and just world become just that bit more crisp. The chance for a strong Arms Treaty that could make the lives of other children untold times more peaceful is moving nearer.

Which brings us to today and our tank. We (some activists and some policy wonks) were delivering letters and reports (read it if you like that kinda thing) to 5 key embassies, countries that have a key role to play at one of the final negotiating conferences beginning on Monday in New York. On that day too, a  global petition is once again being handed over, asking them to ensure this Treaty is effective and strong. You have just FOUR days to add your voice.

I want to see a world free from mindless violence, communities restored from the damage of guns. I want to see the young people my husband works with as a youth worker in Peckham and the young people I met in those villages of Cambodia knowing the sense of tangible peace. I want to see kids playing in streets free from tanks. I want Ramona and her generation to  inherit a more reconciled world . An Arms Treaty is one step along the way.

As we know (I may have mentioned it once or twice already) campaigning WORKS – let’s make it happen this time.  

 

*We were promoting Oxfam as the primary charity partner for the London Marathon.

*We were enticing people along to see the fantastic film, the Age of Stupid.

*We were singing climate carols and asking them to stop blocking progress at the Copenhagen Climate Change summit.

*I was basically trying to mass invite the audience to come along to the Put People First rally and she saw straight through me.

*We were raising awareness of how risky childbirth is in poor countries.

*We are giving a final push to get people to sign up for a robust Arms Trade Treaty. Please join us!

Oh Farnham! Your forests and fashions!

Posted on

Oh my days, oh my days. Farnham, that old Hampshire town, has got it going ON! I had a luxurious day off last Monday and we whizzed on out there, an hour from Waterloo, lured by the charity shops and forests. We trained into Bentely where we hopped off the train, straight into woodlands and tramped along up to Alice Holts woods for some more forestry fun.

We love getting out of London, romping in the wilderness but we also (as you maaaay have gathered) love charity shopping. We hopped back on the train for one stop and headed down the road from the station into Farnham town. We were met by two wonderful Oxfam shops on our east, then headed west for the rest. I mean, like, there are a gazillion.

I knew the charity shop lollipop ladies were shining on me, clearing my path towards the treasure, as I found little item after little item that MATCHED THE OUTFIT I WAS WEARING! I was just adding to my outfit as I went along. So pleased am I with the accessories I am jolly well entering the whole shebang in to Style Eye’s Ethical Outfit comp. I love ethical fashion, I think our beautiful world depends on us finding harmless ways to please our aesthetics,  and I love how second hand shopping allows you to get creative with zero impact on the earth. If you love fashion you should keep in touch with Ceri’s fab blogging. 

Scarf: £2 Cancer Research Farnham (It is slightly too silky though- any good tricks to keep the slippery ones stuck on?)

Belt: £1 British Heart Foundation Farnham

Cardigan: Cancer Research Farnham (they have TWO cancer Research shops too- can you adam and eve it)

Shoes: £4 Oxfam Bromley

Blue Top: £3 Fara Pimlico – This was a size 14 but I just sewed the seams in by a couple of cm’s and it worked a treat. I feel now that the whole range of charity shop goodness, big and small,  is open to my sewing frenzy clutches.

Bird Earrings: 50p from Cruisaid Pimlico

Retro Skirt: £1 jumble sale.  This was a lot longer but I savagely hacked off the bottom, knowing I’d get more wear out of a shorter one

This cardi is a lovely vintage St Michaels number. A St Michaels label adds a certain retro calibre compared to M & S, don’t you think? I do love this black cardi, but it is 100% Nylon. What with the polyester skirt I couldn’t touch anyone all day without giving them an electric shock.

I also picked up these beautiful retro jars from Oxfam which just about made my day. I love the typeface and the fact they are Made in England, like St Michaels I tend to see  Made in England stuff as a certain vintage. Tim’ll be like “Lucy, they’re just ugly nineties pots” and I’ll be like “Uhhh, don’t think soooo- Made in England, see.”

(If anyone knows anything about England’s historical and present making industries and would like to clear this up for us, please do. ) (If I’m right, of course.)

As ever on a Monday I’m also linking up to the totes marv Liz and her Magpies! You must go and swoon at all their secondhand swag.

Charity Shopping in London: three spots for making a day of it

Posted on

If you are stuck for something to do this weekend and love a good thrift check out my three top spots for making a day of your charity shopping. These aren’t necessarily the VERY BEST shops (another post in the pipeline) but these are my favourite because they are either part of a route of charity shops or close by to some other fantastic activities. I have gone the extra mile for you, beloved reader, and have created some google maps. No one likes traipsing around with only the rumour of a vintage palace spurring you on.

Pimilico Charity Shop Circuit
Pimlico – such an easy area to get to, just a five minute walk south of Victoria. I know this circuit like the back of my hand- I get to do the rounds at least once a week on a lunch break. What a treat!

There are EIGHT, yes, EIGHT, shops in this tiny circuit. Fara really rule the roost here with Fara Retromania (with a fun £5 rail outside), a normal shop and a Fara Kids. The Oxfam shop is excellent for shoes, and smart clothing. The Sue Ryder is a fairly cheap one, the Trinity Hospice is great for fabric ends and wool, the Fara Kids has brilliant -if pricey- stylish kids clothes (but jawdropping sales.) I have bought lots of lovely items from the normal Fara and a few crazy bits and bobs from Retromania. I have worked in this patch for FIVE YEARS and it was only last summer that I found out about a sneaky little shop hiding one block back, where I have since found some beautiful jewelry. I felt so ripped off, imagining five years worth of bargains I had missed out on!
Here is the public Google Map of the Pimlico circuit for you.
It is easy to make a day of it by having a delicious lunch at the market by Fara Kids and then a wander a bit further down towards the Thames to Tate Britain, where they have a spectacular crafty kids corner.

Blackheath
There are only two shops here but I count this as one of my favourite areas as thrifting fits so easily into a wonderful fun day. There is an Oxfam here and a Cancer Research, both of which can be a tiny bit more expensive (average £7 trousers/ £4 top) but the quality tends to be quite high. We will often train into Blackheath, hop the shops, grab a delicious lunch at one of the delis, then wander over the Heath via the icecream van, into the wonders of Greenwhich park and down to the antique markets. This is a whole Saturday with something for every member of the family. I have highlighted the shops on the map here.

Central London
This is not a route for the faint of heart but for the stoic bargain hunter wearing hiking boots. But I guarantee you will find some swag! Begin at Goodge Street, there is a wonderful Oxfam where I never fail to buy something (often brand new stuff), a Sue Ryder and a Notting Hill (both of which are good for a browse but can be quite dear- average £8 trousers, £5-6 top). There is also a high end vintage shop on the other side of the road.

Head south west down to Oxford Circus stopping at the Salvation Army on Princes Street. It is worth the diversion this is quite a massive shop and they often have brand new designer items, alongside average shoddy (but cheap!) gear. They often have very glamorous shoes and boutique dresses. Whatever you do though, DON’T USE THE CHANGING ROOM WITHOUT ASKING. You will be embarrassed if they catch you (!!!)

If you still have wind in your sails, grab some lunch and keep heading west, but back North a little to Marylebone. This is a little area jampacked with charity shops. They are filled with designer goods and the prices do reflect this but if you are looking for some good quality shizzle, Marlybone has your name on it. It is also full of lovely little independent shops and is right on the edge of glorious Regent’s Park where you can catch some music in the bandstand, or collapse under a tree with your bags of bargains!

Check out the route here and PLEASE add more if I have missed any gems!

What do you reckon- have you visited these patches? Have you got a favourite circuit you do or a place you could wile away a whole day?

PS: If you like my thrifty ways, would you be able to nominate me in the THRIFTY category of the MAD blog awards? Love you forevs 🙂

International Women’s Day – Get Happy. Get Mad.

Posted on

It is International Day of the Woman! I love the eclecticness of this day. That it is a time to celebrate the inventors, the Nobel Prize winners, the mothers, the smiling bus drivers, the stereotype challenging female construction workers. But also that it is a chance to raise awareness of the ongoing plight of women – the women dying in childbirth, the women locked out of decisions,  the hungry ones (80% of the 1 billion hungry people are female), the everyday oppression that my daughter and I face sitting on a bus driving past objectified female bodies on billboards. It is simultaneously a day to get party popper happy and a day to get letter writingly furious.

(What? No one else writes letters when you are angry?! When something crap happens to me my most fire breathing response is: THEY ARE GETTING A LETTER!!!!!!! )

Recently a colleague asked me if things have changed for me since motherhood’s dawn- have my priorities shifted? I thought for a while before I answered. Might I have become a bit more locally focused? A bit more mum, a bit less global citizen? I answered with total honesty when I replied no. Things haven’t shifted. If anything being a mother adds a fury filter, a ragey lens through which I see things – how dare people make decisions that will drive more conflict into Ramona’s globe? How dare those advertisers create even more limitations on her future?  I wrote recently that being a mother IS enough. I believe that. Being a mother has the potential to be massively world changing. But motherhood definitely makes me more determined to nurture beauty and peace and equality and freedom. For Ramona’s sake and the sake of millions of other children around the world. 

I hope you find chance this International Women’s Day to be both delighted and cross. Personally I am going to use my anger with Equals because they have a HOST of suggestions for taking action and use my happiness on a smoothie date with another mum and child. Feel free to share what you are up to, would love to hear about it. If you have blogged about International Women’s day PLEASE link up – and take a chance to read and comment on the other posts.

Happy International Women’s Day!