Challenge 13 & 22 – #Smile25at25

I think Challenge 22 is one of the most interesting challenges on my list (though let’s face it, they’re all pretty awesome) as it’s really making me think about doing more to help other people. I’m an incredibly lucky person and I think I’m often guilty of taking that for granted. I’m also a generally fairly optimistic person with a fairly sunny outlook on life, so inspired by The Free Help Guy, I want to spread that around. I’m starting my own #Smilebomb for Challenge 22 of #25at25.

It’s pretty simple. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be waltzing round London (as per) armed with a pack of yellow sticky notes and a marker pen, leaving nice little messages for people to enjoy. I’ll be taking photos of them, and tweeting them as I go, and hopefully people who find them will do the same. So keep your eyes peeled amigos, hopefully you’ll catch sight of a little yellow post it note to brighten up what’s been a pretty dreary January.

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Challenge 22 – #2 Refuge Gift List

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I consider myself a very lucky person. I come from a strong and close, albeit slightly odd family and I’m supported by some incredibly wonderful friends and one particularly awesome Boomerang (who I probably don’t big up enough). The people in my life give me strength when I need it, care for me when I need picking up and brushing off and treat me with nothing but respect and love. Not everyone is as lucky as I am.

Every day, Refuge supports 3000 women and children who have fled abusive relationships and families. Often these women leave in the middle of the night, not daring to collect their belongings, leaving with little to nothing. Domestic violence can affect anyone and it’s charities like Refuge that help women to find the strength to uproot their children, leave the life they know and start completely afresh

It is estimated that one in four women will experience domestic violence in their life time – that’s one quarter of women. That’s craziness. An awful statistic. But charities like Refuge, Women’s Aid and Eaves for Women (to name just a few) do their utmost to care for these women at what I can only imagine is a terrifying and emotional time – and that doesn’t stop at Christmas.

I was trawling the internet yesterday lunchtime when I came across Refuge’s Christmas Gift List Appeal, encouraging people across the country to make a small contribution to the work this charity do by buying a Christmas gift for a woman or a child escaping domestic violence.

The Refuge Gift List is a range of affordable treats for both women and children starting from as little as £5. For every purchase, Refuge receive a John Lewis gift voucher, which their team will use to purchase the same or similar gifts (they do this to protect the addresses of the women, avoiding a high number of deliveries turning up at safe houses).

If you’d like to buy a gift from the list it’s really easy:

  1. Go to www.johnlewisgiftlist.com
  2. Click on Buy a Gift and enter the gift list number 564013 (there’s no password needed)
  3. Browse through the gifts and purchase the gift (or gifts) of your choice.

I picked up a really nice handcare duo for £12 – not much but just a little something to help make what must be a difficult time of year a little bit easier for women I wish I could help in more ways. This really isn’t as big a gesture as I wish I could make but it’s something at least. I hope you’ll be inspired to get behind this amazing scheme, that I think really underpins what Christmas is all about.

I’ll leave you with a few words from Julie, a woman who was staying in a refuge last Christmas and benefited from this same scheme:

I want to thank you all for bringing me back to life. Your support, through the wonderful Christmas presents, beautiful food and messages made me smile again and feel hopeful for the future. With people like you in the world, I know my kids and I can start over. Thank you for all the wonderful presents and support. My children were so happy with what Santa brought them.”

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You can also support Refuge by signing up for Emerald Street this month too – they’re donating £1 for everyone who signs up in December. It’s also a cracking read at 11am too – so don’t miss out on the chance to get something lovely in your inbox and do something lovely for someone who needs it.

Challenge 22 – The Trussell Trust and Donating to Food Banks

In the early hours of this morning, the clocks went back. This, combined with the storm that’s forecast to hit the UK is yet another reminder that winter is well and truly on it’s way.

It is estimated that 13 million people in the UK live below the poverty line. From unemployment to unexpected bills, the reasons for people going hungry every day in the UK are incredibly varied, but there are people in crisis in every part of the country. The Trussell Trust are a charity who provide a minimum of three days food and support to those people through food banks that are located in boroughs and towns from London to Aberdeen and everywhere in between.

In 2012-13 food banks fed 346,992 people nationwide, of which 126,889 were children. That is an incredible statistic. But Food banks rely on the support of local people to supply in-date, non-perishable food including UHT milk, sugar, fruit juice and tinned tomatoes.

As part of #25at25, I’m going to donate to my local food bank in Wandsworth (part of challenge 22 – 10 acts of kindness), but this isn’t something I want to just do as a one off. I really think the work that organisations like the Trussell Trust do is incredibly important, especially in the winter months so this is something I’d like to do more of regularly, and it’s something I’d like to actively encourage others to do as well. It’s so easy to provide a few things that we take for granted that families in your local area will be incredibly grateful for – so check out the Trussell Trust and see if you can donate to your local food bank as well.

If you’d rather and you see me regularly (or even just once in a blue moon) I’m more than happy to collect any of the items on the shopping list off you and deliver them to my local. Whether we’re old friends, acquaintances or colleagues Feel free to present me with tinned goods when we meet next time. I promise it’s not weird, and I will reward you with my best smile or a very large hug.

I’m hoping to pop to Wandsworth Food Bank 9th November, but will hopefully be going again throughout the year.