Speaking up for self advocacy

Throughout my career I have supported others; the focus has been that of enabling others to gain the skills, confidence and strength to help themselves. It has been a process of standing in the background so that others can shine, can move their lives forward in their way and at their pace. One group I worked with prior to my semi-retirement, was a group of people with learning disabilities who supported themselves and others with learning disabilities to improve their lives and speak up about the things that matter to them. Funding, or lack thereof, is always a challenge. The group decided some years back that, to ensure they were an entirely independent group, they needed to seek ways to find their own funding, through grants and fundraising, rather than relying on local authorities to fund them. I admire their determination to stick to those values, which mean that they can work to their own agenda, not that of the local authorities. Financial downturn, cuts, increased competition for grants all threaten their existence, yet they are still ‘alive’ after more than 27 years. They have survived numerous barriers but still battle on because of their belief in what they do and the benefit to their own lives and that of others. What works so well is the way that the group understand how to cooperate and work as a team, and their shared understanding of what it is like to live with a learning disability. Every now and again they need to reach out for support; now is one of those times. Self advocacy does ‘what is says on the tin’; it is about groups of people, usually with learning disabilities, speaking up for and striving for their rights in society. Self Advocacy in Action takes pride in enabling people with learning disabilities to be more independent and to have more control in their lives. To continue to do this they need your help.
“We are asking people to donate towards our running and project costs to allow us to continue to support people with learning disabilities to have more choice and control in their lives. We support people through self advocacy sessions, independence training, activities and much more…”
Crowdfunder is a tool for fundraising for voluntary and community organisations. It helps community groups, charities and social enterprises to raise funds from the community around them. To find out more about how Self Advocacy in Action will use these funds or to donate, please visit Self Advocacy in Action’s profile on Crowdfunder.
http://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/self-advocacy-in-action or visit them @selfadvocacy87

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Serious thoughts on milk and food generally

I am following current media coverage regarding the amount that UK farmers are paid for a pint of milk (it’s probably a litre these days). It strikes me as a reflection on the embedded ways in which we (and I do include myself) think about food and drink, and its cost. How many times do you look for the so-called BOGOFFS? (Buy One Get One Free) How many times are you drawn to something because of its price rather than a specific desire for it, or its quality? It is now endemic to our culture that we want everything on the cheap, forgetting that food, drink and its production is not a cheap process? Are some of the people complaining about people coming to this country and ‘taking our jobs’ (and this does not include me) the very same people who want this cheap food and who are, therefore, accepting the possibility that those same people are doing the cheap labour that makes the cheap food wheel keep turning? It is not a single layered issue.

The supermarkets are driving down costs at a price; that price is quality, fair pay and massive amounts of food waste. Do we simply blame the supermarkets and continue to seek out those offers or do we do something about it, as individuals and communities. It is all too easy to believe that we can have no impact on the supermarket giants and conclude, “what’s the point?”

The Starfish Parable is a good story to remember when feeling like this. It tells of the man walking along the beach who observes a boy picking up starfish and returning them to the sea. His was a ‘what is the point?’ question; the boy would never save them all so, in effect, why bother. The boy’s response is humbling; as he threw a starfish far into the sea he replied that he had saved that one. Maybe something to remember as we do our food shopping? One person alone may not be able to change the way the supermarket giants operate but they can change their own habits and influence change in others.

The move toward localism as it has been dubbed is leading the way, encouraging us to shop local, support local farmers, growers and producers. It is certainly worth looking at and I am often surprised that shopping at my local farmer’s market does not, in fact, turn out to be a costly exercise. Added to that the significant increase in quality, actually meeting the producers and having that sense of community makes a real difference, as does finding that local shop that bakes and sells its own bread and rediscovering how bread should really taste.

Whatever we do from hereon in will affect not only our own futures but that of the next generation. It is worth remembering that, sometimes, offers really are just too good to be true.

Twitter as stream of consciousness …

One of the suggestions made to writers/ would be writers is to write every day using a ‘stream of consciousness’ approach; i.e. writing whatever comes into your head without editing it. (Bit like going to see Freud without the talking, the couch and the odd man standing behind it making weird and unlikely pronouncements) The aim, as I understand it, is to see what emerges from those unrestrained thoughts – you generally end up not using most of it for any kind of serious writing but, occasionally, a gem comes along and off you go.

As I posted a thought on Twitter today; “Wonder if it’s a bit posh eating Pom Bears from bowl? Was sharing & only 1 pack left. William Morris tablecloth too”, I IMG_1937wondered if Twitter was providing a means through which to effect a modern day stream of consciousness? I am not suggesting that a best selling novel is about to emerge from the poshness of Pom Bears from a bowl (possibly a great title though?) but never say never. What is interesting, as a writer, is that my dialogue, stream of consciousness or what you will, becomes interlinked with that of others as people add their thoughts to my own and we become streams of consciousness.

I shall continue with my experiment and see what emerges; could be a heap of senseless words without connection or relevance, or could be my next creative writing piece. Watch this space.

Why word share?

♥ My first memory of creative writing was as a young child at school. The teacher had asked us to write something based on being shrunk to 1″ tall in a classroom. My pencil case zip became train and track and I set off on an adventure, both in terms of the story I created and a lifetime love of creative writing.

Some people express themselves through music, or dance, through painting, photography or sport; I express myself through the written word. Whilst a musician may take themselves away with their instrument at times of joy or sadness, I take to pen and paper (or keyboard these days). Births, deaths, love, memories, difficult times, frustrations; I have expressed all through words. As I write, I often find clarity, a way through pain or the sparkle of joy dancing among my words; it is a way of finding my voice and being free.

That’s the background, a summary of how I have reached the point where, today, I am letting my words loose and word sharing. I have recently semi-retired (I’m 56 and won’t get my state pension for another 10 years and need to continue to earn a crust for a few years yet). Throughout my working life, working with both children and adults, I have sought to understand the voice of others, to enable them to ‘speak out’. As a worker I have supported individuals to claim their rights, take control, express themselves, believe in themselves. As a manager I have sought to understand, support, encourage, educate and develop the skills of others. I have written reports, policies, funding bids, newsletters. I have provided feedback on creative writing to many people, enabling them to strengthen and develop their writing. I have had my own writing published and won a few short story and poetry competitions. I have been part of a very small team that published a magazine and a few books. I have written articles, edited, created blurbs and forewords. I have loved doing all this; no regrets.

In all that, writing for me, for the sheer joy of linking and assembling and playing with words has been on the proverbial back burner. With some free time and a mind relieved of full time work’s juggling, I am lifting those words from the back burner. Where that will take me I don’t know but I want to browse through the many snatches of writing I have stored on bits of paper, in notebooks, on backs of envelopes, computer. I want to read them as my 56-year old semi-retired self. I want to sift and sort and climb back onto my pencil case zip train track, feeling that wonderful freedom that is imagination.

You may still be wondering, “why word share?” The world of publishing has changed drastically over the course of my lifetime. I remember pencils and exercise books, ink pens and lined paper, computers that consumed whole rooms, typewriters and ‘wordstar’ word processors. I am fascinated by and relish the endless possibilities IT can offer today; for me it feeds that imagination rather than frustrates it. Publishing is no longer the domain of the few but the liberation of the many who can reach out, or merely satisfy an inner wish to write, to express and feel the pleasure that is creative writing.

Here goes …