National Essay Day

Did you know there was one? I didn’t, but what a great idea!

Scheduled for 28 February 2021, the idea came about to re-ignite a love of writing without the enforced subject matter or deadlines of education – which is likely the last time many of us wrote an essay!

Imagine the possibilities of writing about a subject you were passionate about in your own time, for your own enjoyment?

The positive impact of writing is well researched and published. From journals to record our moods, things we’re grateful for, progress journey etc. The medical profession has published papers showing the positive impact on immune systems. Where patients took to keeping a journal, their recovery times speeded up.

On this notable day, why not drop the automatic reach for the laptop/desktop instead reach for the pen and paper? Allow your mind to embrace something new which will energise us and possibly unlock a new hobby/career.

What would your essay be about?

Random Acts of Kindness Day – 17 February 2021

Who knew there was an international day for this? You may be thinking everyday should include a random act of kindness – and you’d be right.

But for some who run through life on automatic pilot they don’t always see the importance of kindness – to themselves or others.

Having an ‘International Day’ focuses a spotlight of awareness on this important area.

Being kind to someone not only makes them feel great, it makes us feel great too. Now, a random act of kindness can be even more impactful as it wasn’t expected!

What will your Random Act of Kindness today? Who will be recipient? How great will you feel?

Maybe a Random Act of Kindness can morph into an integral part of our thinking and behaviours every day? What a great world that could be where #KindnessRocks!

Fear the vaccine?

Covid 19 Vaccine Fears – understandable or illogical?

It’s perfectly natural to question whether to have the vaccine or not.  There is a lot of fake information circulating on Social Media, within our communities and by own family/friends.  Mainstream media news is full of doom. All of this can make it hard to think clearly and logically.  Whirling thoughts can keep us awake at night, physically and emotionally draining us preventing us from thinking clearly.

So what can we do ourselves?

1.      Ensure we listen only to qualified sources.

2.      Look at the national and global evidence.

3.      Discuss any fears with our GP.

4.      Make your decision based on what is right for us, not what those around us say.

Points to consider:

1.      Fear sells. In 1998 Dr Andrew Wakefield wrote a paper stating his research showed a connection between the then new MMR vaccine and the development of   Autism. This research was later discredited.  Dr Wakefield was struck off.  Today, 23 years later, some parents still fear his research -even though it’s been discredited and choose not to have their child vaccinated.  The consequences for some have been devastating. Dr Wakefield is now working in the USA, mixing with celebrities and supporting the anti-Covid vaccination groups there.

2.      Some believe the rumours of dubious ingredients in the vaccine. To find out what it’s really made of go to www.gov.uk and use the search box to find the ingredient list for each vaccine being used in the UK for Covid19.

3.      Any adverse effects to the vaccines are reported by the public and can be viewed by everyone under MHRA’s Yellow Card site: https://yellowcard.mhra.gov.uk click on the Covid19 tab, scroll down you will see a link to a published report of side effects.  Reported side effects are the usual symptoms people get following all vaccines.

4.      If the Covid vaccines are so harmful, why is the world using them and the World Health Organisation (WHO) endorsing them to be used in the way the UK is? BMJ (British Medical Journal) has lots of reference information https://www.bmj.com/content/372/bmj.n338 WHO website gives a global view www.who.int

Above all, take a breath.  Think clearly. Make the right decision for you

International Day of Women & Girls in Science 2021

11 February marks the above. UNESCO launched this annual event to raise awareness of the disproportionately low percentage of females in STEM careers globally.

ICT – 3%

Natural Science, Maths & Statistics – 5%

Engineering, Manufacturing & Construction – 8%

A teacher’s role is, in my view, not to teach but to inspire and ignite the fuse of curiosity. This will plant the seed of curiosity and hunger to learn. Wouldn’t it?

I appreciate teachers have a lot of pressures on them dealing with administration, social issues, Government restrictions and so on.

How many tv shows, YouTube channels, Instagram accounts can you name featuring ‘celebrities’ who have got rich and famous for doing exactly what? Now compare that with how many accounts feature people inspiring others with STEM subjects like Maggie Aderin-Pocock – British scientist and space guru? Probably, like me, you can’t name that many. Why don’t we celebrate and publicise people like Maggie more?

If people aren’t inspired in school, social media, tv/films to explore the possibilities of STEM – how will we get more innovative minds to address future problems? We’ve seen how integral research and science has been in the fight against the global pandemic. Are we naive enough to think there will never be another global catastrophe?

A report by the Geena Davis Institute in 2015 found the just 12% of identifiable STEM roles portrayed in tv/film were played by women.

Children are inspired by what they see. Is now the right time to get the balance more level away from ‘Celebrity’?

Let’s make 11 February count and talk to the young girls in our lives about the possibilities of STEM, looking at the journeys of people like Maggie Aderin-Pocock and others who make a massive difference in lives which often goes unnoticed/celebrated.

Misinformation/Fake News

Is there a difference between fake news and misinformation?

The damage both do can be devastating as we see in the press coverage this morning BAME take-up of the #Covid19 vaccine has been so poor the hub in East London has reduced it’s opening hours.

Without giving clear, factual information, paths are left open to sow the seeds of doubt and confusion to such an extent people no longer believe the facts when they are finally presented.

Instead of listening to factual scientific research and evidence, people listen to voices in their communities saying the vaccine contains pork or foetal derivatives for example. Who questions these thoughts?

Professor Geoff Palmer from Life Sciences at Heriot-Wyatt University shared on Sky News this morning why he felt this situation arose. Of Jamaican descent himself, Professor Palmer explained as a child he had queued for hours for polio etc vaccines. With his professional background he knows the power the Covid-19 vaccine will have in unlocking freedoms.

He shared a couple of views on why the situation leading to the low uptake of BAME resulting in the East London hub reducing it’s opening hours might have occurred:

  1. Clear information was not given at the start by experts from all ethnic diversity groups
  2. Misinformation was allowed to drown out facts – initially it was felt BAME had a higher tendency to contract Coronavirus developing into Covid-19. Then it was proved this wasn’t the case but poverty and those working in low paid, front line roles.

So how do we rectify this and get more BAME people in East London and beyond to feel comfortable and accept the vaccine? Apart from engaging community leaders to share the facts, Professor Palmer had an interesting thought. The only reason he said he and his family and friends had accepted the vaccine as a group of people over 70 was not for themselves but to protect others becoming ill and possibly dying.

People fundamentally want to do the right thing. Maybe thinking of ways to protect our families and friends at the same time getting our freedoms back is to accept the vaccine.

Now is not the time to discredit the doomsayers or the fake news peddlars. Now is the time to look at the evidence and make an informed decisions to protect ourselves, our communities our lives.

Maybe start a conversation with those in your family who haven’t accepted the vaccine yet and make sure they have all the facts. Choosing whether to have the vaccine or not is personal choice of course. But what is the alternative if we all refuse the vaccine – continuing lockdowns, crumbling economy, etc.

L’enterprise des Possibles

Watching French24 tv, I was heartened by the amazing work French billionaire Alain Merieux has achieved. He set-up L’enterprise des Possibles or Company of Possibilities just two years ago.

In the interview he explained why he chose to set-up this initiative up at the age of 80. Looking back to his childhood – which many of us seem to do as we get older, he noticed there was no homeless when he was a child. People shared what they had and took care of each other. Over recent years, he noticed that caring and sharing has been lost and homelessness is everywhere. The same could be said of countries around the world.

Alain’s idea was to join businesses with homeless charities. Companies and their employees could donate their time, annual leave or volunteer for the charities to make a real long-term difference.

Over the two years L’enterprise des Possibles has been operating, 60 companies have signed up raising over €1.1m and housing 550 people in Leon alone. One of these was a Congalese asylum seeker and her two young children who had been sleeping in fear wherever they could find space in the three years they had been in France. Now she proudly showed the news team around her chalet provided by L’enterprise des Possibles and spoke of her feeling of safety now. One of seven chalets she and her children now had a real support network in which to flourish and rebuild their lives.

The calmness on her face and positivity for the future was inspiring. The woman and her family had literally nothing. Now they have peace, security and a future – how rich is that?

Just as inspiring is Alain. Most 80+ people would be looking inwards, not what they could do for others. In the week that Captain Sir Tom Moore sadly died we are reminded of the amazing difference someone can do, no matter their age or ability, to make a difference and inspire others on what is truly the richness of life.

HIV Testing Week

I never realised there was such a thing as HIV Testing Week until watching Sky News and an amazing interview with Ian Green of Terrence Higgins Trust and George a student – diagnosed in 2018.

What surprised me was the dimming of the spotlight on HIV/AIDS since it’s devastating emergence on the world’s stage in the early 80s. Ian was around at that time and said the information commercials were fit for purpose for the time, however, over recent years there has been little information for the younger generations.

Knowing that HIV/AIDS is not curable but with massive developments in science, learning and treatments, people can live a long life with HIV/AIDS and no longer pass it on to partners. But what shocked me was the lack of sexual health education for our young people. George explained he knew nothing about HIV/AIDS until he got it.

Whilst both Ian and George were positive about living with HIV/AIDS the fact that we aren’t talking about sexual health in schools, colleges and universities is shocking to me in the 21st Century.

People can only make good judgements and choices if they are given all the information available. Why do we feel it’s ok to ignore HIV/AIDS again?

Time to re-think Mother’s Day gift?

Mother’s Day 2020 saw an estimated spend of £784 million on flowers averaging £22 per bunch. A staggering amount of money.

I know I haven’t considered the impact of giving flowers. It’s just been an automatic action. However, after reading a feature over the weekend, I will definitely be thinking differently.

The majority of flowers we buy in the UK are mainly flown in from Netherlands and Kenya. Equating the air miles to CO2 volumes, the feature illustrated each average bunch of flowers = 32.3kg of CO2 – compared to the air miles in giving an Australian bottle of wine at 1.4kg of CO2.

Mind boggling stats but there is something we can do.

Arena Flowers is completely plastic free and for every bunch of flowers sold they will plant a tress – http://www.arenaflowers.com.

Flowers From the Farm is a not for profit that informs you of flower growers near you – http://www.flowersfromthefarm.co.uk

Both enable flowers still to be given without such a massive impact on our environment. Now doesn’t that give a little glow for doing good in your gift giving?

CHILDRENS’ MENTAL HEALTH AWARENESS WEEK – 1ST TO 5TH FEBRUARY 2021

Of course we need to be mindful of our young peoples’ mental health everyday but having a dedicated week focusses everyone to be more aware of what’s going on around them. Adults to be aware of any young people who might be struggling by noticing subtle changes and young people themselves finding the courage and strength to reach out.

Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge has released a video on YouTube – see below

Figures released recently have shown an upward trend with the arrival of Covid-19 and yo-yoing lockdowns, school closures and the impact this brings on support structures and integration.

Cambridge University released figures showing 1:9 children in 2017 experienced mental ill health. This has risen to 1:6 by the end of 2020.

Professor Ellen Townsend of the Self Harm Research Group at Nottingham University showed a three fold increase in young people experiencing anxiety, depression, self-harm, eating disorders and suicidal idealation.

Domestic murders almost doubled according to the Met Police who investigated 22 domestic murders in 2020 up from 16 in 2019. Worryingly still was the increase in child murders by a parent up from 7 in 2019 to 12 last year.

NSPCC released data showing child abuse referrals were up 43% and domestic violence up 49%.

All of these stats are uncomfortable to hear. However, ignoring the issue drives down support for the children and increases stigma exponentially.

Starting conversations with our children, as with anyone, can be difficult. I-act training delivers multiple tools in their accredited training. Including a quote wall. A simple but effective tool:

In addition, lets keep our awareness in tune with silent suffering that might be going on around us.

When the noise gets too much

Many employers have recognised the need to ensure mental wellbeing and resilience in their teams. Some have done a colossal amount of workshops on various aspects of these key areas of human function.

However, too much can be as bad as not enough! It can end up being ‘white noise’. At this stage, nothing penetrates the conscious of some individuals who may have switched off – and likely rolled their eyes.

A menu of options is the best way of ensuring optimum, flourishing staff. Giving an insight into each workshop/course, content and benefit enables the team to decide what is right for them rather than having to do everything.

After discussions with a client this week, we’ve devised a Zoom ‘Open Mic’ programme of events. Non-management teams from different parts of the business will be offered weekly sessions during working hours where they can talk about anything they want. They can just listen and not contribute. Or they can choose not to dial in. Or they can enthusiastically contribute topics they want discussed. Thing is, they know this is their space where they can talk openly, safely and without judgement about anything that’s on their minds. They may not get the answers they seek but they will get the space and time to think which will give them clarity and energy to deal with what’s on their minds themselves.

I’m excited to be involved in something as innovative as this for this employer. In my work, I’ve seen the power of giving a platform to someone they can talk openly and in confidence they won’t be judged. They always seem to gain a calmness which enables them to see the solution that is right for them.

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