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Daily Life, Health & Wellbeing, Social Justice

Four easy things to do on Giving Tuesday

December 1, 2015

“We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.”
Winston S. Churchill

Today is Giving Tuesday.

If you didn’t know about it it is a wonderful global initiative to give something more than you usually do to help someone else.

It can be reaching out to a friend in need, asking a stranger how their day was or making a donation to a charity.

Here are four simple things you can do to can give something today:

  1. Smile at a stranger – or even better buy a delayed coffee
  2. Give that old friend you have lost touch with a phone call
  3. Buy The Big Issue  and stop for a chat
  4. Get Christmas gifting with World Vision Gifts. 

Then share what you have done in the comments below, or use the #givingtuesday on social media.

Happy giving!

Ashleigh XXX 

Image courtesy of World Vision Australia 

 

Meow Reviews, Social Justice

“They loved me back to life” – Take a walk with Rob to see life on the streets

July 5, 2015

Last Friday, I took part in a new initiative by The Wayside Chapel to encourage compassion and understanding for people who are homelessness. I went on Rob’s tour. It was absolutely amazing and I want to share the experience. (Not too much though, because I think you should all do it!)

The welcome.

We turned up at The Wayside Chapel and were welcomed by Rob and Andrew as if we were old friends. My first impression was how different Wayside feels from other services. There was no desk. No security. No bars. No barriers. Everyone is welcome, and the dining hall gives the same vibe. We enjoyed some fabulous low-cost food before moving into the chapel to hear about Wayside and Rob and Andrew’s stories. I won’t share too much, because they are not my stories to share.

Both men had a history of homelessness, being in and out of services, losing touch with their families, and having problems with alcohol and drug use before turning their lives around. They have both moved from volunteer to staff at The Wayside Chapel and said they are now leading a “normal life.”

What the heck is normal anyway?

“A setting on a washing machine” Andrew says definitively.

Wouldn’t life be boring if we all were normal like the setting on the machine?

After looking at the facilities and beautiful roof garden, we then hit the streets starting with Kings Cross.

The walking. 

We walked down “kneecap” alley, a former dive of a street that used to be covered in syringes, where dealers and corrupt policeman alike would stand over people to get revenge on unmet deals. Then after moving onto the main hub of the cross, past the injecting room (which has had NO deaths since it opened by the way) we were told their tales of their survival on the streets. Stories of tactically saving cigarette butts, watching for drunk backpackers to rob and ways to make a quick buck. It was hard to imagine these big-hearted souls before me doing such things, but I know too well from my days of social work what the combination of anger and survival does to a person.

2015-07-03 20.19.00The sharing.

I asked Rob what we could do better, to help people in this situation. I’ve been so frustrated, burnt out and sometimes terrified about what would happen to a person that I was working with. His reply was simple ‘Nothing. The person has to want to change themselves.’

But the key is that services need to not give up, and keep offering a ‘hand up’. And that is what Wayside did. They waited. They didn’t give up. And when Rob was ready, so were they. (They even supported his crazy idea to buy a tent and detox himself in the bush – which he did!). We continued the night by walking to St Vincent’s, Potts Point and Wolloomooloo accompanied by stories of services, anecdotes and history.

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I learnt so much more about the city I lived and worked in for years.

The learning – what helps the homeless?

Being seen as a person, not as a problem, by everyone (even your average Joe on the street).

Being given a “hand up” not a “hand out”, in Rob’s words.

Being ‘met’ as a person and ‘not fixed’, in Rob’s words again (smart guy, he is!)

Have something to do, and have GOOD support when you get housing.

Being said hello to. Sounds basic, but being made to feel invisible makes you feel like shit.

I could have sat and talked with Rob for hours and felt so many things when the tour ended.

Sadness. Gratitude.Inspiration.

We all might have taken a different journey, but are all essentially the same inside.

Do take a walk with Rob and Andrew one evening yourselves, or at the very least head to Wayside for a meal.

Onward, Ashleigh

Ps. This is not a sponsored post. Just sharing the love.

 

 

Health & Wellbeing, Social Justice

Neverland

April 14, 2015

Last weekend I found myself walking through the bush at night with 34 teenagers with my eyes shut.

I was then led into the most beautiful amphitheater filled with fairy lights and candles and a stage.

This was Neverland, a place where we could explore the idea of our ‘limitless’ self.

People got up and did amazing things.

Shy teenagers who had not spoken much all weekend belted out songs that they had always wanted to sing.

People cried. People danced. Talked. Called their parents and told them they loved them. Told people scary things that they had never said aloud before, to anyone.

Some pretty powerful stuff happened on that stage.

Last weekend was organised by The Reach Foundation, an organisation aimed to empower and inspire teenagers to find purpose and a greater sense of self. The best bit? It’s not run by professionals telling young people how to lead their lives, it’s run by the young people themselves. Young people who have been through Reach programs and are learning to facilitate and organise a camp; skills that they can take into their lives. (A bit different to my own ‘learning’ at McDonalds where I thought being in charge of the fry station was the pinnacle of responsibility.)

The weekend was a mix of activities, emotional exploration and fun.

Me? I was there as a wellbeing person, to support the crew, give feedback, and any extra support to those needing it. Being my first camp, I felt a little out of place myself at times. It was hard to try not to step in and take control, part of the learning is letting these young people run the camp themselves. I had to fight every piece of my super organised being to not laminate 587 spreadsheets, delegate tasks and yell through a megaphone at them. That was not my gig.  At times I was not quite sure where to step in or out and this I guess I will learn  this at more Reach camps over time.

Returning home on Sunday night I  found myself bawling to The Ginger Hunk on the couch. I was so grateful for the things I had growing up. I was so grateful for the love I have for him. For the Cat. For our home.  

Having clothes. Having money. Growing up in one house. Not moving. Not having my parents go through different relationships. Knowing I could get help when I needed it. Trusting adults. Feeling loved and wanted. Still wanting to talk to my Mum and Dad every single day. 

I want these to tell these young people that these horrible years do not define your life forever. Nor does the person you  are at school. I am still changing and learning. Still scared of what my parents think. Still doubt myself at times. Still go through phases thinking I am shit and not good enough for anything and a nobody. We all do.

But we learn to listen to these negative voices less and less as we get older. We learn to be braver. We learn to believe in ourselves. We learn to give less of a shit what other people think of us.

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I want to tell them that the person you are in high school won’t matter much in the future.

It is the geeky kid that will marry the hottest girl. The quiet kid that will create some software and make a million dollars. The ‘perfect’ kids will crumble and will not be so perfect after all.

#I do not mean they will crumble, as in fail, I mean they will peel off their layers. We are all the same underneath.

I want to tell them that them that they will carve out their own spot in the word, because it’s there, just for them, waiting for them to find it. And the best bit? Life is long, and you have a super long time to make mistakes, learn and start again. I have been a social worker, a writer, a triathlete, a yoga buff, an anxious person and a calm person and I can’t wait to see how much more I will continue to learn and change.

I was left inspired, humbled (and exhausted) just to be a part of it.

Onward XX

Cat Lady, Musings of sorts, Social Justice

It’s raining cats and dogs… and I don’t like it.

March 18, 2015

There have been so many opportunities to adopt free kitties in the last few weeks, but I am not excited about this. I am angry.

Car company Uber partnered with local cat shelters to bring feline friends to your office for a snuggle in the hope that you will adopt a kitty after experiencing the joy. Last weekend Yagoona RSPCA shelter was giving away free kittens because they had so many, apparently 70 in the shelter and around 60 waiting to be surrendered.

Add to this the number of pets that I have seen on various Facebook groups being given away for free, because people move (which is sometimes is not avoidable) or get another pet that the first pet does not get along with. This getting another pet thing gives me the shits.

A lady posted the other day in one group:  “Free to good home. Lovely cat called Emily. Poor Emily is scared of our new dachshund who is very aggressive and won’t leave Emily alone.”  

No offence lady, but the cat does not seem like the issue here, you do.

Did you not think of the impact of choosing another furry family member on your current abode? Particularly an aggressive one?

I replied pretty much asking her this and my post was swiftly removed by admin. Let’s not speak about it and oohhh and ahhhhh about how terrible it is that you can’t keep your first pet. Poor you.

I took my little Sashimi to the vet the other day because she was so excited about life that she ran into something and broke her nose. While I was there the lovely vet (they are all SO lovely) asked me if I wanted another white cat. OF COURSE I DO! I WANT FIFTY! But I told him that although I would love another 587 cats, my little Sashimi is a very territorial lady. I asked what happened to the other cat. He told me the other cat had an abscess, (which is totally curable), but the owners did not want to pay the bill so they ordered the vet to put him down. The vet refused and got the cat signed over to him, fixed him up and is now looking for a forever home for the poor kitty. WHAT ARSEHOLES.

The sad fact is that almost HALF A MILLION DOGS AND CATS ARE SURRENDERED TO SHELTERS IN AUSTRALIA EVERY YEAR.

This makes me SO sad, and this free pet thing worries me for a number of reasons. What if a mean horrible person might take them and do whatever they want to them, like this horrible man did the other day.

The other thing is that pets aren’t free.

They cost money to keep as well as personal and family time. A lady said when I was interviewing her the other day for a story that children cost time, money and effort, and unless you are willing to invest all three, you probably should not have them. I agreed wholeheartedly.

The same can be said for a pet.

Before you get a pet, have a think. A long think.

Are you prepared for the money and time a pet costs? Sasha’s little unplanned nose trip to the vet cost us $100.

What will you do when you go on holiday? Do you have the money if your pet gets hit by a car or requires surgery?

Are you going to care for the pet when your kids grow up or get over it?

The cats that we have had lived for 20 years.

Do you have 20 years to give?

When you get a pet love it for life, it’s whole life.

Don’t BE A DICKHEAD.

From  a mother of cats past, present and future.

 

Leo the Lion (18 years)

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Winnie the Fried Egg (19 years)

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 Sasha the Sashimi (2 years)

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Daily Life, Musings of sorts, Social Justice

An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind

January 26, 2015

On this Australia Day, there are two of our brothers waiting on death row in Bali, with the reality looming that execution might happen any day now.

It’s been ten years since the Bali Nine were arrested in Denpasar, for trying to smuggle over eight kilos of heroin into Australia. A fast ten years for us, living our lives, but a slow ten years for those inside, thinking about what they have done, appealing and waiting in Kerobokan Prison at the mercy of the indonesian judicial system. Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran were named the ringleaders of the group, and sentenced to death. One of the Bali Nine, Scott Rush while appealing his sentence a few years ago, had it randomly upgraded to the death penalty as a result.

This was thankfully appealed and revoked.

Anyone who smuggles drugs, especially throughout Asia is a bloody idiot, I am not going to argue with that.

But do they deserve to be shot point-blank as a result of their stupidity due to a decision they made in their early twenties?

No sir.

When Sukumaran so called ‘masterminded’ this drug smuggling ring – he was 24 years of age.  Chan was 21.

(Lord help us all if we had to live the rest of our lives by our early and very stupid choices.)

These were kids messed up in drugs looking for a fast way to get money for their habit, not masterminds of an international drug ring.

Chan tells his story in a powerful letter to himself that is made into a documentary, admitting to the stupidity of his actions and urging young people to make different decisions.

It is not a new thing for Australians to be arrested and sentenced to death for drug offences in Asia.

If anyone watched the documentary on Van Tuong Nguyen on SBS last year, it was absolutely heartbreaking and I urge you to watch it.

Van Tuong Nguyen was executed in Singapore on December 2nd 2005 at aged 25.

Whatever your views are on drugs, this is not a post condoning drug trafficking. It is not okay to traffic drugs.

This is about saying no to the death penalty. 

We are a nation that believes in second chances, forgiveness, recovery and rehabilitation.

(I like to think so anyway.)

If you think we are too, then get over to Amnesty and sign their petition, because (as Ghandi says), an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.

 

XXXXXX