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Relationships, Social Justice

When Violence Strikes

April 3, 2016

It is Saturday night. I had just been working on the balcony, re-potting and giving love to some much neglected plants. We are sitting down, having a drink and a car screeches past. We hear loud pitched screaming, like someone is getting stabbed. Both of us put our drinks down, and run outside instinctively. (Okay, so The Ginger Hunk hobbles and I run.) We see a parked car on the road that appears to have come to an awkward halt. The Ginger Hunk goes up to the window, and asks very calmly “is everything okay here guys, we just heard screaming and yelling”.

What we find in the car is a HEAVILY pregnant girl in the driver’s seat, frozen, petrified and very still, and a child no older than three in the back, crying.

Just having a fight with my missus. He explains. This is a family matter.

Sweating. Fuming. Angry. Boiling. It’s not a family matter when the whole street hears you screaming.

Missus explains that she wants to get out of the car. We open the door. She looks relieved that someone has seen it too.

Out she gets and the child. (Who was crying and looking petrified.)

I’m over the road talking to the missus, who is explaining that he is just angry today because they have been at a family thing and that he has to learn his lesson this time.I explain that the noises were so loud that we had to do something to see if everyone was okay. 

Suddenly, the angry man starts laying into the Ginger Hunk. The police are called.

The missus is over the road now too with them and what was a heated conversation is now a physical scuffle. I’m with the child over the other side of road, who is alone and crying, repeating that the police are taking his Daddy away. I say that it’s not okay for Daddy to be this angry at Mummy. He wants his toy out of the car but I can’t go over there.

The Ginger Hunk is on the ground now, restraining the angry man. Neighbours run out to help hold him down.

Police arrive. The angry man is whisked away, and we are taken to the police station to make statements. I’m not sure what happened to the girl.

What kind of life is ahead for the child that is about to be born?  What kind of life is ahead for her?

He would have spent a few hours in the cop shop. He is probably at home now.

Promising to do things differently. To change.

And of us intervening, although the moment was instinctive, I wonder if it was best.

Should we have approached the car?

Did we make it worse?

What if it wasn’t going to get physical?

What if that WAS the only time he lost his shit?

At any rate, even if it was, shouldn’t we all pull up people when their behaviour is unacceptable?

By doing nothing, we are agreeing with what is going on.

Speaking to our neighbours today, some said they heard the screaming. But did nothing.

Why do we all think someone else has got this?

Ashleigh XXX

If you are affected by Domestic Violence Call the Domestic Violence Line for assistance on 1800 656 463

Daily Life, Social Justice

The Dark Side of Easter – Ethical Chocolate

March 21, 2016

I must admit my eyes were wide shut about this issue.

Wide wide shut.

I know the ethical issues about eating meat. I know about blood diamonds.

But I hadn’t really heard about chocolate. Chocolate is a warm and fuzzy word I associate with Easter, getting fat and friday afternoons at work. As part of the World Vision blogger program, I sign up to use this blog when I can for social good. The lovely folks send us a newsletter as to what is going on in the world, and if I can use this blog to somehow widen the eyes of those around me, then I will.

I digress.

Back to this chocolate thing.

A quick lesson before we start.

Chocolate comes from cocoa.

Cocoa comes from farms, mainly in West Africa, South America and Asia. 

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Image source –

Cocoa production is done by hand.

(All of it.)

Many hands make light work.


Children’s hands make cheap work.

Despite international action and the fair trade moment, monitoring child labour in remote places like East Africa is difficult.  In 2015, a Nestle spokesperson reported to The Guardian, that around 10 per cent, or 3, 933 children, were found to be undertaking hazardous activities that constituted child labour on family farms on the Ivory Coast.  World Vision defines hazardous activities as things like; carrying heavy loads, using machetes to clear land and inhaling harmful pesticides. This work can be undertaken by children as young as six in temperatures of 35 degrees, day in and out. The issue is not as simple as stopping the children from working, and giving the parents or employers a rap on the knuckles. Most of these farms are family run, small outfits where the whole of the family is expected to pitch in. But occasionally, children are trafficked to be used as cocoa slaves. Low cocoa prices mean that farmers get little pay for their crop, most of them living in extreme poverty. If they are renting the land, this needs to be paid first before profits can be made for them, and then to their staff. You get the picture.

World Vision defines ethical cocoa as; Cocoa that is harvested without the use of forced or trafficked labour. This term does not seek to classify the use of other ingredients, such as palm oil. This requires transparent 3rd party verification of the cocoa supply chain to provide an assurance that no forced, child or trafficked labour is used.”

 Onto the demand for chocolate.

We as Australians are estimated to spend $191 Million on chocolate at Easter time, as IBIS world reports.

That is a lot of cocoa.

That is a lot of hands.

Transparency in the industry to report on the use of children for labour is improving, but is slow to progress with only five per cent of global cocoa certified organic. By signing the 2001 Harkin Engel Protocol the chocolate industry has “publicly acknowledged the problem of forced child labour in West Africa and will continue to commit significant resources to address it”. World Vision is tracking the progress of major companies producing ethical chocolate on their scorecard. Progress starts with paying appropriate prices for cocoa, supporting local communities and being transparent in the use of ethical products.

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World Vision – Chocolate scorecard.

I urge you to read the fine print here, and note that Cadbury easter eggs have been certified fair trade in Australia and New Zealand since 2011.

So with all this information that just ruined our ability binge on Easter eggs guilt free, what can we do?

  1. Buy chocolate which has a fair trade organic sticker on it.

  2. Read the scorecard and find out more about your chocolate company to make an informed decision.

  3. If you’re not happy, write to your chocolate company and tell them.

  4. Sign the World Vision Petition  which demands that Australian retailers, cease the sale of uncertified, unlabelled chocolate by Easter 2020.

Enjoy, and have a happy and safe Easter.

Much love, 

Ashleigh XXX

**** Linking up with Essentially Jess for IBOT****

Health & Wellbeing, Social Justice

How to fundraise for charity

February 10, 2016

I’ve fundraised a little bit in my time on this earth. Since 2011, I have been involved in Can Too, a health promotion charity, which fundraises for cancer research. Participants sign up for an endurance event, and in turn for training, pledge to donate an amount, usually $1250. Can Too has raised over 16 Million, an amazing contribution to finding a cure, with Australian researchers being top at their game. With the government pulling funds for research it’s more important than ever.

For my 35th Birthday and a 25km trail run program ahead, I am setting my Can Too target to reach $7,000, (I’m currently at $5, 000.)

Here is some stuff I’ve learnt about the fine art of fundraising.

Haters going to hate. Ignore them. Move on. 

It is actually quite strange the things people say to you when you tell them that you are fundraising for charity. I’ve had people tell me ‘they don’t believe in cancer research’ or that ‘cancer research gets too much money’ or, wait for this, I actually had a boss that told me ‘not to fundraise at work’. My advice is, ignore these humans and move on to people who support you. If you can drop in a few facts about your cause in the meantime, then do. It takes $100, 000 to fund a researcher for a year, this is some of the breakthroughs they have had, and so on. Whether you get their support or not, you may plant a seed. On the other hand, don’t push people either, there are a lot of causes out there, and people often pick what they can donate to.

Tell a story with your emails – and say thanks

This is my good friend Dani. She has raised… wait for it… $40, 000. She is amazeballs. I am always in wonderment at the lovely messages she has going on Facebook and with her emails. She is always telling stories, about her experience, about the cause, and thanking everyone. People know where their money is going, how they can find out more about Can Too, and are engaged in her journey. More importantly, they will know when she reaches her goal and how she went in her event. Take supporters on the journey with you.

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Better still … make a video 


Cast your net far and wide 

I have had best friends never support my fundraising efforts. And that is fine. Like I said, it is not for everyone.  Then people who you least expect it, will sponsor you. People from school I haven’t seen in hundreds of years, that old work colleague, ex-friends. People you do NOT expect will end up being your biggest supporters. Email everyone in your list, put it on Facebook. For someone like me, who is a person who donates to a few charities, the way I do it is when I am reminded and I see that someone is doing something. You might just get someone who hasn’t donated to a charity all year!

Use your skills and be creative 

There are so many ways to raise money without actually asking people for money. This will be my 6th Can Too program, and it’s time to be creative, because people do get sick of those emails. I’ve done things in the past like made lunch for people at work, sold Christmas cookies, held morning tea, a raffle, sold chocolate, asked for donations instead of birthday presents, you name it. This year I’m holding a clothing stall at a market with a friend. I’m also having a Winter Solstice fundraiser, involving yoga and chocolate…. stay tuned for the details. Others have e-bayed things, had comedy nights, a skills auction (people donate their skills and action time), the possibilities are endless.

Ask those YOU support to support YOU 

This goes both ways. If you’ve supported your friends for shaving their heads, riding a tuk-tuk through India (yes I had a friend do this) or running the New York marathon, ask them to support you! At the same time, when looking for prizes for a raffle, think about those you know, with skills that they could donate. Ask your local pub for a voucher, your favorite restaurant, your beautician or your hairdresser.

People will support YOU as you support their business, year after year. (It’s also a good promotion for them as they just might gain a new client or two.)

So, get going!

Ashleigh XXX


Reviews, Social Justice

Meow Review: He Named Me Malala

January 25, 2016

“Let us pick up our books and our pens.

They are our most powerful weapons”

Malala Yousafzai

I recently watched “He Named Me Malala” on route to Auckland. I see international flights as a chance to entrap Ginger Hunk, into a foray of planning about our future and life. He takes it the opposite way, stocking up on gadgets and headphones to drown me out. Anyway, on our recent flight to Auckland, I took the opportunity to put on the documentary about Malala Yousafazi and I was mesmerised.  I had heard about this brave girl, an activist for women and girls education in Pakistan, who was shot in the head riding to school in Swat Valley in 2012 and miraculously survived, but was so happy I learnt more.

The documentary starts with what was a pretty normal, and happy family life in Pakistan. Growing up in the once beautiful Swat Valley, Malala was born the eldest of two younger brothers, and named after Malalai Mawand, a warrior of Afghanistan. Her father Ziauddin, an activist and teacher, ran a chain of schools in the area. At the age of 12, the BBC were looking for teenagers to blog secretly about the Taliban, and her father volunteered Malala. (This was indeed risky, most adults at this time were silent, but there was an overall feeling that surely the Taliban would not hurt a child.)

What the documentary also shows is the demise of Pakistan under the Taliban. What started out as a community welcoming the Taliban to Swat, ended in killings for everyone that betrayed them. The documentary highlights the fear that was experienced, and the total demise of infrastructure in Swat, which seemed like a such a beautiful place to grow up in. Schools and shops were bombed. People that were believed to disobey the Taliban had their names broadcast over a speaker and were taken away in the night.

Soon the Taliban declared that no girls were to go to school. Malala begun to speak out and campaign loudly for the right to education. She was shot in the head on 9 October 2012, two of her friends were injured. The family was extradited to the UK, where she has continued her recovery and attended school, finishing high school last year. I was absolutely impressed by the way this documentary not only told the story of Malala ‘the activist’, but also the story of a displaced family. Birmingham is not their home, and so they struggle to find their way in a new world, Malala struggles to fit in at school and her mother to learn the language, despite Malala’s ‘celebrity’.

But so, they go on, to campaign for women, children and girls education.

I finished watching the documentary and felt so lucky for my start in life.

I’ve been to school, high school, completed two university degrees that I could pay off later and many other courses, just for ‘fun’. This education has helped me,earn decent money, have a job to fall back on while following my passion, and work sponsored overseas. How lucky am I?

Did you know? 

A person’s earning potential increases by 10 percent with each additional year of schooling.

Educated mothers are 50 percent more likely to immunise their children than mothers with no schooling.

(Source, World Vision Australia.)

How you can help

With it being back to school week, World Vision has a number of one-off gifts you can purchase from educational packages for Indigenous children, or a bicycle to help a girl get safely to school. Check it out here.

Be a champion for Girls’ Education, by visiting The Malala Fund.

Have a great back to school week!

Ashleigh XXX


Daily Life, Health & Wellbeing, Social Justice

Back to Vegetarian

January 19, 2016

Those of you who have known me for a long time would have know that I was vegetarian, or the more correct term is, pescetarian. No red meat, chicken or pork for seventeen years!  (I ate fish and seafood.) This all changed three years ago, when I started training for triathlon. I was soo, darn tired. Working full-time, completing a master’s degree and training 12 hours a week was a recipe for disaster. Some people can get on with things like this no worries, but I have always been a little bit sickly, even as a child.

Too many big nights on a weekend = guaranteed to get sick.

Someone has something in the office = guaranteed to get it.

Too much stress = a cold sore that takes over my face.

The increased training and stress load put my body into overdrive and depleted my iron and adrenal glands. I hit the wall. Big time. I was sick in bed for around ten days and sleeping for 13 hours a night waking up tired, I went off to the GP to have all my bloods done. I was eating right, having iron tablets, protein shakes, and all that jazz, but it wasn’t enough. My iron was too low.

Red meat is what the doctor ordered. And it did do the trick.

I got through my half-ironman no sickness or injury.

To The Ginger Hunks delight, I kept on eating meat. There were ribs, and pork, and all kinds of things. I did enjoy the taste, I am not going to lie. But I never felt right about it. I never ate chicken, because I feel that they are the most poorly treated out of the whole bunch. The sight of it and the smell, often put me off, and some nights I just couldn’t eat meat at all.

In December something naturally occurred when The Ginger Hunk went away and I stopped eating meat. By the time I went to Bali, it had been two weeks. I enjoyed the food so much in Bali that I continued this phase.

Almost a month into 2016, I am still going.

And after googling a few facts, I am determined to keep going.

Here is some information from The Guardian about the impacts of meat-eating:

  1. Climate change. In 2006, the UN calculated that the combined climate change emissions of animals bred for their meat were about 18% of the global total – more than cars, planes and all other forms of transport put together.
  2. Land use. Nearly 30% of the available ice-free surface area of the planet is now used by livestock. With the human population expected to grow by 3 billion, a shift in developing countries to eating more meat, and global consumption on track to double in 40 years points to the mother of all food crises down the road.
  3. Health impacts and cost. Meat eaters get increased chances of obesity, cancers, heart diseases and other illnesses as well as a hole in the pocket. A meat diet is generally considered twice as expensive as a vegetarian one.

But my main reason – has always been this, I just don’t eating meat enough to cause all that suffering and production.

What about you?

A meat lover or vegetarian? 

Ashleigh XXX

****Linking up with Essentially Jess for #IBOT ****

A Childfree Life, Daily Life, Social Justice

How to give ethically this Christmas

December 10, 2015

A couple of years ago we decided to ditch Christmas presents. This deal came about between the adults in my family. It wasn’t a huge announcement, but over the years we couldn’t think of anything we really needed. Our house is full of stuff, and we are in the process of simplifying our life to travel more. Also, now that I am old I can afford to buy myself the things I want throughout the year. So instead of presents, we decided to do some nice things for each other. Mum and I chose to subscribe to the theatre, I buy a World Vision Gift or make a donation for my Dad, and my sister and I will do something together in the new year, (our time together is rare!)

Being childfree makes Christmas a little easier for The Ginger Hunk and I. We do buy some things for the little people in our lives, but try to keep this simple. The amount children get these days for Christmas and birthdays absolutely astounds me. Criticise if you like, as I do not have children, (and I do admit that I spoil my cat.) But being an ‘outsider’ I think we can make sound observations from what we see around us. What I see is a lot of people struggling to afford to live in a city such as Sydney, yet we continue to buy up big, and I don’t know why.

Is it about keeping up?

Or do we think it makes us and our kids happy?

Christmas is no as a time for us all to over do it, and I think that we have all gone a little cray cray.

The statistics agree with me as well.

Last year Christmas retail in Australia hit 45 billion with those over the age of 14 spending around $2,500 in the 12 weeks up to Christmas.

This has other impacts, most notably on the environment. One of the biggest sources of Christmas waste is …. you guessed it…


Clean up Australia estimates that this equates to 8,000 tonnes a year, which is 50,000 trees. 

In America, it is estimated that 50 million Christmas trees are purchased each year, and 30 million of these end up in landfill.

(Very. Sad. Facts.)

I’m not saying we should all give up Christmas, it is the best time of year!

But we can go crazy, spend a fortune ans get caught up in the hype, without even thinking about it. For just one day.

Here are some simple ways to make your Christmas more ethical.

  1. Consider buying a World Vision Gift  and make an investment which will make a difference to someone else. Gifts start as little as $5 to help a child learn to write by purchasing a packet of pencils to investing in a bicycle to help a girl get to school safely for around $100. This is a great initiative and a way to show your children how much difference a small amount of money can make to someone else.
  2. Limit the paper use. Send an e-card instead of a paper one. Companies like hallmark are even in on the trend.
  3. Donate your unwanted presents instead of hitting the shops for a refund. Consider donating to people in need through an organisation such as The Smith Family or The Wayside Chapel.
  4. Consider an alternative tree. Or at least make sure your one is ethically farmed if you’re keeping it real. You can check this list here.  Better still, decorate a branch or buy a tree that you can plant in the garden forever.

Have you done anything to make your Christmas more ethical? 

Any more tips to share? 

Merry Christmas! 

Ashleigh XXX