Axminster’s Big Picnic

Axminster’s Big Picnic

Last weekend Rob Robinson and I had the heartfelt pleasure of spending time with local children and parents at the community Cherry Fayre.  The week long celebration was organised by a handful of inspirational people from our area (namely the fantastically energetic Cindy Furse) and combined a multitude of events aimed at bringing together the community in a spirit of sharing and supporting local businesses and interest groups. The entire initiative was well received and promoted our joint vision for an inclusive and positive society.

As 70/30 Ambassadors, we felt moved to provide fun and stimulation for the youngest generations and were blown away by the creativity and imagination of our children. Our cupcake design stall on Friday evening was so popular that Rob had to do several quick trips to the shops for more supplies! On Saturday we provided arts and crafts materials for the children to make a joint picture of “Our Community”, with some exciting characters, trees, flowers, homes and even a few bug monsters and funny noses!  Some children chose to take their creations home to share with their families, but most very generously donated their artworks to be displayed on the community notice board in the local Co Op.

Our focus was on encouraging creative play and so we made the decision to pass around stickers, balloons, pens and leaflets but, as there were young minds around, not to do too much talking at this point about the more sensitive topics involved in the campaign. Many parents stated an interest in looking up the 70/30 Campaign and we are in the process of sending out invitations to our next group meeting to have the more grown up discussions about protecting our children as a wider society into the future.

The spirit of the Fayre was joyous and relaxed, and the 70/30 logo was everywhere we could get it, and so – step by step – we are introducing our peers to the idea that we all have the power to create change and turn our passionate desire of empowering communities to protect our children into effective action.

We are forging strong links with like-minded people and groups in our area and we hope to continue to lead by example, cherishing our children’s creative minds and supporting each other in the tough times we all face as parents. There is a great sense of coming together down here, and we are so grateful to the Campaign for supporting our efforts by providing information, inspiration, and fun art materials for us to keep forging ahead with our collective mission. Thank you 70/30 for leading the way!

A Different Kind of Challenge

A Different Kind of Challenge

John William Waterhouse

It has been a while since my last blog, and it has become necessary in that interval to change certain plans, for now.

Spring is in full swing – and yet I feel as if I have spent the last month being buffeted about in a late autumn storm.  My leaves are flying away fast and I’m unable to catch them, I could not breathe life back into their brittle skeletons even if I wanted to.  I am letting them go, and looking out of the window at the true spring.  It reminds me that the world continues to turn, day always comes.

The grand plan to try and complete an endurance ride with my beautiful Arabian mare has been postponed.  My health has been suffering a little too much recently and I was referred to an ME specialist, where I received an official diagnosis (the confusing acronym has been floating around my doctor’s notes for over twenty years now) and the advice that I need to dramatically reel in my activity levels before I have a relapse.

I shall be honest, despite the knowledge that this barely understood neurological disorder has always been a feature in my life, this latest diagnosis frightened me.  It brought back the memories of when I was a young teenager and was bed bound for months.  Was that possible again?  Could I prevent it?  And more starkly, if that ever does happens again: who will look after me, how will I look after my children?

I spent a few days feeling terribly depressed and unable to get my brain to function fast enough to come up with any ideas.  And I was, frankly, irritated by the presence of the children I was terrified to lose.  I felt lonely.  Until I remembered: I wasn’t the only parent feeling lonely and lost.

Now we begin to get into 70/30 territory, because as I have written before, childhood neglect doesn’t necessarily come from nasty, mean-spirited parents.  Sometimes it happens completely by accident because of a mental or physical disability which makes it barely possible for the parent to give the love and attention they want to.  Or because of a family or life crisis that makes the parent absent or uncontrolled in their interactions with their children.

And so I begin to understand more, bit by bit (from an wholly subjective perspective and with a deeply personal interpretation), how absolutely, fundamentally, vitally important 70/30’s Primary Prevention strategy is.

It is my feeling that, for situations like this, waiting for the government to pass Primary Prevention legislation isn’t the only road open to us in our campaign to a better world.  I’m not an expert in politics, so I leave that to those who know more and look for a more appropriate use of my own strengths.

Educating and raising awareness through 70/30’s Pioneer Communities, and day by day in all of our communities and for all of our causes, is the strongest force we have to shape our world!

In that spirit, I’m going to shamelessly use this blog to offer some personal support to people with this particular ME/CFS obstacle in their lives:

  • ME/CFS (and Fibromyalgia) is a thing. It’s not new, it’s just complex and it took a while for science to get around to it.  It is not caused by mental illness or depression, it can be a life changing disability, and it is not your fault.
  • Anyone who doubting or denying the existence of this (including some GP’s) is doing so through ignorance. Forgive them their lack of experience and move on to someone who can listen.  Sometimes that goes for friends and family too, and should encourage us to reconsider our own prejudices and assumptions about others. “Until you’ve walked a moon in another man’s moccasins…”
  • If you need help as a parent with ME – I’m not totally up to speed on this all yet – look up the online resources such as Invest in ME, ME Association and Action for ME.
  • This is an important one, and it applies to every parent with different limitations, physical, mental, social or otherwise:

“Remember that you are still you.”  

You have amazing gifts to give your children, even if you can’t take them out some days.  Or any days.  Work out what it is your children really need to learn from you in their short time under your influence, and find creative ways to teach them the things that really matter.  Their friends and family can teach them to climb a tree, but it is you that will teach them to love.

We need to work out what help we need from schools, families and communities, and be brave enough to ask for it, for ourselves and each other.

This is the bottom line with Primary Prevention.  We all need to work out what we need, what our neighbours need, what strangers need, and find ways to support those needs BEFORE they become crises. 

Don’t ever believe that a random act of kindness will be forgotten.  For some people, a few seconds of your time and a smile stays with them all day, and gives them the breath of relief that truly makes a difference to their soul.  It’s ok to get angry about important issues, anger gives us energy.  But it is absolutely vital that we get loving about them too, because behind every political issue is a group of people that need love.

Meanwhile, we talk.  We write.  We campaign.  We come together.  And we remember that we all have obstacles, we all have pain in one form or another, we all have strengths and weaknesses.  But crucially, we all have UNLIMITED POTENTIAL.  We can achieve absolutely anything when we work together.

And do not fear for my 70/30 Challenge – there is always next year!

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Campaign of Words