The Most Important Things in Life: Family and Friends

This is a bit of a soppy, self-indulgent post but I’m going to write it anyway and just keep it short.

For me, my family and friends are the same, my friends are just the family I have chosen. They are the people you can see everyday or once every five years and it makes no difference. They are the people you can be forced to sit next to at school or a stranger you meet on the train and just get along with – you can chat for hours and hours and never be awkward or embarrassed.

Some of my gorgeous family in Zermatt

Good family and friends sip Jagerbombs at weddings with you and let you get in their bed the next day when you’re dying from the worst hangover ever! They Skype you late at night because they’re on the other side of the world and didn’t want to wake you up early. They laugh at you when you fall over skiing but pick you up and check that you’re ok through their fits of giggles. They offer you help and guidance and, although they don’t have to say it, you know that they’ll always be there for you.

Besties

They’re the people that, when you think about them, make you smile (and sometimes do that weird laugh you do when you’re alone and you blow more air through your nose). They’re the people that, when you think about them, make your heart swell with love and pride. They’re the most important thing in the world to you and you love every minute you get to spend with them.

Me and my sisters

Today you should call text or Skype your nearest and dearest – you don’t have to be soppy or actually tell them how amazing they are or how much you love them. Just chat, let them know you were thinking of them enough to be bothered to get in touch. Most of all, enjoy that time with them!

Fabulous February

Woohoo! January is finally over! OK, January wasn’t actually too bad but the 1st February always feels full of hope. It brings a sense of relief that January is over and you made it through. There’s also that sense of achievement that you’ve kept your New Years Resolutions for a whole month and, if you managed that, there’s no stopping you now. Although February is much colder than January, February feels so much closer to spring which is SO exciting! I absolutely love spring.

February itself promises to be a good month. For a start there’s Valentines Day (yuk!) and then there’s the miserable cold, wet weather. Joking aside, my February looks like it’s going to be fabulous. I’ve made a good start on my Bucket List and, I have to say, writing down one thing that makes me smile and taking one photo every day is really making me appreciate the small things that happen – that lovely warm latte on a cold morning, a WhatsApp message from a friend you haven’t seen for a while, a roast dinner with your little sister. I’m really looking forward to what February will bring me to smile about.

For the time being, I’ve just been writing the things that make me smile down in my blogging notebook that I take everywhere with me but I was in Paperchase last week (yep, that’s another trip to my favourite shop!), I found these gorgeous sticky notes in the Valentines Day section of the shop.

Paperchase's finest

I bought them not knowing what I’d do with them but I’ve a brilliant idea that, at the end of this year, I’m going to write the things that have made me happy each day on them and put them all into a huge picture frame in a collage with some of the photos I’m taking each day. I think it will be a wonderful way to remind me of the small things that make me happy and to remind me that, even when I’m not writing the things that make me smile down, there will always be at least one thing each day that is worthy of a smile.

Totally in love with these sticky notes

In only 3 days I will be heading off on my first ski trip (which will be one thing I can tick off from my Bucket List). I’m going away without my husband for a whole week of snow, mountains, fresh air, coffee, hot chocolate, beer and some me time. That, and my cousin’s wedding! For the first time in years I’ve bought actual books made from actual paper (as opposed to e-books). I know I’m a massive geek, but I’m really looking forward to having some time to read whilst I’m away. I’m going to take my notebook and hopefully do a bit of writing too. I’m excited about all of the photo opportunities that I’ll have so I’m going to take my good camera as well as my GoPro for some action shots. To top it all off, I’m going to get some quality time with members of my family who I don’t see as much as I’d like to.

February's reading list

I’m also hoping that February will be a good month for the job hunt *fingers crossed* and also for the charities that I’m working with at the moment. The Raising Hope Foundation are finalising the dates for this year’s summer school and I’m hoping to start some fundraising elements of the Charity Apprentice with KOP.

Having written this post, I’ve noticed that I’m going to have lots of exciting blogs to post this month too which is nice as yesterday I was lacking motivation and inspiration so didn’t blog at all (forced blog posts are the worst!)

What are you looking forward to in February? Do you have a trip or holiday coming up? Maybe you’re about to start reading a new book too?

I’ll be sure to blog about my holiday in Switzerland once I’m home (although I’m hoping to do a couple of posts whilst I’m there too).

Beginning again: Regaining Focus

After my little wobble in Beginning Again: An Update I feel like I’m getting back on track a little today. I read a wonderful article this morning from Stella’s Journal called How to Lead a Fulfilling Career and it really made me think about why I’m doing this. Thinking about my time in Africa and how much I love those children in Ghana. I’ve regained my focus and have a new wave of positivity.

I looked at the three tips in the article and thought about each one of them:

When I’m lying on my death bed, I want to be able to look back on my life and know I made a difference.Thinking about my values, clearly helping people is the big thing but also, for me, having a job that I actually look forward to each day is a dream. I want something in my life that makes me spring out of bed when my alarm goes off and not just hit snooze. As for the true purpose of life….well it has to be happiness and health right? And I don’t just mean mine.

I was reading the 2015 Gates Annual Letter this morning and it made me think about the health issues in the wider world. It seems to me that for many people, issues like Ebola and HIV are talked about so often on the news that they’re no longer considered issues by people, but have just become words. If we want people to help, we need to make the campaigns more personal and really target them at the right audiences, make these issues something that people actually care about once again. I don’t mean a TV programme once a year that shows images of ill children that guilt trips people into giving money, I mean real, passionate, positive campaigns that make people want to give.

And it’s not just the big issues that we need to work on. When I was fundraising last year, people used to say to me, “I don’t have much money this month, sorry” or apologise for “only” giving me £5. The thing that people who haven’t experienced Africa (and I don’t mean this as a criticism) is that they have no idea just how far that £1, £2 or £5 will go. In Hohoe, in the Volta Region of Ghana, you can buy a pack of school workbooks (the blue paper cover, lined kind that you made notes in at school) for anywhere between £1-£3. That gives a whole classroom of children something to write in. Similarly, before I went on my list trip to Ghana, I hunted round the “cheap” shops in the UK (Poundland, Wilkos, you know the kind of shops) and bought a whole heap of children’s reading books for less than £10. That little bit of money made so many children very happy. People need to understand that every penny helps. Whilst £2 in the UK wouldn’t buy you a decent cup of coffee, it would probably feed a child in Ghana for a whole day (I’m sure other countries are similar but, as I don’t have experience of them, I don’t want to get anything wrong!).

Only a few pounds can fill a library

I realise I’ve rambled on a bit now about charity but it’s on my mind today. I’ve regained my focus not only in terms of the job hunt but also in terms of my charity work. This year is going to be big. This year is going to be amazing for everyone!

“Friendship isn’t about whom you have known the longest… It’s about who came, and never left your side…”

Friendship Quote

I’d like to give credit to whoever came up with this quote but I can’t seem to find it anywhere – if you created this and for some reason happen to be reading my blog – THANK YOU!

The quote is very true. Most of my best friends are fairly recent additions to my life. The people I met at University and through the Raising Hope Foundation are my world. Having gone to University in Portsmouth and now living in Manchester has been difficult. When seeing your friends means at least a 4-5 hour drive, visits are few and far between. The sign of a good friendship though is when you see each other and it feels like you’ve never been apart.

Surround yourself with beautiful souls

One of my best friends has set off on the World Race, covering 11 countries in 11 months to serve “the least of these” in real and raw communities. Today I was lucky enough to steal an hour of her time on Skype. It was like we were together again and had never been apart despite it being almost 6 months since I last saw her. Words cannot explain how proud I am of her for what she is doing and she continually inspires me to do more. (In fact, after our Skype chat, I completed two more job applications which after yesterday’s post, was quite an achievement). You can follow her awesome adventure here.

Fill your life with wonderful memories

It got me thinking generally about how important your friends are and how you should tell them this as much as possible. My friends bring endless positivity, love, light, laughter and, more often than not, plenty of drunken banter. So guys, this one is for you: Thank you for always being there. Thank you for supporting me and picking me up time after time. Thank you for inspiring me. Thank you for being you.

Working in the Charity Sector – What’s your inspiration?

The most recent task I carried out on the Charity Apprentice course was called “Name Your Heroes” a task which required us to write about a charity/cause that we are passionate about. I chose to write about the Raising Hope Foundation and it really made me think about the reasons why I’ve taken this risk in the first place. I know it’s a bit of a cheat blog but here’s what I wrote for the task.

I’d be really interested to know what motivates other people – let me know!

The Children of Santrokofi – My Inspiration and My Heroes

Ghana 2013

These children huddled around my belly are the the absolute world to me.

In 2007 I travelled to Ghana to teach English. I set off on my own for my four week trip not knowing that the person who was going to change my life forever was also heading to Ghana from the UK; four months later I returned back home still none the wiser. I’d had an absolutely amazing time and made lots of new friends but it wasn’t until I started University several months later that everything clicked into place.

At 5ft 4, I’m quite short and, on a night out in the students union, I got talking to a fellow small person (who I now know as Beth!) who was equally as annoyed as I was at continually getting pushed aside in the queue to the bar. We laughed, got our drinks and that was that. The next morning I had a Facebook friend request from Beth. I accepted and set about doing some Facebook stalking – and there it was! Her most recent status “Heading out to Ghana this summer soooooo excited. If you’re interested message me”. Obviously I did and that’s when I was introduced to the Raising Hope Foundation. The charity was set up by Kinza Mason who, unbeknownst to me at the time, was on her first trip to Ghana at exactly the same time as I was.

Seven years on and five trips to Ghana later and I haven’t looked back. The Raising Hope Foundation works in the Volta Region of Ghana, in a small village called Santrokofi. We’re currently working on a Child Care Centre project which I have seen develop from a plan on paper to an almost complete project.

At Raising Hope Foundation we work with the local community to help orphaned and needy children. We help families out who can’t afford to look after their children or who have to travel to work to be able to provide (which is the reason our project is called a child care centre rather than an orphanage – it’s not just for orphaned children)

The Child Care Centre

People often ask my why I’ve stayed with the same charity, visiting the same place year after year and the answer is simple – the children. They fill every minute of my time with them with love, light and laughter. I’ve run around in the baking Ghanaian summer sun playing football with them, taught them how to read and count and taken them on day trips, I’ve sat up all night with them when they were sick. They are the reason behind everything I do and I am eternally grateful to them for everything they have given me. I whole-heartedly love the work we do, the children we work with and my Raising Hope family. The people I have met in the UK through the charity are my best friends and I’m really hoping that Charity Apprentice is going to bring me the same opportunities.

I’ll leave you with some of my favourite photos of my heroes: