BAGS OF KINDNESS

Whether it stems from a fear of the cold or a belief that no one should be alone at Christmas, winter time makes me feel far more charitable than the rest of the year.

Although I am, of course, aware that there are still people in need in the height of Summer, I seem to give more money to charity as we head towards December, am more likely to stop and talk to a person in need on the street and I am certainly more likely to promote projects such as this one. And being a feminist and an admittedly seasonal charitable person, this drive for ‘Bags of Kindness’ is an opportunity to help sent from heaven. And it’s so easy to do. So whether it’s Christmas at yours this year which means that you’re unable to put your hours in at your local Crisis centre or whether you don’t have the cash to donate to your chosen charity, I have a solution. And it comes in the form of a rucksack filled with kindness. Kindness in the shape of sanitary towels and a toothbrush no less, but kindness all the same.

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Unless you live on Mars, (in which case, why are you reading this?) you will know that there are thousands of vulnerable women sleeping rough on the streets of London and across the UK and that they need your help. These women have wound up on the streets, not out of choice, but because of abusive relationships, familial fall outs or a series of unfortunate events. But their struggle doesn’t stop at finding some spare change for food or somewhere dry to sleep. The streets are a difficult place to be and – often – it’s only a matter of time before vulnerable women end up sex working to survive. And some of them with children to protect. This is not only dangerous, but mentally damaging for the mother- and even the child.

So what can you do to help?

Although it is impossible for us to drag each and every single one of these women away from their dangerous circumstances, the amazing women at The Kindness Project have come up with a way of helping those women in need in ways that we take for granted. The idea is that we each buy a rucksack (or even rucksacks) for these vulnerable women and then fill them with everything – from moisturiser and knickers to sleeping bags and socks – to make their life that little bit easier over the coming winter months. There is a Facebook group that you can join that tells you exactly what to put into the bags and exactly what not to put into the bags and it’s important that you follow these guidelines. Where and when to drop your bags off is also included here, so make sure you click.

Whichever way I seem to look at the moment – on the news, in the papers and online – there seems to be violence, torment or just something negative for people to shout about, so let’s give kindness a voice this Christmas and get this female-focused project off the ground. I have never seen girl power like it. Except for the Spice Girls. And they would definitely donate a rucksack or two.

See you at the drop off point!

The Bad Day

Normally Monday brings with it a bit of doom and gloom. This week, Wednesday was woeful.

I’ll start from the beginning. My mother and I decided to go shopping to return some shoes and to find an outfit for this weekend’s birthday celebrations. We went to return the shoes and were accused of wearing them before returning them: it was safe to say that the day started badly and I was not best pleased. We left the store rather disappointed and decided to go for a coffee to digest the morning’s grievances. On arriving at Megabucks, they kindly informed me that they’d run out of “toffee-nut latte” sprinkles. Things really were going from bad to worse. I reluctantly settled for a cappuccino and we went on our merry way. After around half an hour of shopping, my super vigilant mother realised that her purse had been stolen and I thought I was about to give up on the day altogether. We then spent an extra half an hour scouring shop floors for the purse, cancelling cards and mourning the loss of her Boots Advantage Card. After this, things escalated: I fell over in the middle of Regent Street, almost got trampled on by an oversized 4×4, got on the bus to realise I had no money on my oyster and no cash on me, missed out on my lottery numbers by one number on each ball and finally, returned home without an outfit for this weekend.

This is about as bad as my bad day gets and I have moaned about it ever since, until now.

I saw an advertisement on the tube last night for Centre Point. It’s a charity supporting the lives of young people living on the street which put my life into perspective. I then realised that yes, mum’s purse had been stolen, (which was inherently wrong), but perhaps they were desperate? Yes, I fell over and embarrassed myself in the middle of central London and yes, I am still working part-time with very little money to spare. But at least I have a warm, loving home and know I’ll be surrounded by love and hopefully happiness this Christmas: these young people won’t.

If your bad day sounds a little like mine, count yourself lucky. And rather than spend a ridiculous amount of money on a pair of unstylish Ugg boots or poncy Polaroid camera; sponsor a child this season and donate to Centre Point: http://www.centrepoint.org.uk/home .

The latest computer game really is just for Christmas; a special memory lasts a lifetime. I promise.

The Homeless

This year’s Christmas period has seen three wonderful men set up home outside Fulham Broadway Station. They have boxes, sleeping bags and more food than Dawn French probably consumes in a year. People have been generous with their donations this year I presume. They gorge on mince pies, sandwiches and Starbucks coffees! Its scenes like this that make me feel as if the kindness of Londoners is underrated at times. I mean, we’ve got organisations such as CRISIS at Christmas where hundreds of ‘cold hearted’ city dwellers volunteer to help the homeless, that’s a show of true dedication to helping improve the lives of others I feel!! I think next year, people need to reflect upon these small acts of kindness which happen daily in the capital and be happy, a la Love Actually!

Despite everything positive from this image, I fell into the patronising age old comparison between ‘us’ and ‘them’…  “gosh, it must be so cold for them during the winter months” or “they must be absolutely starving”… no, you don’t say. But anyway, as I continued on this somewhat annual tradition of comparison, I realised that students (i.e. me and the majority of you) are not that different to these people living in cardboard boxes. I am always hungry because I can’t afford to buy lots of food and pretty much eat eggs for breakfast, lunch and dinner and my house might as well be made from cardboard because it is so chilly! Don’t get me wrong however, I’m not proposing that we shouldn’t sympathise with the homeless, in fact we should be more inclined to do so, but we have to think about our own situation as students too. The rise in tuition fees is potentially creating a generation of ‘educated homeless’ people. Most can barely afford university as it is, so why make it more difficult for us? It’s like taking a cardboard box away from a person living on the streets, but the government somehow sees it as progressionary. Interesting. Just because you don’t see students huddled up in doorways, doesn’t mean we don’t have a struggle on our hands.

I do sometimes wonder what Robin Hood is doing right now? Wish he’d make a trip to parliament and teach them a few lessons…