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31 days and counting

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Ok I have 20 minutes to write this post AND finish a lovely bottle of Sancerre before I give up alcohol for January.

Yes you read it right. All 31 days of it. I’ve decided to just get on with it.

I realise that January is a long month and I did consider postponing to February to be honest. But that wouldn’t be so much of a challenge would it? I’ve always found them rather hard to resist.

So. My reasons.

Quite simple really. I’m raising awareness for mental health issues. You must have read the statistics – 1 in 4 people will be affected by mental illness in their lifetime. It’s the ‘elephant in the room’, the topic you either make fun of or don’t talk about at all. Yet we all know someone who is suffering daily or has suffered in the past. They might be a friend or part of the family. But they exist. The stigma that is (still) attached to mental illness is huge – just think of the headlines in the media or the ridicule that people are subjected to when they ‘lose it’ or don’t appear ‘normal’. Volunteering at Crisis UK this year just hammered home how many more people, young and old, are having difficulty holding on to their sanity. Stress, bereavement, divorce, losing a job or not being able to find one are just some examples of events that can affect people adversely. In the current climate, mental illness isn’t something that happens to ‘other people. Christmas and the New Year are the hardest times of the year for too many.

Here’s an animated short about depression. It’s a mere  4 minutes and 19 seconds long…you can watch it in an ad break!

That’s it really. Oh here’s the bit where you come in. January, for me, is all about the charity SANE. And resisting adding that bottle of wine to my weekly shop. You can help support me through the LONG DARK GLOOMY DAYS OF SOBRIETY (have I made my point?) by making me feel it’s all worth it!

Please share this post. Read and learn about mental illness and donate on my Just Giving page . You can even visit my Etsy shop (there’s a sale on too!) and as I’m donating 5% of my total sales in January to the cause.

Talk about it. Learn, donate, even volunteer. Just don’t brush it under the carpet.

Thank you.

Happy New Year!  *drains glass*

x

An Alternative Christmas message.

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An Alternative Christmas message.

What’s your favourite?

As I heaved my already full to bursting body onto the cosy sofa, a mince pie in one hand and a half finished glass of seasonal Port in the other, a slow realisation dawned on me. Tomorrow would be Boxing Day. Hardly a revelation in itself admittedly, but this Boxing Day wouldn’t be one of those lazy ones with a welcome lie-in followed by a visit to friends or a leisurely walk. Noooooo. This particular Boxing Day held my first volunteering shift at Crisis at Christmas.

Ah.

Why volunteer? Why now? Good question. But the answer is a bit…erm…vague I’m afraid. It just felt ‘right’.

I love Christmas and feel incredibly lucky that I can choose to spend it with my two beautiful girls (and they still want to spend it with me!) I have a more than enough food to eat and a roof over my head, a regular paycheck and even a holiday or two to look forward to. My girls are happy and healthy. In comparison to many I am blessed. Truly.

So I woke up one morning in late November and felt that I needed to do something. Anything. I googled ‘volunteer work’ and Crisis was at the top of the page. Spookily the deadline for applications ( I stupidly thought I’d just be able to turn up. So naive) was that day so I hurried mine off, clicked ‘submit’ and then carried on with my life.

A week letter a confirmation email of my acceptance arrived – I would be an Arts and Crafts Workshop Leader. I had NO IDEA what I would actually be doing but at least I’d be helping. I’ll be honest, it felt really good!

Four weeks later, after a lovely cosy Christmas, I turned up at a less than salubrious part of South East London at 10am on Boxing Day. Tired, a tad apprehensive but with an open mind and my ‘ready for anything’ hat on.

In their own words:

‘ Deptford Reach is a drop-in centre for adults over 16 years of age who are vulnerable through homelessness, mental ill-health, loneliness, social exclusion and severe poverty.’

Deptford Reach are open all the year round but close over the Christmas period which is when Crisis step in. Crisis provide many facilities that we take for-granted – showers, hair cuts, massages, clothes (when they can get them from donations) as well as  counselling. There is IT support, entertainment (quizzes, bingo, musicians) and an Arts and Crafts room.

2010/11 has been a difficult year for many with the effects of the recession and rising unemployment.  Deptford Reach has seen many people pass through its doors and is painfully aware that situation will probably become far worse with the new 2012 changes to Housing benefit .

I must admit I felt a bit clueless in the first few minutes  but I was soon able to get stuck in. The Arts and Crafts room was a place to escape from the hustle and bustle of the canteen/bingo hall/common room downstairs. A place to experience new crafts or do some painting, drawing or collage. On my second day I brought crochet hooks and wool. After demonstrating how to make a Pom-Pom everyone seemed to want to have a go!

Tiddly pom-poms

One client spent the next two days making pom-poms of various sizes which we decorated the room with. We also learnt how to make felt  and I taught a bit of crochet. More f un times with wool! On my final day another Workshop leader showed us all how to create a woven mat using strips of scrap fabric. I may show you how to later if you ask nicely…

Joseph’s coat has nothing on this!

What I loved about everyone who visited was not only how willing they were to try anything, but also how obvious their pleasure was when they had created something, anything, to treasure or to give away. We discovered some amazing talents amongst some of the most interesting and generous people I’ve ever met, clients and staff alike. True story.

Life changing? I wouldn’t go THAT far. But would I do it again? Of course! 3 days out of 365 was a teensy amount of time to give – I’ll certainly be going back for more….probably way before December!

Inspired? Why not donate to Crisis , volunteer next Christmas or have a look at the wonderful ideas here   . I’m sure you’ll find something that you could give a little time to!

Good luck!

K x

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