Culture Equality

Trailblazing school for trans people

Viviana Gonzalez vividly remembers her first day of high school.

She was 12, and imagined a future as a doctor, a teacher or an artist. But the school administrator in her home town in Argentina looked at her long hair, noticed the boy’s name on her ID and kicked her out “like a dog”, admonishing her for wearing “a costume”. She refused to cut her hair and wear a tie. “I was already Viviana. I didn’t want to dress up like a boy.”

When she was 15, Gonzalez, now 48, gave up on studying. She became a sex worker to survive, and also held other jobs, including one as a seamstress. Then, in 2016, a friend offered to help her get a housing subsidy; in reality, Gonzalez was being inveigled into a school for transgender people in Buenos Aires.

She recalls how a teacher helped her sign up: “He opened his arms and said: ‘OK, amiga, welcome to the Mocha Celis. You’re going to go to high school.’ I think I had been waiting for those words since I was 11 years old,” says Gonzalez, flicking away a tear.

“I know a lot of people would say: ‘Finishing high school, that’s nothing.’ For me, it was everything.”

Located in the neighbourhood of Chacarita, the Bachillerato Popular Trans Mocha Celis is the first school of its kind anywhere in the world. It is named after a trans woman who never went to school and was murdered (friends suspect a police officer). The three-year programme enables young people and adults to obtain their high school diploma, or finish elementary school.

Source The Guardian

Photo by Elyssa Fahndrich on Unsplash


A safer trip to school

The World Resources Institute (WRI), a nonprofit global research organization, awarded its first-ever Ross Prize for Cities yesterday to SARSAI, a program that makes trips to school safer for children in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and other African cities. The $250,000 Ross Prize was created “to elevate examples of urban transformation around the world,” according to WRI.

Children in sub-Saharan Africa are more than twice as likely as children in other parts of the world to be injured or die in a road crash. SARSAI, a program of the nonprofit group Amend, identifies high-risk areas for children going to school and uses various inexpensive means to separate children from traffic, such as speed bumps, bollards, and sidewalks.

The program (its name is an acronym for School Area Safety Assessments and Improvements) has served 38,000 children in Dar es Salaam. Since 2012, it has grown from two schools to 50 areas in nine African countries.

Original article by Nicole Javorsky – Source CITYLAB

Image by Mario Léveillé from Pixabay


Fuelling the green economy

A ‘circular economy’ is an economic system that aims to minimise waste and make the most of resources. Such intent is inherent to Proper Oils, an eco-business that is making a real impact in the commercial sector.

“That’s at the core of our business,” says spokesperson Philippa Classey. “Being responsible for everything you put in to, and take out of, the economy.”

Set up in 2007, Proper Oils collects used cooking oil and then recycles it for refining into biodiesel. This reduces the risk of pollution to water systems (from the illegal disposal of oil), and delivers substantial carbon savings by turning a waste product into fuel – biodesel significantly reduces carbon emissions, and is one of the greenest ways to power diesel engines.

“We collect the used cooking oil from caterers, restaurants and other businesses that use oil in bulk, and then we clean it,” Philippa explains. “Renewable energy companies then buy this recycled oil to convert into biodiesel, a much more environmentally friendly fuel compared to other types taken from the ground.”

Based in west London, Proper Oils employs around 20 people, and has built up an impressive client base of over 2,000 customers in south-east England. Providing a comprehensive service, they not only collect oil but deliver it too, offering a range of vegetable oils to be dropped off at the same time as collection.

“We recycle millions of litres of cooking oil every year,” says Philippa. “That’s a significant amount of waste taken out of the system. The company is also as carbon neutral as possible.”

Indeed, proudly declaring itself a ‘zero to landfill’ business, the award-winning Proper Oils ensures that all packaging used is recycled, their premises are run on green energy, they negate any carbon footprint by planting trees with the Woodland Trust,all their lorries are low emission, and they now have their first electric lorry on order. The company has also set up Unblocking the Community, a collection and recycling scheme for domestic cooking oil and fats.

“I’ve worked at organisations where the environmental element is an afterthought,” Philippa says. “We make those choices to put the environment first, and we do it the proper way. The clue is in our name.”

To find out more about Proper Oils go to To get in contact or enquire about oil collection, call 020 3613 4585 or email [email protected]

By Theo Hooper

Planet Wellbeing

Plastic Pollution Solution?

Last year, during the summer season, the authorities of Kwinana, a city in Australia, installed the new system for filtration in Henley Reserve. The system is incredibly simple. The citizens and also the government started experiencing the benefits as soon as they started using it. The system made them as satisfied as they can be.

This system consists of one net which is placed on the outlet of a drainage pipe which helps in capturing debris and in keeping the environment safe and protected from every type of contamination.

In fact, these pipes are draining water from some residential areas into natural areas. Also, the litter and trash from these places may be overwhelming, or even harmful for the environment. Moreover, the heavy rains usually wash the trash away, pulling it down to these systems of drainage.

The results surprised them because the new system of filtration managed to collect more than 800 pounds of garbage for a few weeks only.

Original article from I believe in Mother Nature

Culture Equality

All along the cafe

The 10ft by 10ft painting was created by local artist Ian Cuthbert Imrie, and was the first of his controversial rock stars series which sparked a row with council officers.

The Hendrix painting was mounted on the exterior wall of the Giraffe Cafe in Mill Street in June last year.

Now it is being sold off to raise money for the Giraffe group, which offers vital support, work experience and training to help people enter a work environment.

Money will go towards a major refurbishment of the organisation’s South Street cafe.

Operations manager Sarah Russell said: “We are so grateful that Mr Imrie donated this portrait to us and has allowed us to sell it to raise funds.

“It looked great on the side of our Mill Street cafe and we got a lot of positive feedback from customers.”

The group decided to say goodbye to Jimi and use proceeds from the sale for ongoing refurbishment work.

Sarah added: “We are aiming to re-open our place on South Street in two or three weeks’ time.

“Everyone is really excited.

“The aim is to give us a brighter space with new windows, better seating and new flooring.”

The new look premises will also have easier access for all ages and abilities, as well as a wheelchair accessible toilet.

Original article by Jamie Buchan. Source:

Image: Reprise Records [Public domain]

Culture Planet

Forward-thinking fashion

If you practice yoga, or frequent a gym or swimming pool, you may be familiar with the routine of stuffing sweaty or wet kit into a plastic bag afterwards, which then stinks out your backpack for the rest of the day. Entrepreneurs and yoga buddies David Balhuizen and Sarah Hecks wondered if they could tackle this sticky problem, whilst also creating a positive social impact. When David met one of the heads from Central Saint Martins (CSM), London’s world-renown art and design school, the idea began to take shape.

“We discussed bridging education and enterprise,” says David. “Teaching the students some entrepreneurial skills, but also creating a community interest business that supports students at home and abroad in the world of fashion.”

Project_Sweat was born, a social enterprise that empowers women in the fashion supply chain, as well as reducing plastic bag use. The product for sale is a waterproof, lightweight gym bag, adorned with unique prints created by two female design graduates from Central Saint Martins. Twenty-five per cent of the profits are channelled into the school’s hardship fund, to help students in financial need. Another 25% is donated to the Asian University for Women (AUW) in Bangladesh, specifically their Pathways for Promise programme, which offers full scholarships to high-potential clothing factory workers.

“Those women are often the breadwinners,” says David, “and they can’t go to university because not only are the fees unaffordable, but they can’t take the time out from their jobs. The Asian University for Women provides the finance and opportunity for that to happen.”

Selling the gym bag online and via a handful of stockists, the first production line of 500 – released a year ago – has nearly sold out. Having signed a five-year contract with the Asian University for Women, David is making plans for Project_Sweat to develop further – including fostering closer ties in Bangladesh.

“We’re looking for funds to scale up,” he says. “The second production run will hopefully be a few thousand bags. If our commercial success grows, then we can increase our investment in students, both here and at the AUW. I’d like to go out there, and maybe give workshops on enterprise. That would be amazing.”

To get in contact with David or buy one of Project_Sweat’s gym bags, go to

By Theo Hooper

Photo by Emily Sea on Unsplash


Culture Equality

Connecting Routes

Routes matches pairs of women based on their location, skill sets as well as their personal and professional interests and trains its mentors in communication and listening skills, leadership and coaching techniques.

On its last programme, mentors supported their mentees to launch their own catering businesses, apply to university, exhibit their paintings at a public event, improve digital skills and get work experience.

Why did you feel compelled to set up Routes?

We founded Routes in 2017 as a direct response to the barriers that women who are refugees or asylum seekers face when trying to access support in the UK. From attending English classes to applying to college, completing work experience to making friends, there are numerous gender-related barriers that women seeking safety face that are simply not addressed by current services. This leaves many women isolated, with low levels of English and poorer mental health than their male counterparts.

At the same time, only 22 per cent of senior roles in UK businesses are currently held by women and 14 per cent more men than women enter middle management for the first time five years after graduating. Mentoring is a proven way of developing purposeful leadership and communication skills, giving women the tools and confidence to start closing this gap.

Original Article by Lucy Purdy. Source: Positive News


All the ingredients for progress

“For me, what’s important is giving somebody a chance to dream, to believe there might be more possibilities out there…”

Bridget Callaghan has turned her own dreams into reality, setting up a business she is passionate about, which helps young people from marginalised, inner-city communities get on to the employment ladder. It was whilst working for a south London youth group in 2011 that she noticed how young people were struggling to get jobs.

“They had been putting their CVs into the job centre, but getting nowhere,” she says. “Employers wanted people who were much more ‘work ready.’ So I had been trying to figure out how these young people could get sustained employment.”

With a food industry background on her own CV, Bridget and a friend came up with the idea of Well Kneaded, a social enterprise selling sourdough pizza (“the way they make it in Naples.”) Lacking the investment for a restaurant, they bought a van to sell street food, starting with a pitch in their neighbourhood. Catering for parties and weddings soon followed, and two years ago they opened a pizzeria in Earlsfield, south London. Every step of the way, the business has provided internships for young people, developed via partnerships with local charities and churches. It’s been an award-winning success so far, although the support hasn’t always been forthcoming.

“People saw a lot of barriers,” says Bridget. “Obviously taking on somebody who’s never had a job before, or not finished school, can be a tricky prospect. Sometimes it is. But having young people struggle against this kind of prejudice is a real injustice.”

Their employees have included Seth, an ex-young offender who stayed for a few years, and now works with a charity inspiring other ex-young offenders to turn their lives around. Then there’s Carl, who was a shy and nervous twenty-something who had struggled to find a job before meeting Bridget and co. He still works with the company, and his newfound confidence has made him something of a local star to the pizzeria’s customers.

With sustainability also a key ingredient to the business, from sourcing organic food to using an environmentally friendly energy company, Well Kneaded is keen to make a positive difference.

“Yes, we want to make an impact,” Bridget concludes. “The employment factor is key, because you start with one person, and that can benefit their family, and then the wider community. They become ambassadors for what can be achieved.”

To hire Well Kneaded or find out more information, get in contact at or @WellKneadedFood

By Theo Hooper

Culture Wellbeing

Suffolk Coffee Club

A weekly coffee club which was set up by a group of learners who wanted to stay in touch after completing a course in Bury St Edmunds is still going strong two years on.

After finishing their pre-employment skills course at The Centre in St John’s Street, the group launched the chatter and natter coffee club at the venue’s café Just Traid.

Two years later, the learners are still meeting each week – and they now welcome and mentor other learners on the LaunchPad course run at the venue by Realise Futures, an adult community learning provider in Suffolk.

LaunchPad is a pre-employment skills course designed to help people who are long-term unemployed, have long-term health conditions and/or disadvantages, to get ready for work or to possibly undertake further learning.


Original Article by Micheal Steward. Source: East Anglia Daily Times

Equality Wellbeing

Care hubs for ageing society in China

China is experiencing rapid ageing as life expectancy rises and, due to the one-child policy, birth rates have fallen. As a result there are more people over the age of 60 than under 15. Within the next three decades, China will have the oldest population on the planet: by 2050, 39% of Chinese people will be over 65.

China is getting old before it gets rich. At both national and provincial level, the government has embarked on a massive expansion of care provision to support family care and help people remain in their own homes.

The policy is to grow the homecare and community care market. In 15 cities, different models of long-term care insurance are being prototyped and the results will feed into a final scheme. Just one of these pilots, in Shanghai, covers a population about a third the size of the whole UK.

In the past three or four years the Chinese care sector has seen explosive growth in services from homecare to retirement communities. One example is a network of more than 200 care hubs that has been established across Shanghai.

The hubs provide social activities and connections, rehabilitation, information and advice as well as respite and early stage dementia care. Publicly funded and owned but privately operated, they are playing a key role in supporting older people in their own homes.


Original Article by Paul Burstow: Source: The Guardian