Equality Wellbeing

A New Vaccine Just Arrived in the Congo to Help Combat the Current Ebola Outbreak

Congolese medical authorities received the first shipment of a new vaccine to counter the deadly Ebola outbreak that has claimed the lives of nearly 2,200 people in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) since August 2018.

A batch of 11,000 doses — part of a planned shipment of 50,000 — of the new Ad26-ZEBOV-GP vaccine manufactured by Johnson & Johnson arrived in the DRC on Friday. The company has committed to donating up to 500,000 doses of the vaccine, which is being used to protect people living outside of direct Ebola transmission zones.

The central African country is battling its 10th Ebola outbreak — 3,274 people have been affected by the virus, according to data from the World Health Organization (WHO). To date, there have been 2,182 deaths due to the virus and 1,051 survivors. There are another 500 suspected cases of Ebola.

The WHO declared the Ebola outbreak in the DRC a public health emergency of international concern in July, urging the world to take notice.

For months before it was approved, the WHO had been pushing to use the new vaccine, which is an experimental product and is delivered in two injections, eight weeks apart.

The DRC’s former health minister, Oly Ilunga, opposed the implementation of a new vaccine, saying it would confuse people. Ilunga resigned in July, following an announcement that the president’s office was taking control of the Ebola outbreak response.

Previously, there was only one vaccine (VSV-ZEBOV-GP) being used to combat the outbreak, manufactured by US company Merck Sharpe and Dohme. To date, more than 200,000 people have been vaccinated.

Last month, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) criticized the WHO for its limits on the number of doses used in the field, saying their life-saving work is hindered by a “rigid system which is hard to comprehend.” MSF said the WHO restrictions create challenges in reaching some of the people who need the vaccine the most.

Joseph Musakane, an activity manager with MSF, said the organization is “limited to a [fixed] number of daily doses and working in pre-allocated vaccination sites.”

In response, WHO spokesperson Tarik Jašarević told Global Citizen in October that the organization is “not limiting access to vaccine but rather implementing a strategy recommended by an independent advisory body of experts and as agreed with the government of the DRC.”

Jašarević was referring to the “ring approach,” which targets direct and indirect contacts of probable and confirmed Ebola cases, or frontline workers like doctors and humanitarian staff, rather than the general population.

On Saturday, Congolese journalist Papy Mumbere Mahamba, who reported heavily about Ebola, was stabbed to death. Attackers killed the journalist and wounded his wife, before burning their house down. The motive for the murder is unknown.

The Ebola outbreak in the DRC has been difficult to manage, in part due to conflict and violence in some areas of the country, and has been heightened by political unrest which restricts access to health care, according to MSF.

Original article by Jacky Habib – Source Global Citizen

Photo by Adrianna Van on Unsplash.


To find out more about World Health Organization (WHO) and ways to get involved, visit their website.

To find out more about Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) and ways to get involved, visit their website.


Culture Equality

Volunteer It Yourself (VIY)

But for many young people who have been excluded from school, or those who have disabilities or special educational needs, these skills can be an essential asset when it comes to finding a job and getting on in life.

Which is where the team at Volunteer It Yourself (VIY) come in. They link up young people who have typically struggled to thrive in mainstream education with tradespeople to mentor them and projects in their own communities, which are in desperate need of repairs or refurbishment.

And the result, according to Imran Younas, a lead mentor at VIY, is both inspiring and beneficial to everyone involved.

Imran explained: “At VIY we work with young people, aged mostly 14 to 24, who have not done well in a traditional school classroom. A lot of them will have been excluded multiple times or could be young offenders. They are not engaged with school, college or wherever they find themselves in the system, and they are seen as not really having achieved anything.

“We also work with kids who have disabilities or special educational needs which have meant that they haven’t had the chance to get involved with a practical project.”

VIY matches up these young people with trade skills mentors, like Imran, and a community project in need of their help.

Imran, who owned a maintenance and plumbing business before becoming a mentor at VIY, said: “It could be a hospital, a youth centre, a football or cricket club or a school. Many of the organisations we help are in a situation where they cannot carry on unless they can fix whatever the issue is. That means the work of our young people and volunteers is extremely important.”

One such project is a garden designed specifically for dementia patients at the Rowley Regis Hospital near Halesowen in the West Midlands.

In June a team of 15 students with special educational needs and disabilities, together with Imran and another mentor, spent a day transforming the garden. They built planters to be filled with flowers and plants which will reflect the changing seasons, and painted the garden furniture blue, a colour found to be calming for those with dementia. All tools and materials for the project were donated by the local Wickes store as part of the DIY chain’s ongoing partnership with VIY.

Imran, who is from Birmingham, said: “Seeing the smiles on the young people’s faces at the end of the day was brilliant. They had really achieved something which will benefit many people in their community.”

VIY have so far completed more than 350 projects across the UK since they started in 2011, and would welcome tradespeople who could volunteer as mentors for their projects.

For more information see

By Jenna Sloan


Women Make Up 52% of the Cabinet in Rwanda. Here’s Why It’s a Big Deal.

Rwanda celebrated another victory for gender representation on Nov. 5 when President Paul Kagame reshuffled his cabinet — and in the process, increased the number of female ministers from from 26 to 27.

As a result, the country now has more female ministers than male. Women now make up 52% of the cabinet.

“A higher number of women in decision-making roles have led to a decrease in gender discrimination and gender-based crimes,” Kagame said in a statement when Rwanda first named its gender-balanced cabinet in 2018.

Rwanda has the highest number of women parliamentarians globally, according to a list compiled by the Inter-Parliamentary Union. The Inter-Parliamentary Union is a group made up of parliamentarians from across the globe.

The list showed that only two other nations had more women than men in parliament: Cuba (53.2% ) and Bolivia (53.1%).

It goes on to highlight a number of other countries with almost equal gender representation: Mexico (48.2%); Grenada (46.7%); Namibia (46.2%); Sweden (46.1%); Nicaragua (45.7%); Costa Rica (42%); and South Africa, which increased representation from 42.7% in February to 50% in May.

Gender-balanced governments don’t just promote gender equality and women’s empowerment, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

“Gender diversity in public institutions is particularly crucial, given that these decision making bodies create the rules that affect people’s rights, behaviours, and life choices,” the OECD reports.

In other words, when there are more women in political office, policies that promote the rights of girls and women are prioritised.

Gender-balanced political leadership also allows women to take part in making decisions that affect their lives, such as land rights.

This seems to be what informed Kagame’s decision to make the Rwandan government even more inclusive. The president has urged the women in his cabinet to use their numbers to champion issues that affect girls and women, in particular human trafficking and sexual violence.

“In the past, women were few in decision-making positions. Now that your numbers are increasing in these positions, why don’t you use that?” he said after the reshuffle in 2018. “I do not mean that men should sit back, but let’s work together with those whom, in the past, were refused the right to serve and solve such issues.”


Original article by Lerato Mogoatlhe – Source Global Citizen

Photo by Maria Oswalt on Unsplash.


To find out more about Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and ways to get involved, visit their website.


A Man Who Freed 5,000 Yazidi Women Is Getting the Recognition He Deserves

One man rescued thousands of women from modern slavery — and now he’s receiving a prestigious award, according to the Times of India.

Hussein Al Qaidi, director of the Office of Rescue of Yazidis, will be honored at the 15th annual Mother Teresa Memorial Awards for Social Justice on Nov. 3 in Mumbai. Al Qaidi helped 5,000 Yazidi women escape from ISIS fighters, who have carried out mass persecution and genocide of the Yazidi religious and ethnic minority who reside in Northern Iraq since 2014. More than 400,000 Yazidis are living in displacement camps and hundreds remain missing.

The award ceremony is part of the Harmony Foundation’s annual social justice conference that celebrates the legacy of Nobel Peace Prize winner Mother Teresa. Mother Teresa dedicated her life to creating hundreds of orphanages, hospitals, health centers, and homeless shelters around the world.

This year’s conference, which focuses on the theme Combating Contemporary Forms of Slavery, “will help to explore durable means of abolishing modern-day slave practices like bonded labor, child labor, sex trafficking and prostitution, children exploited for commercial sex, and the forced recruitment of children for use in armed conflict.”

Al Qaidi will be in good company at the ceremony. Nobel Laureate Kailash Satyarthi and humanitarian Ajeet Singh are both being honored alongside him for their efforts to stop human trafficking.

About 45.8 million people around the world are trapped in modern slavery, and India has more modern slaves than any other country in the world. Poverty, lack of education, and living in crisis or conflict all drive modern slavery, which disproportionately affects women and girls.

Advocates like Al Quidi can’t stop this form of abuse and exploitation alone. Countries need to push for policies that prevent slavery, and international institutions and the private sector must be held accountable, the organization Anti-Slavery International says. Investing in research that brings modern slavery to light will else help stop these human rights abuses.


Original article by Leah Rodriguez – Source Global Citizen

Photo by Mhrezaa on Unsplash

To find out more about Harmony Fundation and ways to get involved, visit their website.

Equality Planet

An Indigenous Ranger Just Won the Australian Geographic’s Conservationist of the Year Award

Indigenous Australian Albert Wiggan has been awarded the Australian Geographic (AG) Society’s Conservationist of the Year award for his efforts to protect his homeland against gas export developments.

The Bardi-Kija-Nyul Nyul man and environmental consultant successfully campaigned in 2013 against the Australian government’s scheme to build one of the world’s largest liquified natural gas plants at Jame Price Point, an unspoiled section of Western Australia’s Kimberley region.

Wiggan, who brought the case to Australia’s Supreme Court, won after the developer, Woodside Petroleum, pulled out of the project.

Wiggan said he was “overwhelmed” to be honored by the AG Society Awards, considered Australia’s longest-running awards for adventure and conservation.

“I feel very proud in the fact that all of the work that I’m passionate about in promoting Indigenous rangers and providing Indigenous knowledge on how to look after country is recognized at that level,” he told NITV News. “I’m really proud of that.”

The Kimberley, a “uniquely untouched” 425,000-square-kilometre region in north Western Australia, is home to vast grasslands, mountains, ridges, and sandstone and limestone gorges.

According to Wiggan, the region is facing increasing threats over long-term mining and agriculture developments.

“There’s a lot of resources still available, mineral resources in particular that are yet to be exploited,” Wiggan explained. “Those resources are becoming very attractive to multinational agendas.”

Alongside working to stop the over-development of Indigenous land, Wiggan also works to educate western scientists on the significance of land to Indigenous populations and the importance of fostering collaborative research in the Kimberley.

Wiggan said it was vital developers and governments do not look at land entirely on potential economic output, and instead understand the emotional damage that is done when the natural environment — considered a fundamental part of Indigenous identity — is destroyed.

“I feel like we have a responsibility to make sure that people truly genuinely understand what’s at cost here,” he said.


Original article by Madeleine Keck- Source Global Citizen

Photo by Philippe Wuyts on Unsplash

To find out more about Kimberley Land Council and ways to get involved, visit their website.

Equality Wellbeing

These Zambians Are Promoting More Diverse Diets to Fight Malnutrition

Zambian meals revolve around maize. People regularly eat it two or three times a day, prepared and cooked it in a variety of ways. The crop can be quickly boiled and folded into a tasty treat, turned into a porridge, fermented, or fried into something more substantial.

But maize’s centrality in the Zambian diet has come under increasing scrutiny in recent years. A severe drought in 2018 caused maize production to fall by 34%, raising concerns about the crop’s susceptibility to droughts wrought by climate change. Since the agricultural sector employs 70% of the country’s labor force, droughts of this magnitude have repercussions throughout the economy.

More pressing, malnutrition is widespread in the country. More than 40% of children under the age of 5 suffer from chronic malnutrition, which can lead to stunting, and another 15% live with acute malnutrition, which can lead to wasting.

Maize can be a great source of nutrients, but only when a part of a diverse diet — and only if it’s not over-processed, which strips away nutritional value. An increasing proportion of maize products in the country are heavily processed and have diminished health benefits, according to the BBC.

Getting a balanced diet is not always easy in Zambia. An estimated 54% of the country lives in extreme poverty on less than $1.90 per day. As climate change disrupts the agricultural sector, incomes go down and food prices go up.

Maize isn’t a fixed certainty in Zambia’s future. The country’s land is fertile and rife with potential. A growing movement of activists, farmers, government officials, and everyday people are questioning maize’s primacy amid a larger cultural shift toward holistic well-being. They’re promoting diet diversity, encouraging farmers to plant new and old crops, and spurring local entrepreneurship.

Hivos, a Dutch development agency, recently arranged an exhibit in the capital Lusaka highlighting 10 Zambians working for greater food security and nutritional standards.

Here are their stories, courtesy of Hivos.

Mr. Goodfellow. M Chiboleka / Farmer / Chikwangala

“We eat nshima [maize porridge] because this is the food we grew up eating. What our parents fed us when we were young is what we have continued to eat,” said Mr. Goodfellow. M Chiboleka.

Not only does Mr. Chiboleka know exactly what he eats, he also understands the nutritional value. When asked how food in Zambia has changed over the years, he said that the old ways were better, as foods had more nutritional benefits and less artificial chemicals. He further advised people to refrain from eating certain foods such as broiler chickens (chicken bred and raised specifically for meat) because of the chemicals and feed that are used to boost their growth.

“Some food has brought us diseases,” he said. “Especially if you look at the amount of cooking oil people use to prepare these foods. People are starting to have heart problems because of that.

“In my time, people would get to their 80s and still look 21,” he added. “Nowadays, a 21-year-old is complaining about their legs, their back, and their heart or having high blood pressure, which was mainly found in old people back in the day.”

Johannes Mativenga / Farmer / Chongwe

Johannes Mativenga is a 63-year-old farmer from Shishobeka village in Chongwe. He produces seasonal crops as well as irrigational crops such as maize, soybeans, cabbage, tomatoes, and cucumbers.

Mativenga acknowledges that farming comes with a great responsibility to the land. He plants various crops and switches them because he knows that some crops like beans enrich the soil. Adding chicken manure also helps protect the land.

“I wouldn’t want to change my diet, most of my family members don’t suffer from any serious noncommunicable diseases and I strongly feel it’s because of our diets,” he said. “Being a farmer is much better because we grow what we eat”. I have a variety of crops for the diet of my children to keep them healthy. This is why I enjoy agriculture because that is where I get most of my food, and what I feed my children and take my children to school.”

Hon. Dora Siliya / Former Minister of Agriculture

“Maize is the number one crop in the country,” said Hon. Dora Diliya. “This is not just a threat to food security, but also to nutrition, which is the most important”.

As the former Minister of Agriculture, Diliya was doing everything possible to return to some of the traditional crops that people were used to: cassava, sorghum, millet and even rice and potatoes.

“People only think of the maize, the nshima, with whatever they eat it with, as the only food,” she said. “But we have realised that if the country is going to go forward in terms of agriculture development but also in terms of nutrition, we have to diversify. Why do Zambians or myself, why do we like so much to eat nshima? I think the honest answer is habit. Food becomes a habit. It becomes something that you grow up with and you become nostalgic about it and that’s what most people know.”

She strongly believes that if Zambia is going to have sustainable diets, diets that are good for the health of our citizens, crop diversification is key.

Hon. Attractor Malungo Chisangano / Member of Parliament for Gwembe Constituency

A nutritionist by training, Hon. Chisangano chooses meals which are locally available.

“I have a garden where I grow a variety of vegetables,” she said. “If what I may want to eat is not found in the garden then I will go to the market. I keep chickens so these are readily available when I want to eat them. And when I want to eat beef that’s when I go to supermarkets, butcheries or any other shops that sell meat. By eating these local foods I know that am supporting a local farmer, but more importantly I can relate with where this food is coming from.”

Malungo is substituting maize nshima for nshima made from millet or sorghum.

“I come from a valley that is increasingly experiencing droughts,” she said. “Maize has failed to grow due to these droughts but sorghum and millet stand a chance to survive in the drought prone areas.”

For Malungo, a sustainable diet consists of a variety of foods that are easily accessible, affordable, and can be easily be prepared.

Mr. Everisto Banda / Paralegal and farmer / Lufunsa District

Mr. Everisto Banda is among the few farmers who practice conservation farming. He grows cassava, sorghum, maize, ground-nuts among other crops. He has opted for using less fertilizers and more compost manure. Being a multi-purpose farmer, from crop production and livestock production to fish farming, he says that living a chemical-free life is easy.

“The food we have today causes diseases and young ones affected have no idea that it is because of the food they eat,” he said. “This change in diet is terrible and that is why I am maintaining my traditional diet.

“In the past, if we heard that someone had high blood pressure or was having a heart-attack, we would get scared and question ourselves about what would have gone wrong,” he added. “But now, we have come to learn that these diseases are normal, even in children.”

Mwila Musonda ‘Slapdee,’ a.k.a King Dizzle / Hip-hop artist / Lusaka

As a music icon, Slapdee’s days are filled with high activity and he is required to be on the road for long stretches of time. So, protein is critical.

“Protein is the kind of food that fills you up, and gives you the energy and burns longer,” he said. “It keeps my muscles and vocal cords from being overwhelmed, unlike with fats and oils.”

Slapdee has always thought of taking a keener interest in knowing the sources of his food. This influenced him to become a nutrition champion with Civil Society Scaling Up Nutrition (CSO-SUN). In this role, he acknowledges the importance of teaching kids about healthy food.

“A lot of what kids take in is learned habits,” he said. “If we get it right while they are young, I think they will be set for life. CSO-SUN has exposed me to the benefits of such early intervention. The food system could deliver multiple benefits if we diversify what we farm and effectively what we eat. I think we definitely all need to be demanding variety on our plates.”

Loveness Bwalya / Restaurant owner / Makeni Compound

“My favorite meal is dried fish, nshima, and pumpkin leaves. Why? Because they are healthy,” said Loveness Bwalya.

Bwalya was lucky to grow up learning how to eat healthy foods. In today’s world, most people’s diets consist of genetically modified foods (GMOs). They eat fast foods to match their fast way of life.

“I honestly don’t feel the need to eat all the spicy and fancy foods because I know those foods may be tasty and delicious, but they have little to no nutritional value,” said Bwalya.

She acknowledges that most Zambian men and women grow up eating nshima and know very little about other foods and their nutritional value. She questions why that is.

“Could the food people eat be associated with social status or wealth?” she said. “Their knowledge of the food? Or is it maybe just sticking to tradition and not having the need to change foods once in a while?”

Elias Phiri / Youth / Chongwe District

Elias Phiri, a youth member from Chongwe district, says he would love to get people to reduce their consumption of meat products because he believes that causes many diseases.

“To me, a healthy meal is not all about vegetables cooked with tonnes of oil,” he said. “Eating dried vegetables from my own garden and some healthy meat from a trusted source is my go-to healthy diet.”

Phiri explains that although most foods are expected to be prepared with cooking oil, it is important to keep a limit on the amount of oil one uses.

“Why put oil on meat when it is naturally fatty?” he said. “People need to start thinking twice about what they consume.”

Mr. Bishop Zulu / Farmer / Chongwe District

Mr. Bishop Zulu is a farmer in Chongwe district and an active member of Chikondi agricultural group. Born and raised in a village setup with his mother, who could only afford homegrown, home-prepared food, Mr. Zulu ate foods like pumpkin leaves and mushrooms, and had no idea what cooking oil was.

“I will not lie, from birth, till date, I have never set foot in a hospital. Do you know why? Because my whole life, I’ve consumed nothing but organic foods, free from all the toxins,” he said.

Though he was born in 1973, Mr. Zulu feels that he looks much younger because of the food choices he has made over the years.

“Homegrown food is the way to go,” he said.

Daisy Phiri / Mother and hotelier owner / Avondale Lusaka

Daisy Phiri is a mother of three and she is a hotelier by profession. In her line of work, she is used to welcoming guests and she enjoys cooking for them too.

“It’s an art,” she said. “Cooking is an art and it excites me a lot, especially when I cook my favourite meals and people appreciate what I have done.

“I learned from my mum that every meal, should be a balanced meal consisting of all the nutrients that the body needs. To nourish the body, to make it function normally, in the correct way.

“In my growing up with a nutritionist mom, I learned how to always incorporate vegetables at every meal. And how to always incorporate different kinds of foods, especially for children. I make sure that we stock up with some millet meal and also cassava meal so that we have alternatives to maize nshima.

“What I would like to say is the practice of good nutrition begins with me as a mother and as a wife. Teaching my children how to eat a balanced diet and how to eat healthy. If they grow up with that, then even the future I see a healthier nation.”

Original article by By Joe McCarthy  and  Mwandwe Chileshe – Source Global Citizen

Photo by Trevor Cole on Unsplash

To find out more about Hives and ways to get involved, visit their website.


Nobel peace prize winners launch fund for wartime rape survivors

Nobel laureates Denis Mukwege and Nadia Murad have launched a fund to provide reparations for survivors of wartime rape.

The Global Survivors Fund will provide tailored support to help people recover from the emotional and physical trauma they have experienced. This could be in the form of financial compensation, support to access healthcare services or return to education, or assistance with getting somewhere to live.

The fund will also support governments to set up their own reparation schemes.

The initiative, officially launched in New York on Wednesday, is expected to attract funding from donor governments and the private sector, with the aim of raising between $50m (£38m) and $100m by 2022.

The French president, Emmanuel Macron, has already committed €6m (£5m) to the fund, while the EU has pledged €2m. Germany provided about €200,000 “seed” money to help establish the fund, and the UK, Japan, South Korea and Norway are understood to be exploring ways to support it.

Esther Dingemans, director of the Mukwege Foundation, said the aim of the fund was to provide restorative justice for survivors. “What has really been missing is recognition of the harm done to them, which is extremely important, and prevention of stigma,” she said.

Mukwege, a surgeon whose Panzi hospital in the Democratic Republic of the Congo has helped tens of thousands of people who survived sexual violence perpetrated by armed forces, said in advance of the launch: “The importance of establishing this fund for survivors of conflict-related sexual violence cannot be overstated. We have been advocating such an initiative for many years. Seeing it come to fruition is a huge step forwards for humanity.”

Murad, a Yazidi woman who became a human rights campaigner after escaping enslavement by Isis, added: “Reparations are a step toward restoring dignity to survivors who often do not have any means to seek justice for the pain and suffering they have endured. A global fund is an innovative solution to providing survivors with a path towards healing, and it signals that our collective conscience acts in the name of humanity.”

Mukwege and Murad jointly received the Nobel peace prize last year.

The creation of the fund was included in a UN security council resolution to combat rape in conflict that was passed in April, after the US successfully lobbied members to remove key language related to women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights.

On Tuesday, the security council passed another resolution, introduced by South Africa. It is the 10th such resolution passed since 2000 that seeks to address women’s specific experiences of conflict, and press for their involvement in peace negotiations and post-conflict reconstruction.

The new resolution called for the full implementation of commitments made by members almost two decades ago. But it failed to mention sexual and reproductive health and rights, and was criticised by Karen Pierce, the UK ambassador to the UN, for being weak in scope.

“We believe that the resolution would have broken new ground if it had included explicit language on women human rights defenders and their protection and their security,” Pierce told the security council. “The work of women human rights defenders is essential to the functioning of democracy and the maintenance and achievement of peace.”

She also criticised the failure to recognise the central role of civil society in leading efforts for change, and emphasised that full implementation needed to include sexual and reproductive health services.

“I know that not all member states agree with this but from the perspective of the United Kingdom, [sexual and reproductive health and rights] and their services are a vital part of public services for women in all countries, and a vital part of ensuring that women can play a truly equal role in the building of their countries,” she said.

The UK had voted for the April resolution, despite the exclusion of sexual and reproductive health and rights.

The executive director of UN Women, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, told the security council: “The loud and common message is: progress is too slow, political will is not strong enough, and pushback against the needs and interests of women is threatening the progress we have made and pushing further away those who need the resolve and support most.”

Last week, more than 400 civil society groups across 94 countries signed an open letter calling on UN member states to recommit to promises made in 2000.

“As non-governmental organisations dedicated to gender equality and women’s rights, we firmly believe that the feminist principle of women’s agency remains at the heart of the WPS agenda and that we cannot achieve sustainable peace without women’s full, equal and meaningful participation in all levels of decision-making,” read the letter.

“However, nearly 20 years since the adoption of resolution 1325 [passed in 2000], despite the fact that conflicts disproportionately impact the health, safety, and the human rights of women and girls, they remain shut out of decision-making processes that determine their future.”


Original article by Liz Ford – Source  The Guardian

Photo by Patrick Fore on Unsplash 


To find out more about the Global Survivors Fund and ways to get involved, visit their website.


This Welsh Grandma Is Inspiring a Community to Knit 2,020 Jumpers for Refugee Children

Grandmother Eileen Johnson, from Cardigan in Wales, first learned to knit when she was three years old, in the air shelters of the Second World War.

Now, the 79-year-old is spending the next year trying to knit 2,020 jumpers and cardigans for refugee children across Europe — and she’s got her community on board to help.

Helped along by the efforts of a local café, Stiwdio 3, Johnson has become the catalyst for the community project, with locals donating wool, knitting needles, and their time to help out.

Johnson decided to set herself the challenge of doing something worthwhile before her 80th birthday next year and, given that it’ll be the year 2020, she decided to knit 2,020 jumpers for children.

“I’ve lived through a war and I know a bit of what they [child refugees] are going through,” she told the BBC.

The campaign has been going since July, and by Oct. 2 the team had managed to create their first 100 items. At the latest count, on Oct. 22, they’d made it to 164 items.

Stiwdio 3 has been keeping their audience up to date with the project on its Facebook page — using social media to spread the message far and wide, and gather support from both the local and global communities.

Johnson spends a lot of her time in the café, knitting in the window, talking to people about the project, and helping teach kids to knit.

According to Stiwdio 3’s Facebook, Johnson even inspired one woman from Boulder, Colorado, to collect a knitting pattern and take it back to the US with her, hoping to get her community involved in the project too.

“What a great way to unite people across the world,” the café wrote.

Earlier this month UNHCHR, the UN Refugee Agency, urged European states to do more to protect child refugees and migrants — who continue to face risks like unsafe accommodation, being incorrectly registered as adults, and a lack of appropriate care.

UNHCR published its latest “Desperate Journeys” report on Oct. 14. It found that from January to September 2019, some 80,800 people arrived in Europe via Mediterranean routes — down from 102,700 in the same period last year.

Of those, more than a quarter were children — many of whom were travelling without their parents.

“These children may have fled conflict, lost family members, been away from home for months, even years, with some enduring horrific abuses during their journeys, but their suffering doesn’t stop at the border,” said Pascale Moreau, director of UNHCR’s Europe Bureau.

“Across Europe, unaccompanied children in particular are frequently housed in large centres with minimal oversight, exposing them to further abuse, violence, and psychological distress, and increasing the risk that they will move on or disappear,” he added.

Original article by Imogen Calderwood – Source Global Citizen

Photo by Freepik 


To find out more about Stiwdio 3, and ways to get involved check out their Facebook.


Fences that don’t divide

Barriers for refugees exist everywhere.

Language, culture, food, money and loneliness are just a few, and for someone who has fled their home because of war or persecution, settling in the UK can feel an impossible task.

It’s an issue that inspired Lewis Garland to set up Fences and Frontiers, a community group based in London which aims to help refugees and asylum seekers feel welcome and make friends in their new communities.

Fences and Frontiers started as a short film night during Refugee Week in 2016, and has evolved to a group of volunteers who run two main projects. Never Walk Alone is a walking group while London, Museums and Me is a project organising family trips out to some of London’s iconic museums and cultural attractions for refugees, asylum seekers and their children.

Both projects aim to introduce people to fascinating places in and around London that they would not be able to access on their own, provide an opportunity to practice English and help combat loneliness and social isolation.

Lewis said: “Settling in a new country with a new language and customs can be daunting for anyone. For people who have been forced to flee their country of origin and seek asylum in a country far from home, these difficulties are multiplied many times over. 

“At Fences and Frontiers our aim is to make London a welcoming, supportive and inspiring place for refugees and asylum seekers to live in and settle. 

“Our projects not only introduce people to fascinating museums and picturesque parts of the countryside, but provide them with the chance to meet and build friendships with people from outside the usual circles, practice their language skills in a natural, relaxed environment, and gain a sense of community in a city that can, at times, be incredibly lonely and alienating”.

The walking group have recently visited Epping Forest and travelled to Margate and Broadstairs on the Kent coast, while the Science Museum and Mudchute City Farm both proved to be family favourites.

Gabriel is an asylum seeker from Democratic Republic of Congo and a member of the Never Walk Alone project. He said: “Firstly, I have met new friends. Secondly, its healthy for my body. My blood pressure is now stable and I can walk without pain in my knees. Finally, it’s important for my mind. As an asylum seeker I have got a great benefit.” 

Fences and Frontiers need funding to help cover expenses of running the project, such as transport and refreshment costs, DBS checks and exhibition entries.

They would also like to hear from anyone interested in joining the walks, which are open to all, or contributing in any other way to their work. 

Go to to find out more.

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By Jenna Sloan


A magic bus helping East London

It might look like an average single decker, but this bus is vital to the community in Waltham Forest, east London.

Instead of the usual seats and spaces for buggies, inside it’s kitted out with an XBox, a PlayStation, comfy pink seating and even a mini kitchen.

And rather than picking up passengers, this bus – owned and operated by the charity Worth Unlimited – has been transformed into a mobile youth club where teenagers aged 11 to 19 can relax, make friends, build a sense of community and even get help with their homework.

For Helen Perry, the charity’s branch leader, the bus is unique as a youth club venue as it can be driven into the heart of residential estates, providing a safe space where young people can ‘just be’ on their doorstep.

She said: “We’ve been operating the bus for almost 12 years now and we have seen it make a massive difference to many young people’s lives.

“There are a lot of issues facing the young people we meet. It could be family problems, bullying, issues at school or the risk of making bad choices in your friendship group.

“We provide an informal space to chat and make new friends. We have internet access and we put on games, cooking lessons and quizzes. Teachers and social workers change quite frequently, but our youth workers and volunteers become someone a young person can confide in and rely on.”

And there has never been a greater need for young people living in the capital to have that safe space. Statistics released by the Home Office in July show that London had almost double the level of knife crime in 2018-19 than any other area of the country, and that young black and minority ethnic teenage boys were disproportionately affected, as both victims and perpetrators.

Helen said: “I don’t know what might have happened to some of your young people had we not been there. We have supported them when things were really difficult at home and with friendship issues.

“We also make sure we really listen to what they want to talk about. We try to use a theme for our activities based on what is happening in the area and what the young people want to know more about, be that Pride week, their rights around stop and search or black history month.

“We also help with GCSE exam stress and show them how to write a CV and prepare for a job interview once they leave school.

“Several of our young people have come back as volunteers themselves. One told me that we had been everything to him, another said we were like family.”

Waltham Forest Council cut funding to the bus and they are now in the final year of a National Lottery grant. Helen is keen for any volunteers or could help with fundraising or events to get in touch in order to ensure its survival, and also anyone with carpentry skills who could help with a new furniture upcycling project the charity is launching to raise more income.

For more information see



By Jenna Sloan