Categories
Culture Equality

A visit to Queercircle’s LGBTQ+ sanctuary

Queer Circle, the LGBTQ+ led charity working at the intersection of arts, culture and social action, has opened a new home in the heart of North Greenwich.

The charity seeks to develop an ecology of artists, curators, writers, thinkers, community organisers, grassroots organisations and charities who collectively work together to strengthen links between culture, health and wellbeing.

We visited the new space to learn more about how they’re providing a holistic environment which celebrates queer identity, champions arts and culture, and supports the wellbeing of our community.

Inspired to act?

SUPPORT: Find out more about QueerCircle and how you can get involved

 

Categories
Planet

A global movement to save our soil

Did you know there’s a global movement to save our soil?

And, did you also know that soil is integral to our planet – putting food on plates, purifying water, and protecting us against flooding?

Save Soil is a campaign by Conscious Planet, spearheaded by Sadghuru, which seeks to bring about a concerted, conscious response to impending soil extinction. “When nearly 40% of climate change is affected by soil, why are we not talking about soil?” he tells Smiley News

“All life, irrespective of anything – whether the life is in water or in the oceans – everything is the product of soil. There is no question about that. It is a well-established fact today that already over 50% of the topsoil which nourishes life is gone. In a way the whole world is slowly turning into a desert.”

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Why do we need to save our soil?

Elsewhere, says Sadghuru, there’s a lot of talk about climate change, global warming, but there’s no focus as to what the role of soil in this is. 

“Open plowed soils and paved soil, these two are responsible for nearly 40% of global warming and climate change,” he says. “So soil has to be fixed. What is fixing soil mean? It’s very simple, if you take sand and add enough organic content into it, it becomes soil. 

“If you take soil and take away all the organic content, it becomes sand. So, do you want sand around you or soil around you is a question. If you want life, you need soil.

This is why we are looking at establishing policy across the world, that if you own land, minimum three to six percent organic content should be in the soil.”

The microbial life of soil

“The basis of all life is in the first 12–15 inches of soil,” he says. “Out of this, plants, trees, animals, birds and human beings have come. Soil needs organic content because the microbial life feeds on it. If they are not well-fed, you shall not be well-fed after some time, because 95% of the human food comes from these twelve inches of soil.”

Today, it’s common knowledge that without the help of the gut microbiome, you cannot digest the food that you eat. “Our gut microbes are essentially from the soil; they evolved themselves to live in our bodies, but they are very similar to those in the soil,” he says. “The plants cannot absorb nourishment from the soil directly by themselves. It only happens as an exchange between microbial life and plant life. 

“Plant life captures carbon from the atmosphere, converts it into carbon sugars and trades very judiciously with the microbes for whatever it needs in terms of nitrogen, phosphorus, magnesium, iron, etc. Without this complex trading system in the soil, life cannot exist.”

What can we do?

“If we act now, in the next 10–15 years the global soil could be turned around significantly,” says Sadghuru. “If we cross this threshold, it will become very difficult for future generations to live here.”

While individual action helps – it needs a “worldwide policy”, he says.

“We have prepared a general policy document with special editions for each region of the world,” he says. “We have written to 730 political parties in the world to bring soil regeneration into their political agendas. The idea behind this motorcycle ride is just for this – if I fly into different countries, doors will not open. They have to see that I am staking my life a bit.”

He continues: “We are trying to move 60% of the world’s electorate – that is at least 3.5 billion people – to speak up about their concern for soil. You don’t have to go and fix the soil; you just have to make your voice loud and clear. 

“This does not mean you have to go out and shout on the street – use technology: Twitter, Facebook, Telegram, or whatever you have. Every day, spend 5–10 minutes and say something about soil. It will all get aggregated on social media. If we can get 4 billion people talking about soil during these 100 days, no government on the planet can ignore it. Let us make it happen.”

Inspired to act?

GET INVOLVED: Find out more about Conscious Planet’s global soil movement on their website.

SIGN UP: You can sign up as an Earth Buddy – find out what it involves

 

Categories
Culture Wellbeing

Charity CEO on how they support naval children

Any child who has a parent that either is serving, or has served, in the Royal Navy has a support network there to help them up until they’re 25: the Naval Children’s Charity.

The organisation is on a mission to help these children really go into life as adults – and have their best lives. Clare Scherer, Chief Executive of the Naval Children’s Charity, says a lot of their daily work involves families who are in crisis. “They’re really actually finding that life is really hard and as we all know, we’ve all had a really difficult time over the last few years,” she says.

The Naval Children’s Charity has a team of caseworkers that works with children all across the globe. “They work with them, they work out what it is that they’re facing, where the difficulties are on how we can help,” says Clare. “And sometimes that means we get them access to therapies or activities – and sometimes we’re providing advice and support and helping them with debt.”

Families who are supported by the charity are always grateful and amazed for the help, adds Clare. “My team are brilliant and they’re regularly referred to as saints, and they’ve been wonderful,” she adds.

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Fundamentally, the charity hopes to alleviate the worry and stress that children may feel. Usually, a family will contact them and they’ll work out what it is that the family really needs. “That will mean looking at what the child’s need is and giving financial support so that the family can cope,” she says.

“We don’t want our families going to food banks. You know, we help them with monthly payments, we buy school uniform, we buy clothing, we help children with their education. You know, we want children to have a great life.”

The charity also has lots of resources for children – they have books to help the children understand their parents going away for long periods of time. 

“We have these two lovely books, Zoe in the Time Rabbit and Henry in the Time Penguin, and we have teams of lovely knitters around the UK who knit us wonderful little rabbits and penguins, and they go out with our books for free to any family that wants them,” says Clare. 

“And it helps the children understand their feelings about separation.”

The charity has five main areas they really want to help children with: their health, wellbeing, security, education, and life chances. “We want them to really lead their best lives so that they really become the best human beings they can,” she adds. 

Watch our interview with Clare in the video above. 

Inspired to act?

SUPPORT: Find out how you can fundraise and support for the Naval Children’s Charity

DONATE: You can donate to the charity to help them continue operating and supporting children and families. 

Categories
Culture

Inside Dads House, supporting single fathers

William McGranaghan raised his son as a single dad with no family network – and no support in London. “I didn’t know what to do next,” he tells Smiley News. “There was a complete lack of anything to help dads – and to this day, it’s kind of similar.”

He set up Dads House: a charity supporting dads and their children through emotional support, combatting loneliness, and assisting them with family matters.

A key part of the charity is the support it gives dads through family law. Dads House holds a weekly Family Law clinic offering practical and free legal advice. A fully functional law practice, it’s led by Simon Bruce – ”one of the best family lawyers in the country”.

“It’s so unique, it’s a dream come true,” says William, about the clinic, “to have a place where our family law clinic is led by Simon Bruce. And what he’s brought with his contacts, his professionalism, his empathy, and with his love of helping mums and dads who just don’t know what to do next when they’re facing the Family Court – it’s brilliant.”

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How else do they support dads?

Dads House runs breakfast clubs, family clinics, football games – “and we’re starting a new guitar lessons for dads and kids, a buddy service, and cooking classes,” says William. 

“We’ve got food banks where we’ve helped over 50,000 mums and dads over the last two years,” he says. “We’ve been open seven days a week all the way through the pandemic, and it’s something that’s really important – a lot of dads find themselves in a position where they can’t support their kids.”

In the 15 years the charity has been running, Dads House has supported more than 16,000 dads – and that’s a minimum. They get emails, calls and messages from dads and usually support 15 to 30 new dads every day, seven days a week.

The future for dads

“I think the future of Dads House is setting up something, ideally where a local authority could take up a brand – and then open their own Dads Houses throughout the country,” says William. 

“Each city has their own unique activities that dads need – and everything else is a bonus after that.”

The charity is always looking for donations – both in terms of items for their foodbank and financial donations so they can continue operating. 

“We’re based in West Brompton in London, and anyone can come in with bags of food or just come in for a cup of tea and say hello – and a jaffa cake, we’re partial to jaffa cakes.”

Inspired to act?

VISIT AND DONATE: You can visit Dads House in West Brompton – the main food bank and office is 22 Lillie Road, London SW6 1TS.

DONATE: You can donate directly through their JustGiving page – find out more

Categories
Wellbeing

Tennis ball mosaic boosts clean water for all

Two charities have partnered up to raise awareness of the importance of clean water – something no one should go without. 

WaterAid and the Wimbledon Foundation created a giant tennis ball mosaic of a young boy enjoying clean water, to highlight how more than 11,000 children’s lives could be saved during The Championships if everyone, everywhere had access to clean water and toilets.

It took artists from Sand in Your Eye 12 hours to create the tennis-court-sized portrait near No.1 Court, showing 10-year-old Tefy from Antsakambahiny village in Madagascar who, with the help of WaterAid and partners including the Wimbledon Foundation, now has clean water at school and near his home.

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Clean water – why we need it

Across the world, a staggering 771 million people – one in 10 – are living without clean water close to home and 1.7 billion people – one in five – do not have a decent toilet. Over half of healthcare facilities in the least developed countries have no clean water on site.

Without access to these basic facilities, the lives of and children are needlessly put at risk, with around 800 children under five dying every day from diarrhoeal diseases caused by poor water and sanitation. Many more are frequently ill or forced to spend hours out of school collecting water, compromising their education.

Tefy’s life has been transformed with clean water. “We no longer fetch water down the hill anymore since we have taps in our school,” he said. “The water here is very clean and fresh. We can open the taps and drink water whenever we want. We can wash our hands at any time and even bathe here if we want.

“Every afternoon, after doing my homework, I always come near the school to play with my friends. We play football or hide and seek. I love being at school studying and being with my friends.”

‘Together, we can help solve the water crisis’

Former British No.1 tennis player Heather Watson is backing WaterAid and the Wimbledon Foundation as they champion clean water for all. “We are all united by our need for clean water; it is vital for good health, yet one in 10 people around the world live without this essential resource close to home,” she said.

“Something as simple as turning on a tap and pouring a glass of water is not an option for millions of children globally. Many have no choice but to drink dirty water that can make them sick, or spend time walking to collect water instead of going to school, holding them back from reaching their full potential.

“Together, we can help solve the water crisis.”

The tennis balls for the mosaic were gifted by Slazenger, Official Ball of The Championships, and will be donated on to charities supported by the Wimbledon Foundation such as Rackets Cubed, a charity which delivers integrated racket sports, education and nutrition programmes to improve the lives of vulnerable and disadvantaged young children.

Inspired to act?

HELP OTHERS: Find out more about WaterAid’s work and how you can get involved at wateraid.org.

VOLUNTEER: WaterAid has volunteering opportunities – you can find out what’s available near you

Categories
Wellbeing

Messages of hope in aid of prostate cancer

A group of female celebrities are broaching the topic of prostate cancer with messages of hope ahead of Father’s Day on 19 June.

On average, more than 50,000 new cases of prostate cancer are discovered each year, according to Cancer Research UK, with one in six males being diagnosed in their lifetime.

That’s why it’s amazing to see people working to bring awareness to prostate cancer, and the steps that can be taken to prevent it from affecting more lives.

While someone diagnosed with prostate cancer can live with the illness for 10 years or more, it can still be fatal, with almost 12,000 people dying each year. And an early diagnosis is key. 

‘The Sit Down’

To raise awareness, three female celebrities whose lives have been affected by the diagnoses of loved ones are coming together to talk about their stories. ‘The Sit Down’ which launched on 7 June 2022 gives broadcaster Jenny Powell, Coronation Street actress Katie McGlynn and Love Islander and model Arabella Chi the chance to get brutally honest with their audience.

“I’m happy we’re here today to kind of represent the women who are affected by it,” explained Katie. “We don’t have prostates, but we’re still affected.”

For Jenny and Katie their lives have been touched by loss at the hands of prostate cancer. Katie’s grandfather passed away of prostate cancer seven years ago, and Jenny now faces her first Father’s Day without her dad, who sadly died just nine months ago.

Encouraging people to take action

For these three women, ‘The Sit Down’ isn’t just about celebrating the lives of those they lost, or those that were saved thanks to treatment, it is about encouraging people across the nation to take action.

With their honesty, they’re empowering people to take their lives into their own hands and get tested regularly, so that the cancer can be caught before it becomes life threatening.

Organised by Prostate Cancer UK, this is the latest bid to bring attention to the disease which affects so many lives worldwide. Along with the stories of heartbreak, these three women bring a message of hope to those whose lives are being affected by prostate cancer right now. 

“They were both diagnosed in 2013,” Arabella said of her father and uncle, who were diagnosed with and have since survived prostate cancer. “I went to Love Island in 2019. [They] wouldn’t have ever seen that part of my life.”

“What we need is money,” added Katie, as the trio spoke of the ways to prevent late prostate cancer diagnoses. “To create this test … so that they’re still here.”

You can watch the full video above.

Inspired to act?

DONATE: You can give financial support by donating to Prostate Cancer UK today. 

VOLUNTEER: Volunteer with Prostate Cancer UK to help raise funds.

SUPPORT: Check out the Prostate Cancer UK Shop to help support the charity.

GET INVOLVED: Organise your own fundraiser for Prostate Cancer UK.

Categories
Planet

5 resolutions for cleaner oceans

Climate consciousness is on the rise, with four in 10 British people saying the climate, environment and pollution were a major issue for them in a recent poll – the highest ever score for the topic since the poll’s launch in 1988.

As worries mount about the climate crisis, the Marine Conservation Society offers us these five resolutions to help channel those concerns into positive action by cleaning up our oceans in 2022.

Roll up your sleeves for cleaner waters

Plastic pollution is a particular concern, with 62% of people saying they were very or extremely concerned about plastic pollution in a UK survey by Charity Awareness Monitor. If you’re one such person, join the Marine Conservation Society’s beach cleaning programme to help tackle the problem. It operates year-round, with beach cleans available to join as a volunteer, or organise for friends, family or colleagues.

Join a beach clean via the Marine Conservation Society’s volunteering page.

Go ‘climatarian’

Another impactful way to improve your impact on the planet is by adopting a more sustainable diet. While buying seafood, as well as meat or dairy products, consider how it was caught or farmed and where. To help you, The Good Fish Guide lists the most sustainable seafood options; choose seafood rated green on the Guide to minimise your impact on the marine environment and help protect blue carbon stores.

Download The Good Fish Guide from the charity’s website.

Volunteer as a citizen scientist

Get stuck in with data gathering for scientists and drive forward their research to help protect the ocean. Everyone can become a citizen scientist, and the Marine Conservation Society offers various projects you can join, including their Big Seaweed Search, Wildlife sightings and Beach cleaning.

Discover more ways to help on the charity’s volunteering page.

Join a community of ocean optimists

Become a member of the Marine Conservation Society to support the charity’s campaigns and improve ocean health. With the help of volunteers lobbying policymakers and gathering data, plastic bags on UK beaches have decreased by  55% since charges were introduced in 2011.

Learn more about becoming a Marine Conservation Society member on the charity’s website.

Dive (or snorkel) in

Even better, become an amateur marine biologist through the Marine Conservation Society’s Seasearch programme. Volunteer divers and snorkellers can explore UK and Irish seas learning about marine life while collecting vital information about underwater ecosystems, and monitoring ocean health. The programme offers training to anyone from beginners to experts in biological recording (Seasearch is not a dive school)

To get involved with Seasearch, visit www.seasearch.org.uk.

For more ways to support the Marine Conservation Society in other ways, visit mcsuk.org.

Categories
Culture

Dancing builders give away a house

A group of builders from the North West are running a prize draw where they are giving away a brand new house worth £250,000 that they are currently building.

Every penny of ticket sales will go to help care for seriously ill children at their local children’s hospice, Derian House, based in Chorley, Lancashire.

To make themselves stand out, they’ve made a music video of the re-worked Madness classic song “Our House”.

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Kingswood Homes managing director, Paul Jones, said: “Personally, I think if we spend a third of our lives at work, work really should be fun and the video shows that working at Kingswood certainly is with lots of the team taking part.”

The house referred to in the Kingswood music video and up for grabs in the Great Big House giveaway prize draw, is a three-bedroom detached home worth a quarter of a million pounds.

Site manager Liam Reilly, who is overseeing construction of the house at Green Hills, Blackburn, was the creative brain behind the new lyrics and is also lead vocalist on the track.

“Being in the recording studio was a bit different to my normal day to day work on site but it was a great experience,” he said. “Who knows we might go for Christmas number one next.”

Caroline Taylor, head of income at Derian House Children’s Hospice, said: “The video was created as a surprise for us at Derian House and we absolutely love it! The fact that the whole workforce got involved really means a lot to us. And as well as raising cash for seriously ill children, it helps to raise awareness of our charity.

“It costs £5.7million every year to run services at Derian House and so Kingswood Homes supporting us in this way is vital to ensuring we can continue supporting families now and in the future.”

Inspired to act?

BUY A TICKET: Six tickets for the Great Big House Giveaway can be purchased for just £5. There will be a guaranteed winner, to be announced at a gala ball at Hoghton Tower on September 17. Find out more

SUPPORT: You can also directly support Derian House, working to help seriously ill children. Find out more

Categories
Culture

How to ‘flip the script’ for a better world

To #FlipTheScript, the UN SDG Action Campaign calls for a journey of advocacy and action.

“Let’s turn apathy into action, fear into hope, and division into togetherness,” they say.

We spoke to Martin Samaan, from the UN SDG Action Campaign to find out more about this campaign and why we should change our mindset to feel more hopeful about our futures. Find out more about the campaign and get involved: https://act4sdgs.org/flip-the-script/

Categories
Planet

The world’s first plastic fishing contest

With fears that by 2050, there could be more plastic at sea than fish, beer company Corona has come up with a way to tackle plastic pollution while offering fisherfolk new livelihoods. Together with local communities, it raised awareness of the issue, leading the world’s first-ever plastic fishing tournament.

Nets, tackles, boats at the ready, about 150 community members rallied behind the initiative, taking it upon themselves to collect waste plastic from the ocean. 

From North America and South America to Asia and the Middle East, these dedicated individuals spent 15 hours collectively fishing for this worrying source of pollution.

Contests were held in Mexico, China, Brazil and Israel, where local fisherpeople competed to collect hauls of plastic waste. They returned their catches to plastic recycling centres and received compensation for their work, offering a new opportunity to generate income.

The initiative hopes to turn this unprecedented problem into impactful solutions. While some of the plastic will get recycled, other hauls will be transformed by local artists into community sculptures or used to make beachwear and pallets for transporting goods. 

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Reflecting on Corona’s efforts to produce net-zero plastic waste, Felipe Ambra, global vice president for Corona said: “Corona’s Plastic Fishing Tournament is another step forward in our long-term purpose to leave no plastic in nature. We feel it is our responsibility to protect paradise for generations to come, and we want to lead the way and inspire others to do the same.”

Working closely with Corona on the tournament, Gustavo Lauria, Co-Founder and CCO of advertising agency We Believers said: “It is an honour to be able to work for a brand that demonstrates its commitment with actions, by creating and developing scalable platforms that have a real impact on the lives of people and the planet.”

In 2016 researchers found that in the following two decades and a half, ocean plastic could triple. More worrying still, they expected this quantity to continue rising till there is more plastic than fish in the sea by 2050. A consensus is building that to tackle the issue successfully will require mass industrial action and policy changes.

Dominic Waughray of the World Economic Forum said: “This report demonstrates the importance of triggering a revolution in the plastics industrial ecosystem and is a first step to showing how to transform the way plastics move through our economy. 

“To move from insight to large-scale action, it is clear that no one actor can work on this alone. The public, private sector and civil society all need to mobilize to capture the opportunity of the new circular plastics economy.”

Inspired to act?

SUPPORT: To become a part of the solution, take a look at what Surfers Against Sewage are doing to tackle ocean plastic pollution and get involved.

DONATE: If you’re living further inland but want to support people doing beach cleanups and lobbying politicians to tackle plastic pollution, donate to Surfers Against Sewage.