Lattitude and the Love Syria Campaign

As you can see I’ve not written in a while, and far from being becasue I’ve done no volunteering, it is actually becasue I’ve been super busy volunteering left, right and center! I’ve got three big updates for my blog, but I’ll do them one at a time…

So, at the end of June I went to the Lattitude festival with Oxfam and I absolutly loved it.  Last time I went to a festival with Oxfam I did stewarding, and it was as boreing as.  But Campaiging was a lot of fun.

We worked for 6 hours each of the four days armed with a huge Love Syria placard, a bright red Love Syria stamp, a stack of sign up sheets for our petition and loads of cute little badges with different messages including “Love Lattitude”, “Love Syria”, “Love Pays the Rent” and my personal favourite “Love is a Toilet!”.

The main aim was to spred the message, give out free stuff and get signatures for the petition (for more aid, better access for charitys, and for the UK government to work towards a peaceful end to the war).  Lots of people were happy to sign the petition without knowing much about it, but many others wanted to have a chat or a debate about what we wanted the government to do, and those were the best conversations! It was great fun, especially when you actually felt like you changed someones mind about the whole thing.  We worked super hard, it was a tough weekend, hot and sunny days and chilly nights, but we got thousands of signatures, and I saw some pretty good theater and poetry as well!





Where to Volunteer?

I am currently looking for a regular volunteer placement, a four hour shift that I can do every week or every two weeks.  And I’m currently looking into working with either the Samaritans, StreetLink or the No Second Night Out Campaign.

I’ve been to an information evening for the Samaritans, an organisation that are trying to help people with suicidal tendencies by being there to listen non-judgementally to their problems it is a call centre style role and I have an assessment centre style interview this Saturday.

For StreetLink I’ve also attended an information evening, they are an organisation working to get homeless people off the street.  Members of the public can phone into street link, or give details on their website of people sleeping rough and StreetLink will try to connect them to the right services.  I haven’t moved further with this as I wish to wait and see the results of the other two options first

And as for No Second Night Out (or NSNO) I have applied to be an Assessment Hub Assistant.  I think that this is the one I am most interested in, but there was no information evening for this so I had to apply and I am going to an interview tonight.  It sounds perfect as the volunteering is at the weekend during the day, and the assessment centre is in Angel (very close to home).  And the centre helps people who have been recently made homeless, make plans to get themselves off the street as fast as possible.  I always think “what if it were me?” when I see people on the street, and I would love to do something really active to help.

Festival Campaigning with Oxfam: Love Syria

For ages I’ve wanted to go to Latitude Festival, but I am not a huge music fan and I don’t want to spend hundreds of pounds on it, and to top it off I have no one to go with. I’ve stewarded with Oxfam before but I didn’t really want to do it again because to be honest it was really boring, and I didn’t make fast friends with the people I was working with, so I was really excited when I heard about the opportunity to campaign instead, which sounded both interesting and much more social.

I applied a month or so ago, and was very excited to be told I’d received a place and last Saturday I attended the training. I thought I was going to be campaigning for the IF campaign, a poverty and hunger focused campaign which is really close to my heart following my recent sabbatical year in central America where I saw a lot of extreme poverty, and for which I also did the “Live Below the Line” challenge. So initially I was upset to hear of the change of topic to “Love Syria” which before this weekend meant nothing to me. But, by the end of the day on Saturday I was hugely excited again about the whole thing again.

The day started with a session about Oxfam and their aims, and who they are. I had no idea they started out as Oxford Famine Relief (makes a lot more sense now why I was in Oxford!). Then we moved on to a brain dump about Syria, there was far too much information to take it all in, and am going to have to do lots of reading on the topic to make sure I am an expert before July!

Following these more academic subjects we talked more about what we would be doing as a campaigner, our role, what would happen on site, what we need to bring, how we need to act. We played some education games (and some less education games) and we did some role plays (which I hate; I know they are important but I always feel like cringing).

We also had a session on the “take away thing”. As campaigners we are going to give the festival goers something to take away with them, be it a sticker or a painted face or a fake tattoo, so that they can continue to do our work and spread the work for us; and we did a brain storming session about what this could be. Interesting to think than one of ideas we came up with could be what they use!!

Anyways, I ended super excited about the summer. Can’t wait to get out there at Latitude and started talking to people!!

Live Below the Line: Day 5

Today was a lot more bearable, I think because I knew it was the end and I could see that glass of wine waiting for me in the evening.

One of my colleague went out and got fried chicken and chips at lunch and came back and ate them at his desk; offering me some with a grin on his face, knowing I couldn’t have any. That wasn’t the best, but I focused on my glass of wine and the wondrous meal I was going to have to finish, would it be salad, or vegetables or noodles … ??

I went out with my friend Andrea, and we settled on the Real Greek for dinner, lots of little plates of nice different things, and all the things I hadn’t eaten for days, different types of cheeses, two different salad, chips, lamb, little pita breads. And that glass of rose I’d been waiting for all week.


And then I went home and lay in bed with my book a heavenly coffee and a line of galaxy chocolate.

It was a heavenly evening, and I am so glad that I don’t have to live below the line any longer, but there are 1.4 billion people in the world who can’t just stop like I can. For them it is for life. They can’t look forward to the glass of wine on Friday, for them this type of diet, this type of life goes on and on …

Part of me thinks I should feel guilty about it, but the other part of me thinks that is silly. I should enjoy the luck life have brought me, but at the same time I should continue to use what I have to try and help others. And I hope you guys who have been following me this week, are maybe starting to feel the same!

So my week of poverty is up, but my blog isn’t. I hope you carry on reading about my passion for volunteering and my desire to help others in any way I can. And I hope that it inspires you to something yourselves, even if your something isn’t quite as radical as mine!

So for now, adios and enjoy your food, remembering whilst you do so that not everyone in the world eats as well as you do.

Live Below the Line: Day 4

So close to the end now, and yet still so far! Today was awful. I got a headache again at about 11 in the morning, but I took some pain killers and it went away, and I got so busy at work I completely forgot about it.


I got my lunch at normal time and read my book to relax a little, and left work bang on 5:30pm as I was going out again in the evening to an information evening for volunteering job I’m thinking of applying for. About half an hour in my head started to hurt again, and I took another ibuprofen but it didn’t let up. By the time at about 8:45pm I got home I was feeling awful.

Leon had cooked me rice so I just heated up by beans, but I only ate half and was still feeling rubbish, so Leon fed me a paracetamol and put me to bed for half an hour. When the alarm went off I’d only just managed to drop off and felt grumpy and sleepy. So I got ready for bed properly and then curled up and read my book for the rest of the evening, and by the time it was time to go back to sleep I was feeling aright again. This diet really isn’t agreeing with me.

Live Below the Line: Day 3

And today was more of the same, more toast and jam, more pasta and bacon and more rice and beans, I know it is only 5 days (and today is only day 3) but the monotony is getting to me.

Today I had to go for a meeting on client site at 12pm, so didn’t get back to the office until 2pm and was gagging for my lunch.  And dinner was the opposite, because I’d had lunch so late, I wasn’t really hungry and couldn’t eat it all. Though I learnt from the mistake of Monday and didn’t over eat.  Instead I put it in a box for tomorrow.


The Wonderous Rice and Beans you’ve heard so much about

After work (but before dinner) I went to meet a friend.  We organized it about 3 weeks ago and were talking about going out for dinner and drinks, and I remembered two days later about the challenge and how I couldn’t go out for dinner and drinks! We almost cancelled, but I hardly see her coz she lives outside London, so we decided to meet up for an hour anyways, and we met up in Costas for a coffee.  Well she drank a coffee and had a posh biscuit and I ate the other half of my currants I’d saved from lunch and smuggled in, and drank nothing.  And after a few jealous glances at her coffee, I forgot about it, probably because lunch hadn’t been that long before.


Measuring my currants, as you do.

But it makes you realize that no matter where you, you can be in the most fabulous city in the world, but if you don’t have money you can’t enjoy it.  I am always telling people how many cheap things there are to do in London, and going out for coffee is one of them (and one I very much enjoy).  But it is not that cheap, not something you could afford of on this budget.

And yes it was ok for one night to go to a coffee shop and not order anything, but I couldn’t do that every day, I ouldn’t go to a bar and just drink water, and go to a restaurant and eat nothing and expect to enjoy going out with friends in the same way.  And add to that it would be embarressing to actually continuously say I couldn’t eat or have a drink because I didn’t have the money.  I think I’d stop going out after a while, or maybe even people would stop inviting me becasue it wouldn’t be fun.  Not having a enough money is severely limiting to your social life… sounds obvious, but I hadn’t quite thought about it in that way …

Live Below the Line: Day 2


The food today was exactly the same as yesterday, breakfast was good, lunch was salty, but today’s biggest challenge was dinner, and the problem was in the timing. 

I went out this evening, my first week of new course I am doing “Economics with Justice” and I couldn’t have dinner until I got home at 10:30.  I was meant to take a jam sandwich to tide me over, but I cleverly forgot it.  I saved my currants from lunch but it wasn’t really enough to keep me going…


 I was starving when I got home, so I immediately cooked dinner, served it, sat at the table, took one mouth full and announced to Leon I was full.  I am not sure what brought this one, it is only night two, I could have been that bored of dinner already.  I forced myself to eat it.

Live Below the Line: Day 1


And the award winning menu is…

  • Breakfast: Three slices of toast with jam (bread 50p, jam 29p)
  • Lunch: Spaghetti with a bacon and tomato sauce (500g of pasta 39p, tin of tomatoes 31p, pack of bacon £1.09p, vegetable stock 15p)
  • Afternoon Snack: currants (500g of currents 10p)
  • Dinner: Mixed bean stew with rice (1kg of rice 40p, 500g bag of mixed beans £1.09p, tin of tomatoes 31p, tin of sweet corn 22p)
  • Supper: One slice of toast with jam (left over breakfast food)

Today started well, after breakfast I was congratulating myself on my choice, toast and jam is a classic, and my 29p jam is actually quite tasty.  By 12 I was thinking about lunch but I managed to put it off until just after 1pm.


My lunch was reasonable, I was pleased withmy self that I’d managed to get some meat into my diet but in the end I think bacon was a bad choice, it was ever so salty.  I was wolfing down water all afternoon, which is good for you I s’pose and then at about 5pm I got a headache.  I am not sure what caused it, but I don’t normally get headaches, so can’t help but think it was something to do with todays food intake!

I came home and commiserated with some water and painkillers and waited for Leon to arrive.  We cooked and ate together, he is teaching me how to cook “the perfect rice” and despite being Sainsbury’s basics rice, it still turned out well.

The rock bottom of my day was eating dinner.  I was out of the kitchen for the majority of Leon cooking, as all I was doing was reheating and waiting for rice, so had no idea what he was preparing, and it was a bit of a mouth watering shock when he brought it out of the kitchen.  There was my rice and beans and there was his dinner, looking like something that should be served in a 5* restaurant, complete with little springs of mint on the top! I was a little sulky over dinner, and he promised to make it for me next week, but I don’t want it next week damn it I want it now!


No prizes for guessing which one is mine

Food envy is a classic problem, and it doesn’t only happen when you meal is worth 33p and your boyfriends is worth substantially more than that.  I am always wishing I had what was on someone else’s plate, even if my food tastes just fine too.  I think we far too often “want what we can’t have”, but we are spoilt, in that more often we can always have what we want.  There is something to learn from this experience.

Live Below the Line: The Shopping!


It’s Sunday night at 10:42pm and I officially started the challenge at 6pm this evening. It’s possible that this is cheating slightly, but I did it last year as well and I can’t help but feel it is much nicer to finish at 6pm on Friday night, and enjoy a celebratory dinner and glass of wine… it is the thought of this glass of wine that is going to get me through this week.  I can see it already and I am only … <looks intently at watch> … 4 hrs and 42 minutes in.

So, the status update is that I have done both the shopping and the majority of the cooking for the 5 days, and I am feeling relatively good about how my preparations went. On top of that, I had my first dinner (the same dinner I will have every night this week), and even if I do say so myself, it wasn’t that bad. I did get some horrible food envy when Leon was cooking his dinner, and that is only going to get worse, but so far so good.

So, I did the shopping on Saturday afternoon, in a calm half hour, and my wonderful boyfriend showed his support by walking around after me with the increasingly heavy shopping basket, as I marched around the aisles of Sainsbury’s about 10 times. (So he is good for something, even if he isn’t going to do the challenge with me).


And for those of you who doubted I could do it all in Sainsbury’s, you were wrong and here is the proof! In the end I spent £4.95p (I bought 500g of currents last week for 10p, but this is everything else).  Now, maybe I would be able to get some things a little cheaper else where, but it’s difficult to plan this stuff in advance unless you are are looking at the prices, it is difficult to know what you can afford, and I didn’t want to spend my whole Saturday walking between various different super markets, so this is what I got.


Tomorrow will be the real first test of my menu; being hungry is the worst thing, but I’ve only to eat more rice if that happens. A kilogram of rice is crazy amounts. Getting bored is a risk … as is forgetting my lunch … I think I’d be coming home to get it though if that happened*!

*Apologies to anyone from work reading this, but seriously: work, food … food, work … it has to be food, right?

Enough Food for Everyone If…


“Hunger kills more people than AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined. Two million children die each year because of malnutrition” Live Below the Line

My first I’m very focused on poverty and hunger, and I’ve been reading lots about the “Enough Food for Everyone IF” campaign, and am keen to work towards making “IF” the reality, and I’m going to try and do that will a little help from Oxfam, Live Below the Line and RESULTS.

I just applied to campaign at Latitude with Oxfam against Poverty, they need to screen my application and I need to attend a “Training Day” which sounds like it is also an assessment day and then I will find out if they want me; so wish me luck!

I have also signed up to “Live Below the Line”, which means I need to live off only £1 a day for all my food and drink for a 5 day period between the 29th April and the 3rd of May. I did this last year as well but this year is going to be harder because I don’t have my uber-supportive ex-flat flat mate to do it with me, instead I have my lovely boyfriend whom I now live with, who has agreed to help by not joining me and instead cooking himself a lovely dinner every night which I have to salivate over. No pain no gain!

For me the main part of this challenge is to raise awareness of poverty, for all those who complete the challenge but also for those who see people doing and the people who read about it! So I am going to blog my experiences, good and bad for the world to read.

The second half of it though is about raising money for charity and as such I chose the charity RESULTS to raise money for. RESULTS is a campaigning charity who believe that everyone of us has the power to end poverty, a pretty powerful message.

So wish me luck, and watch out for my first Live Below the Line Post: The Shopping! And if you are interested in finding out more about Festival Campaigning with Oxfam, Live Below the Line and RESULTS you can do so by clicking on the links provided.