I get so excited to see daffodils in bloom. Whilst not my most favourite flower, those little yellow heads pop up every year without fail to greet us and let us know Spring is here! They are a sign of warmer and longer days ahead after the drag of winter. They brighten the world and just make everything look better after it has died off in winter, and they are strong little things that usually survive the random March/April snow showers we usually encounter too.

I think this is why Marie Curie chose it as a symbol for their annual “The Great Daffodil Appeal”.  A true sign of strength, reliability, and a little bit of colour, life and hope in a dull and cold season of life.

Having suffered our own loss due to a life limiting illness, we understand the pain and difficulty that comes both with a diagnosis and the grief and pain following. We appreciate those who work to help comfort, walk the journey with you, offer end of life care, and try to alleviate some of the suffering. Marie Curie asked us to reflect on this and to share with you how we can teach kids about the work charities do, and thus inspire them to want to do some good in the world to brighten it for others.

Teaching the work of Charities and Making the Daffodil Appeal work with kids

My children, like most kids have selfish tendencies and get lazy, they are by no means saintly (okay maybe sometimes haha) but on the whole they do have a charitable nature. For a start we shop regularly in charity shops and I always explain to them how our “pennies” will help others. They understand from so many visits to the hospice during my pregnancy and since, that because of the generous donations of others we can enjoy its facilities, and be helped by the lovely people at the hospice. They always nudge me when we see a homeless person and always want to give £1 and help.  These things are now our norm and easily in our reach. They are not by any means going to change the world anytime soon, but they are easy ways to help others and teaching them how to give.

I have noticed that kids usually do want to be kind and almost see it as an exciting thing to be able to help others. It makes me happy to see this as we have tried incredibly hard to teach them this both through church and at home. For us I guess we have first hand experience of being on the receiving end of charity work from both the hospice and then SANDS too. They have helped us show and talk to them about charities in action, and so I think choosing a charity to focus on with your kids and explaining it in a way they can understand really helps to plant charitable desires within them.

When thinking about Marie Curie and how we can help them in their appeal this Spring, it therefore only seemed natural that we would too incorporate an idea that is part of our norm like the other ways we have shown charity. I again wanted to show the kids how everyday things can easily help others. We decided to take the symbol of the daffodil, Spring, our love of the outdoors and came up with the idea of a Nature walk. Its a lovely thing and far less strenuous than the last time I raised money for charity.

Nature walk

There are so many lovely places to explore and I bet there are some fab places right on your doorstep. We headed to the park and did a spring-time scavenger hunt, whilst chatting about daffodils and the Marie Curie Charity.

If you would like to do something similar, then plan a manageable route with lovely things to see and find. It might be around a lake/reservoir, some woodland, the beach or like us the park. If appropriate then the Kids could take bikes and scooters too, pack a picnic and away you go. And then, if you felt inclined to support the Daffodil Appeal this year there are 2 ways you can make it work to raise money.

 1. Have the people who attend dress in yellow, and pass a pot round at the end for generous donations.

2. Have people pay 50p- £1 each to attend and have a scavenger hunt printed for the kids to do, and of course dress in yellow too if they wish.

Then have fun together. Enjoy nature. Chase nature and talk about its beauty and changing seasons. Chat to the kids about the beauty of the daffodils, their little heads bopping away, and how they can help others see colour and hope in a difficult season of illness.

 

 Ideas to hunt for:

1. Daffodils of different colours

2. Blossom

3. A grey stone

4. A bird feather

5. A stick

6. Something yellow

7. Something edible

8. A clover

9. A dandelion clock

10. Bark

11. Snow drops

12. A bug

13. A snail

14. Animal Tracks

15. A puddle

My kids love scavenger hunts, they love to collect natures treasures and they love to know they are helping others too. Things like this bring it down to their level. It simplifies the act of giving to charity and would certainly help them raise money in a way that is easy for them, enjoyable for them and something that they can easily ask their friends to be involved in too.

I Hope we have inspired you to have a blooming great time on a spring nature walk and raise a few kids for those facing terminal illness in the process!

*Collaborative Post
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I wrote a couple of weeks ago about my churches initiative this Christmas to “Light the World” through random acts of kindness and opportunities to help those in our families and wider communities. We have been doing it for 10 days now and as a family have thoroughly enjoyed doing things for others, as well as noting a real Christmas spirit in our hearts and lives as we have found little ways to light up life for those we know (and don’t know) through baking, cooking meals, helping them, and offering words of love and inspiration.

It has been lovely to see peoples smiles and hear them grateful to see us and have us visit with them (and even crack out the occasional Christmas carol)! But the biggest thing that touched me this last week during all of this was the 90 minutes we spent one evening with Yorkshire Aid helping them wrap Christmas gifts and sort donations. We weren’t the only family in attendance, and there weren’t the recipients there for us to observe their smiles and joy that someone thought of them this Christmas, and it was a lot more graft and emotionally demanding than baking a few cookies to deliver to someone. But it was also a great opportunity to teach the kids about Refugees and the crisis that is ripe in the world.

It would be easy as a parent to shelter them from the suffering in the world, or hide these things and have them believe all is well and life is great for all as they are so blessed and want or need for nothing. But I feel that I would be doing them a great injustice and missing out on opportunities to show them that lots of people suffer and we can in small ways aid them. I want them to think of others and seek ways to lift those who haven’t been as fortunate. This is teaching love for others instead of breeding hate and distrust.

Initially they whined (a lot) at the thought of going to “help someone” instead of swimming, and it greatly shook me to the core to think they would be so selfish. I figured they just needed a little understanding, and after stood in the street for several minutes explaining that there are many many people who have been driven from their homes by bad people with guns, many who have seen people die and have been forced to leave their toys, clothes and beds, they began to get a glimpse. I explained they were in need of someone to play Santa for them this Christmas, as well as some warm clothes, and they warmed up to the idea. They were sad and a little cross too as we headed to town and purchased a boy, girl and baby gift, along with food and toiletries.

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When we got home I was touched when Ethan went and got his minion wellies and last winters coat and said “they can have them, I have others”. And after dinner it was no longer a trial but an adventure as we took them and the things we had bought, (along with some towels and warm blankets we had sorted out) and donated them and helped out for a bit.

The workers there were incredibly grateful and both Ethan and Megan stood and helped them to wrap their gifts and more. We then proceeded to help with a few small tasks of sorting bedding to go to France and a couple of other things, before making a speedy exit after the kids turned the said bedding piles into a trampoline!!!

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It hit me at what Christmas would mean for these people… cold and needing used bedding from others. Kids grateful for even the smallest of toys. Food from tins and dried packets! Far from the Christmas we are anticipating.

It was a pleasure, though very small, to be able to offer some help (alongside my family) to those who suffer because of the evil choices of others.

I cannot begin to fathom the attitudes of those who choose to ignore the refugee crisis or with hold aid. To see what is given to them, and to know how they treasure it is both sad and humbling! I learnt from seeing this first hand last week that even the smallest of donations and gifts (of things or time) will mean the world and light up the life of individuals. This isn’t going to go away any time soon and if you can help in someway then go for it!I was certainly grateful for the opportunity to show my kids what Christmas will be like for others comparative to theirs and they are beginning to see and learn that there is always something we can do to help those who are suffering in the world however small it seems to us. I hope in the new year that perhaps we can do more as a family and show them more about refugees and their individual journey’s to a better life, as this was a good start.

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I remember a week or two after Poppy had passed away and how I realised that my world was so different now, and I not only grieved and longed for my baby, but I grieved for the life that was before too. Things were so very different I didn’t even have the words. I just felt lost – lonely, sad, angry, confused and yes, lost. My view of life was tarnished and my way of thinking deepened and became so different. I carried a new identity as a “Bereaved Mother“, and in my vulnerability I didn’t yet realise that most people couldn’t cope with talking about babies and death in the same sentence.

I longed for understanding and clarity.

I longed for someone to know my heart and how I was feeling.

I longed for direction and guidance through each anniversary and milestone.

I longed to find people that just got it.

I longed to just be able to talk about it…all of it, even the parts I hid from my closest friends and family. I needed to get it out and start to make sense of it.

I found that place at Leeds SANDS just 5 weeks after Poppy had died. As I sat in a room filled with other mothers, fathers and grandparents whom at various late stages had lost babies too, I found my comfort zone again. I remember thinking how awful it was that these people were suffering like me, and that it seemed to be happening to so many too. But, I couldn’t help feeling how blessed we were to have found one another and that that bunch of ordinary people were to me so special because they were the ones that got it.

There were certain people in my life I wished would have had the opportunity to come with me and share in it, that they might have been able to understand more of what I was experiencing too, and that there were similarities in others and what they were suffering. But I think that to most people looking in and not understanding it would just seem a depressing place (or at the least an incredibly sad room). Perhaps we would all seem bitter as we spoke of the pain that comes from seeing others pregnant for the 1st time after you have buried your own baby? Maybe a little nuts over the things we found funny? But it is none of those things, far from it; everyone’s feelings are the natural result of baby loss and with each of them in their pain, both Nathan and I found people that got it, got me, and understood our journey.

I have always believed since then that those who do choose to judge a bereaved parent or support group should count their blessings that they simply cannot understand it, because it is at SANDS you can truly be you. You can cry, be angry, cry, laugh, joke, cry, listen and be heard. You are accepted for whoever you are and at whatever stage in your grief you are at. They know (we know), what loosing a baby means and does to you and would never judge your behaviour or words as a result of loosing the most precious thing.

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I learn’t at Sands how to be kind to myself whilst I hit rock bottom. I learnt how to keep going and how to be me through all of this. Sands gave me love, friendship, laughter and acceptance. They gave me a channel to release my emotions (good or bad), and from their support I found direction – they saved me in my desperation and I will always feel indebted to them. It seemed natural then that with time, and when I was in a better place emotionally, that I would want to give back and naturally I feel its my time now.

Alice is here and in a routine, and its lovely that I am able to leave her now for a few hours between feeds to fulfil commitments I want to make to sands. On Thursday I attended their general meeting and Volunteered to take a chunk of responsibility in helping with events and their media/social media. I feel that not only have they given so much to me, but my talents and knowledge in social media have only grown because I had and lost Poppy and decided to start a blog to write our families story… she gave me this and so I want to use it to help others too, and I want to give something back after I have been so richly blessed from associations with my Sands friends.

Baby loss sadly is not going to go away anytime soon, and whilst I will never know in my life why my baby had to die or why she was gone too soon. I will not just live my life with it being “one of those things”. I will and do want to use my experiences to help others that unfortunately will follow. I want to use my talents and flare for life to help build Leeds Sands and those who attend it… I hope in the new year to be a befriender and complete my training for that, as well as doing loads of wonderful things in my newly appointed role as their “Events and Media Manager” (possibly self titled but they love it). It makes me so happy to be doing something so worthwhile, and to think that I can help others in the way I was helped 2 years ago – what a great charity to volunteer for and to be spending my time on, they are an incredible bunch of people and its the perfect source to really understand what losing a baby means.

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My Petit Canard
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What is wrong with us?

I found myself asking this several times to Nath last night as we watched the BBC 10 o clock news. I haven’t watched it in months, its just too heartbreaking and disturbing for me, but with hurricane Matthew in the headlines and family in Florida I wanted to be in the know of the situation. Of course once again, or still rather, Syria is also in the headline with the all to0 familiar war torn images, screaming and injured children, rebel forces and starvation. Its been a while since I saw these things, I guess iv’e switched off and am enjoying life in my safe little bubble here in the UK, but then as I see these things I ask through watery eyes and a sick feeling in my stomach – “What is wrong with us?”!!

What is wrong with us as individuals that we can just ignore it, switch off, become desensitized.

What is wrong with us as human beings that I am still seeing the same images on my TV that I saw 15/20 years ago, but just in a different part of the world.

And what is wrong with us as a country that when these people, hungry and battered leave their homes, witness death and trauma, battle unimaginable things with very little over thousands of miles and finally make it to a safe place, who come here trusting for our help, we turn our backs! What is wrong with us that we can see and read about these awful scenarios and we can close our doors and we switch off. I wonder A LOT how they can risk so much and we can do so little? I don’t get it, but I know it absolutely breaks my heart to see it day in day out…Its all a big mess and we should be doing more! (Image source)

A child is covered with a sleeping bag as he waits with other migrants near the border train station of Idomeni, northern Greece, to be allowed by the Macedonian police to cross the border from Greece to Macedonia on Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2015. More than 135,000 migrants have arrived on Greek islands so far this year, hoping to head north to other more prosperous European countries such as Germany, the Netherlands and Scandinavian countries. (AP Photo/Giannis Papanikos)

I don’t know the answer to this and nor do I know what I can do when all I am is a mother to an 11 week baby and 2 young school children recently leaving behind a student lifestyle here in Yorkshire. I don’t know how I, and my family can possibly make a difference to some many thousands of men, women and especially children, and to be honest I lack ideas. I hold my hands up and say I am doing next to nothing right now except when Iv’e asked Nath on numerous occasions how he would feel about me going to help in Calais but with a newborn it isn’t practical and he doesn’t think it wise right now…other than that and the odd donated tenner we have done next to nothing to help these people, our fellow men!

I guess what we have done or haven’t done to this point is irrelevant though because there is plenty that needs to urgently be done and can be done right now. Below are some selected campaigns that personally stood out to me that I felt were a good place to take action, (but google “refugees” or anything similar and plenty of service ideas and campaigns will come up)!

So Firstly donate supplies (or funds for supplies) for when they leave:

I am sure you are aware of plans to bulldoze and get rid of the Jungle in Calais (Again as we approach winter and Christmas I ask..What is wrong with people?) and right now CalAid and volunteers in the camp are working around the clock to ensure the refugees there are prepared. Last time it was bulldozed 120 kids went missing… As a parent, and one who has lost a child myself, it is this element that completely crushes me to the core. I read these stats, I hear these stories daily from around the world and see these disturbing images and just think we cannot be idle, this cannot be it for these kids and their families.

There are 1,000+ unaccompanied minors in the ‘Jungle’ refugee camp and urgent funds are being raised to cover the critical needs of these children in advance of the bulldozing of the camp. Eviction will begin before the end of this month, possibly within the next two weeks and by then every single unaccompanied child needs basic supplies to leave the Jungle safely.

 It is essential that each unaccompanied child has a modern mobile phone to call emergency services and send their location via GPS, with phone credit to contact non-emergency help, a solid pair of shoes and a backpack to carry their belongings. The cost of this bundle is £65. A guy called Max over there on the front line, and his colleagues work with these kids on the ground every single day and say there is no plan to transport them to safety during the imminent eviction, and they urgently need our support… you can contribute via their JustGiving page: http://bit.ly/2dK1Hlk

Next … For anyone who can (or wants to) get to London: There is a big protest in Parliament Sq on Saturday 15th October, to raise awareness and show the government, that we need to do more to help these children, both in Calais and in the EU. (Help Refugees Worldwide’s event on Facebook.)

And finally on Monday 24 October at 14:00 they are trying to get as many people as possible to go to Kings Cross station, with children if possible dressed as Paddington Bear, to put pressure on London councils to help unaccompanied refugee children.

You can of course try to round up a group and take supplies to Calais and help for yourselves, or find people that are and donate…but whatever it is please lets not switch off. It will not go away and we only need to read any of our national papers to know how truly shocking it is getting. I have things I am planning on working on that I will share on the blog soon enough, but in the meantime lets help however we are able.

“This moment does not define the refugees, but our response will help define us”. (Patrick Kearon)

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