Charity · Uncategorized

Should You Work In The Charity Sector?

I’ve now been working in the charity world for nearly three years in a variety of different roles and levels of fundraising, so it is cautiously but with enthusiasm that I consider myself initiated into the sector. I am by no means an expert, as I am still quite young with lots to learn, but I’ve chosen it as a career, and I’m happy with that.

Having realised my passion for fundraising whilst doing door to door in the months after my graduation, I’ve now worked for four different charities, and am currently at my fifth. What I have learned in these many roles, is that working in a charity, even having a passion for a charity, is something that most people seem to just fall into.

In fact currently, charities are facing a crisis, with regulation changes and the frequent feeling from the general public that organisations aren’t always to be trusted, due to recent negative stories in mainstream media.

My feelings on that aside for now, what struck me most is that nobody plans on working for a charity exactly. However once you are in it, it is a wonderful place to develop skills, use your talents, and most importantly, to make a lasting and positive impact on the world.

With this in mind, I’ve thought to myself often that it would be useful for newbies to learn a little more about fundraising, or indeed the sector as a whole. I wish I’d had someone my own age to talk to and discuss this career path with when I was first starting out. It would have helped me to understand much quicker where it is I fit in, and what challenges I may face.

So, I introduce you a series of blog posts about what I am most passionate about – charity work, fundraising, and philanthropy. This first post, which is probably a little longer than I intended, is simple. Three reasons why you should work in fundraising.

  1. You have always liked to help, you care about a cause and you want to help in any way you can.
  2. You are a story teller who likes to communicate with people, build relationships with them, and inspire them to act.
  3. You are talented at what you do and want to work in a driven, motivating environment that still cares for you and your development.

In the next few weeks I will begin to expand on these three reasons, so to finish off, here’s my last thought. If you want to try out working for a charity, but you aren’t sure if you’d like it, then volunteer or intern first. Charities need all sorts of people and all sorts of talents to keep on running, so if you have a skill, then offer it up. It’s the best way to see if a charity fits you.

Au revoir.

xxx

Books · Lifestyle · Uncategorized

5 Reasons Why NaNoWriMo Is Great For Creativity

Right now, I am supposed to be writing my novel for National Novel Writing Month, or as it’s more frequently referred to, NaNoWriMo.

If you haven’t heard about NaNoWriMo yet, it is the international challenge, every year for the month of November, where participants commit themselves to writing 50,000 words of a novel, without going back to edit anything. No rewrites, no deleting words, just writing. Solidly. For the whole month.

I have only ever reached 40,000 words, and that was last year, when practically all I was doing was writing my squishy butt off. In the mornings, on breaks and lunch at work, in the evenings. I don’t really remember much of November last year, because honestly I was mostly spending it holed up in my room trying to write (and save money for my trip to Australia).

However, I must have done some social things, because if I hadn’t, I would have reached 50,000 words and would have completed NaNoWriMo for the first time ever.

This year I am already severely behind, and it is tempting, as a previous participant who knows the drill, to be upset about this. But this is not a post to lecture you about how important it is to not fall behind. I’m not going to give you tips on how to keep on writing your squishy butt off until you hit that coveted word count.

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This post – which is as much procrastination for me as it is for anyone reading it – is about how NaNoWriMo, even if we don’t win it, is a fantastic thing to do anyway, because it inspires in all who take part the daily need to be creative. How? Well:

  1. The aim of the challenge is to write as many words as possible in quite a small time frame. Now, one could argue that this means writers churn out a lot of crap, and that is often true – apparently publishers will automatically scorn any novel where the writer claims to have written it during NaNoWriMo. However, someone once said that to be great at something, you first have to be good at something, and to be good at something, you first have to be bad at something, and to be bad at something, you need to do the thing in the first place. You could be writing word after word of useless crap, but what you’re doing is practicing a craft. Even if you think it’s rubbish now, at least you are doing something, and working towards eventually writing something amazing.
  2. It gives you the opportunity to explore that idea that you have been thinking about for ages but never had the confidence to start. Nobody is going to read it unless you force them to. The beauty of writing about such an idea for NaNoWriMo is that it’s allowed to be rubbish, because it is merely an exploration of an idea you’ve never written about before. This gives you a fresh start, a fresh perspective, and if it turns out to not be your strongest work, well, you got to give it a go, whereas you might never have done so before.
  3. It makes you competitive, but only with yourself. Throughout the month you are constantly chasing a word count, and trying your best to beat what you did yesterday. A little bit of competitiveness does wonders for creatives, as long as you don’t get too stressed about it. Sometimes, thinking of it as a game can mean your ideas flow even more. Think Mary Shelley writing Frankenstein to be the best horror / sci-fi writer out of her friends. Yeah.
  4. You get to create something every. Single. Day. Do you know how great that is? There’s no actual pressure other than the one you put on yourself. Getting the opportunity – or rather, making the opportunity – to create every day is something that so many successful people do, and it is so so special to have an actual excuse to do that. Writing at work? Who cares, it’s for NaNoWriMo! (Don’t actually write when you should be working though…)
  5. Throughout NaNoWriMo, you are given endless support from all the other people taking part. There’s the @NaNoWordSprints Twitter, there are endless forums and meet ups, and because everybody is in the same boat as you, everyone is happy to swap and change and talk about their stories. It is totally inspiring to hear other people doing something so similar to you, but with completely different results! And it is even more inspiring to get pep-talks and encouragement from some of the best authors out there.

Anyway, I’m done gushing. Probably should get back to writing. Even if I don’t hit the word count, I’m still going to push myself to write a little every day.

Does this count?

I wish it did.

Au revoir

xxx

Uncategorized

Moving To The City

I’ve been MIA for a while. Missing in action in many senses of the words, actually. Some stuff has happened with people who I thought were my friends that has left me questioning who actually cares about my well-being or not. Past emotions have come back to haunt me at the most inconvenient of times and I have struggled to act carefree when all I wanted to do is hole up in my bed and cry my eyes out. It’s hard to explain, when your current relationship is going well, why the tatters of your last one still hurt so much. But I’m honest about it, and that’s all I can do to stay sane, really.

Then there’s the whole thing with losing my job, trying to find another one, going backwards and forwards to endless interviews and internships and volunteer weeks until I thought I was going to go crazy from having no job and no money and no guarantee of anything in the future. It’s hard to write anything when I’m worried about stuff like that. Instead, I spent time with my friends, boyfriend and family, and tried to make the most of the accidental two month summer holiday.

ANYWAY, it’s okay, because I’m back, and I’m doing better than I’ve been doing for a long time, because finally, FINALLY, I’ve made it.
I’m living in London.
I’m living with two awesome people in a lovely flat.
I have a full time job at a larger men’s health charity.
I’ve had a rise in pay AND in responsibility.
There’s way more room for career progression and the chance to actually study fundraising.
My commute to work is only 20 minutes long.
And my relationship is still happy, fun and beautiful.

I want to say that the past year has been good. I suppose looking at it from the outside, it really has. But life doesn’t work like that, emotions don’t work like that. Things can appear to be going really well but that doesn’t stop feeling like your an impostor.

I’m trying really hard, from now on, to feel like I’ve earned my very lucky position in life.

Oh also, I saw the Cursed Child. It was pretty cool.

This is just a little update, I will hopefully be blogging once a week, every Tuesday. Yep, I’m setting myself a new schedule.

Good luck me.

Au revoir.
xxx

Travel · Uncategorized

Paris: Sassy Lady Friendship Time

One of my best friends Amy just came back from living in Paris for four months as part of her Master’s degree, so just before she came back, I flew out to stay with her for a few days. This was part of one of my New Year’s resolutions to visit at least two different countries this year, a resolution which is now complete thanks to going to Ireland and Paris. I’ve been to Paris before, but it was several years ago on a school trip, and we spent the majority of the time in museums or at Disneyland. It was nice to go back as an adult and soak up some of the Parisian culture in such a relaxed way, and we did a few amazing things that have been on my bucket list for a while.

I decided to fly in rather than get the Eurostar because booking the Eurostar at the time I went was expensive and would have ended up more than the flight anyway if I included the cost of the train from where I live into London. I love airports and I like flying alone, and as the flight was only an hour it gave me some time to just relax, listen to music, and not worry about work or anyone else for once! Landing in Paris, it was raining (typical) but my out-of-practice French helped me to identify which bus I needed, and I bought a ticket at the machine. The bus and metro tickets are so tiny!

I arrived in the evening, so Amy and I didn’t do much, just caught up with some wine (of course) and hid from the rain with her lovely Parisian flat mates. We started our adventures the next day by going to the amazing book shop Shakespeare and Company, exploring its beautiful interior and having coffee in its cute little café.

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Then we went over the river to go to Notre Dame. I’d forgotten just how beautiful Notre Dame is. All the churches and cathedrals in Paris are stunning, and Notre Dame’s stained glass is so perfect, I could have stayed staring at it forever. But Amy and I had bigger things planned.

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If you are between the ages of 18 and 25 and are a European Citizen, then a lot of the historical landmarks and tourist attractions in Paris are free to you. You don’t have to pay the extortionate prices, you just have to queue and wait. Once Amy had told me this, it seemed obvious that we would do something I have always wanted to do, which is to go and see the actual bells and climb right to the top of Notre Dame! It’s not the highest point in Paris but it is still just as beautiful and you get panoramic views right the way around. We were lucky enough to go up whilst it was cloudy in the sky but clear below, and it was cool enough that climbing all those stairs (seriously, there’s a lot) didn’t heat us up too much.12938220_10207790305589096_5137912144553543711_n

We also went to Saint Chapelle, which has even more gorgeous and older stain glass windows, only just around the corner from Notre Dame. It is beautiful, although nothing compares to the Notre Dame gargoyles and grotesques.

For dinner we went to Hank, which is a vegan burger joint. Amy has been vegan for quite a while now, so I ate the same as her on my visit, as I have been trying to cut back on my animal product intake anyway. Hank’s burgers are quite possibly the best burgers I have ever tasted. They are so saucy and delicious with intense, interesting flavors, and yet the texture is perfect, not trying to be meat, but still feeling that burger craving hole. I wish Hank was in the UK.

On the Friday, we went to the catacombs. Before I went to Paris, I looked up interesting things to do, as I wasn’t keen on going to every single art gallery or tourist place, but the catacombs came up in my research and I thought that Amy, as a history nerd, would really enjoy them (luckily she hadn’t got round to doing it yet). We queued for ages in the cold, but once we got in, seeing the necropolis that lives under the city was amazing, and a little bit creepy. My main concern is, whose job was it to stack all those skulls up like that?! Worst job ever.

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In the evening, Amy and her course mates had an end-of-year celebration planned, and were kind enough to invite me along. Along with a couple of their course leaders, they had organized a dinner trip on a boat down the Seine. I’d been along the Seine last time I visited Paris, but this entire boat trip was amazing. Canapés and champagne on arrival, and a three course meal that made me never want to stop eating, all with relaxing music, awesome French waiters, and French wine bought for us by the course leader. It was such a warm evening that we could go out on deck and not feel like we were being swept away, and we went right past the Eiffel Tower as it started to sparkle. It was beautiful and I think it made everyone on the course grateful that they were living in Paris even more than they already were.

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The next morning, after adjusting to dry land once more, Amy decided she needed to do some studying (fair enough), so one of her flat mates, who is American, took me for a walk along to the Sacre Coeur and Montmartre. Montmartre was one of the places I have been dying to revisit for years and years. It is so fascinating and busy and just makes me think of Paris bohemia and freedom. Sacre Coeur, too, is my favorite religious site that I have ever been to. That ceiling?! So worth it. Even if you aren’t allowed to take pictures, which hurts my little social-media soul.

After we wondered around the Sacre Coeur, discussing religion (sorry Coco, probably quite a heavy topic!), we went for crepes in Montmartre. I had mine stuffed full of Nutella and bananas, because why would you not? Crepes are the food of the gods. Also, it meant that the artists stopped coming up asking to draw us, when we had mouths full of crepe and chocolate around our faces.

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We also walked back down the hill to get the metro from the stop near the Moulin Rouge, just so I could see it. We were hoping to find Van Gogh’s house, but got distracted by the adorable Parisian flats, so seeing the Moulin Rouge was good enough!

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Saturday was definitely a treat day, because I also tried tofu for the first time with Amy for dinner in the evening (kind of bland but delicious when she cooked it), and we also took a trip to a vegan bakery that she loves called Vegan Follies, and we bought all of the cake ever. We had vegan brownie and vegan cheese cake, which honestly, although the texture is weird, tastes like sugary, cakey goodness. No wonder she is so good at being vegan in Paris when she has all these options!

Sunday was my last day with Amy, my flight home being in the evening, and so we got up early specifically so we could go to the Palace of Versailles. I have never been anywhere so beautifully indulgent and rich in my life. It’s like a frosted wedding cake, only instead of sugar, its iced in gold, and instead of filling, it’s got paintings and statues and endless perfect gardens. We didn’t pay to go into the gardens, as we were running low on time (and funds), but the inside of the palace was worth the trip out of Paris, worth even my flight over in the first place. Seeing that much grandeur makes you realise just how rich the French royal family were. And how talented artists and architects were.

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It was the perfect end to my trip, and I got back on the plane feeling content with life. Seeing Amy after so many months was good for our friendship and also made me miss living with her!

Now she’s off to Glasgow, so maybe I should use that as an excuse to visit Scotland!!

Au revoir.
xxx

Health and Fitness · Lifestyle · Uncategorized

Deal With It

I took an accidental month long break from writing blogs because of several reasons. Reason number one was that I spent some time in Paris with my lovely friend Amy, which I will blog about soon. Reason number two is that I’ve been quite busy at work and in my social life that I just haven’t had the time.

And reason number three is that I was told last week that the charity I work for cannot afford to keep me past June, and that basically I need to find a new job by that point, which probably won’t be in my home town, where I live currently. I guess you could say I’ve been panicking, and writing a blog has been the least of my worries.

It’s not really fixed, as I haven’t found a replacement job yet, but I’ve come to terms with it, and the way I’ve found helps me deal with it is by continuing doing all the things I usually do when I’m not working, which includes this blog. I enjoy creating little snippets of my life, whether it’s about what I’m reading or where I’ve been. I think it should also be about how I’m feeling too.

I’ve called this post ‘Deal With It’ because that’s exactly what I intend to do. As a child I never recognized in myself what I would definitely now call anxiety. Afraid to put my hand up in class, afraid to answer the register, worried constantly about what my class mates and my teacher thought of me. It is only as several of my friends have been diagnosed, and told me how they felt, and through research of my own, that I see I had that, a lot, and that it effects me still now. The only difference is that now, I know what makes me anxious, and I deal with it as it comes.

Public transport going wrong, or getting lost, or making a mistake in my car makes me anxious. Being excluded from events makes me anxious. Being included in events where I don’t know anyone makes me anxious. Not having a hair brush on me at all times makes me anxious.Hot crowds of strangers, arriving at places late or alone, asking for something to be changed or improved at restaurants or returning something at shops, all these things make me feel sick and panicked and make my hands shake, my chest and face go red, and my speech go. Because of this, public speaking is nearly impossible to me. Which is rubbish, because I really, really wish I could be better at it.

But I know all this now, I recognize when it’s happening, and most of the time I can even calm myself before it does happen, and deal with it like a normal human being. All of these things I feel anxiety about, and quash it before anybody else notices. And then I fix it, and move on.

I think that this has meant that the things I should be panicked about, I don’t worry about half so much. Which is good and bad in equal measures. But I’d rather not be panicked enough then panic too much. Feeling anxious to me is the worst feeling in the world. I know it is to a lot of people, too. For me, I always feel ridiculous when I do stupid things like cry over missing my train, or begging my friends to bring a hair brush to things just in case I accidentally lose mine. Everyone feels anxious for different reasons. But it’s hard to realise that when you become so wrapped up in your own anxieties.

Anyway, I’ve learned to deal with it, and I’m dealing with not having a job lined up at the moment, even though it is stressful and sad and quite frankly, annoying. Everybody struggles at some point in my life.

It’s just taking all of my sensibility to hold me back and not just run off and live in Australia.

Au revoir.
xxx

Health and Fitness · Lifestyle · Uncategorized

Doing Dry January

If you know me well, you’ll be well aware of the fact that I am very much pro-drinking. My parents introduced me to alcohol (safely, of course) at quite a young age, allowing me to try wine, have a drink with my meal, and letting me go to parties without the worry of me potentially calling them up from hospital after having my stomach pumped. As a result, I have always known my limits with alcohol, and have never been sick from it.

I have never had a bad experience with any particular type of alcohol, although as I have got older I have learned what I like best, what gets me drunk quickest, and what is not a good idea for me to mix.

The past year and a half has taught me a lot about what I shouldn’t mix. As a teenager and young adult, I never experienced a black out or any serious effect to my memory, simply heightened emotions. However, the last year of university and the first nearly two years in the ‘adult’ world, I have had quite a few drunken experiences that have left me struggling to remember how I made it home, and, more recently, what I might have said to people in my inebriated state.

And I really, really hate that. Even if it was a great night and no mistakes were made, how am I supposed to enjoy the memories of it if I don’t have any?

So  I decided to do Dry January, not as a fundraiser, not necessarily for my health, but just to give myself a well needed break from the stuff. And, to my horror, it was surprisingly easy.

As in, I didn’t feel the need to drink. I didn’t want to drink. And the only time I was tempted in the slightest was when we went to the cutest pub in the world and everyone was trying different craft beers with interesting flavors. I don’t even like beer. I just wanted to see if they tasted different to me. But I didn’t crack.

The thing was, that I had been having such heavy drinking nights throughout December because of Christmas, that I was beginning to feel sick of it anyway. I felt acidic and full of cold and just generally tired and dehydrated. Starting the year off alcohol free was one of my better shouts for my health, because it meant that I caught up on sleep, ate slightly better, and was able to do exercise without feeling like I was dying.

It also meant that I had a pleasant January that I could actually remember clearly and know when I had embarrassed myself. Which, because I was sober, wasn’t that often.

I made it through January with ease, and feeling positively about the sober life.

The only draw back was that I celebrated the beginning of February by drinking 5 drinks and ended up, yep you guessed it, black out drunk. I woke to my room completely trashed, mysterious bruises, and a split lip, just from getting home. I assume I fell over.

But this is still a good thing, and a learning curve. Now I know that my tolerance has gone down, it means I need to consciously drink less when I am drinking. This is cheaper. This is control. It also means I’m going to buy things I actually like the taste of rather than stuff that’s going to get me drunk, because I don’t really particularly want to be drunk. From now on (with the exception of maybe my birthday and New Years Eve), I am going to be drinking because I want to drink something nice and be sociable with my friends, rather than just to become confident in social situations, or to fit in.

This might have come across as preachy and I apologize, because I am the last person to judge anyone for drinking or being drunk. I actively encourage it in my friends and loved ones, because reaching that sweet spot of drunkenness is the best time ever. But for myself, I have only reached it maybe twice in the last two years, and I hate to feel out of control. I think drunk me is a terrible, embarrassing and annoying person, even if others agree.

This does not mean I’m going to stop drinking completely. I’ve just made the decision to not drink during the week, and to limit myself to drinks I actually like.

Hopefully, this will be easily maintained!

Au revoir.
xxx

Books · Uncategorized

What I’m Reading: Asking For It By Louise O’Neill

One of my favorite Youtubers, Hannah Witton, alongside Leena Norms and Lucy Moon, started an online book club this year, one that focuses on books about sex that they have suitably named the Banging Book Club (https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/179796-banging-book-club). For each month of 2016 they have nominated a different book to read, and I decided to join simply because I love learning about, reading about and talking about sex within our culture.

There are spoilers in this post and references to rape, sexual violence, abuse and exploitation so please do not read on if this is going to effect you.

They kicked the year off with a book that is very relevant to the issues I deal with on a day to day basis at the charity I work for. Asking For It by Louise O’Neill is a novel that talks about rape culture and the reality that many survivors of rape and sexual violence experience every day. It centers around the main character of Emma, a teenage girl living in Ireland, and the traumatic events leading up to, during and after her violation. Within the story, O’Neill highlights many issues that we face today in society when talking about rape, and as a result, has created a very real story to be read.

The very first thing that struck me when reading Asking For It was how disturbingly relatable Emma is as a main character. I’m not sure if everyone would agree, but the way she thinks is very similar to how I remember thinking as a teenager. It’s probably not great to admit, as she is not a particularly nice character, but it struck a chord with me because I could relate to her, I had felt some of the things she felt, and understood many of her actions. This may not be the same for everyone, but I feel positive that if you did not see similarities in yourself, you would have seen similarities between her and another female in your life, be that friend or enemy.

I think Emma is made to be a slightly unlikeable character early on because it presents the question that is the title of the book – if someone isn’t a nice person, if someone is flirty and ‘promiscuous’, then do they deserve to be raped? Are they asking for it? Victim blaming is something that is massive in rape culture, and a big problem that we need to deal with. After Emma is abused we are presented with different reactions, from her friends and school mates turning their backs on her and the town rejecting her as a slut, to her brother and strangers online believing her and wanting her to fight back. Emma as a victim is overwhelmed with differing opinions when all she wants is for people to like her, for them to believe her, but also for her not to have to hurt anyone else. This story points out something that I think everyone needs to hear – not every survivor of sexual violence wants to or has the strength to report their abuse. It is a long, grueling process that often does more harm to the mental health of a survivor than help, mostly because rape survivors are the only victims of a crime who are treated like criminals themselves.

The idea that I felt was repeated a lot in Emma’s mind was the idea that she has known the boys who raped and abused her since she was a small child. They had grown up together, went to school together, and their families know each other well. This makes their actions all the more shocking, and her reaction more understandable – why would she want to ruin the lives of the boys she had grown up with, who she considered her friends? If they had not been her friends, the story also suggests, then she would not have felt comfortable with them in such an inebriated state. No one expects your friends to put you in danger. This again points out a very realistic fact – many rapists and abusers are people that the victim knows and often trusts to a certain extent.

Reading this book, I so wanted Emma to fight back. I wanted her to gain confidence, to tell her story about what happened, and for the boys who violated her to be punished for their actions. But that isn’t what happens, because in real life, that isn’t always what happens. When the story ends and we leave Emma, she has decided not to continue with the court case, and she feels relieved about it. It is easier for her to retreat into herself, to think about killing herself every day, rather than to watch justice tear her family apart. Emma has been made to feel, in the end, that it is still her fault, and no one can change her mind about that.

I wouldn’t say I enjoyed this book, because it isn’t a happy subject, does not end the way you would want it to, and is not pleasant to read. But it is well written, engaging, relatable, and most importantly, it shows a side of the issues survivors face that is not often seen. The messages within this book are ones that I want everyone I know to understand, and it’s taken all of my self control not to ramble on about it all the time. It’s not very long, I read it in a couple of days, but it is thought provoking and, I think, a very important book at the moment.

The next book is not so much about sexual violence and so hopefully will be easier to talk about. As it is, the charity I work for supports survivors of rape and sexual violence, and so it is a subject that I am passionate about, and do not find difficult to discuss.

I hope you will join the Banging Book Club and read along with me!! It’s giving me more excuses to buy books.

Au revoir.
xxx