Thursday, 29 October 2015

Draft Letter to an MP about Refugee camps in Lesbos

I was recently moved to tears by this article in the Huffington Post about refugees in camps in Lesbos, where people are dying due to lack of shelter, supplies and medical help. I felt compelled to write to my MP, especially after learning that so much of the help given by people is not actually getting to the people who need it.

Writing to MPs is amazingly effective in bringing change and action. These people are paid (through our taxes) to act on the issues that are important to us. If we write to them, they will know what issues are important. I have never written a letter to an MP that has not received a reply, and I have sometimes had letters passed on to the policy maker in that particular area.

I have found it helpful when I first wrote to MPs to send a generic letter written by someone else. Sometimes I edited these letters, sometimes I just addressed them to my MP and sent them as is. I have included a generic template letter below (I added some more detail addressing my MP, because I have written to him before). Please use this letter to write to your MP; the more voices speak out, the more likely the government is to listen.

You can find your MP's name contact details here, just type in your post code.

Dear [MP's name]

I’m sure you, like I, have been distressed and concerned by the vast number of refugees attempting to flee from ISIS and find refuge in Europe. These men, women and children are only taking such long and dangerous journeys because they fear for their lives.

 I understand that the United Kingdom is offering help to a number of refugees who have not yet reached Europe. I also understand the government’s desire to focus aid for those who have not yet reached Europe, as those people are clearly the most vulnerable to attacks from terrorist groups. I fully support this action by the government, but feel that it is our duty to do more to help our fellow human beings.

Recently I have read about the plight of refugees who have already reached European soil. I was particularly moved by an article written by a charity worker, from a small charity Help Refugees, in the Huffington Post. She wrote of the horrific conditions in refugee camps in Lesbos, where people are dying of starvation, dehydration, exposure and disease. She wrote of children who’s feet are literally rotting away, because they are sleeping outside in the cold and rain and do not have access to clean, dry clothes. I was surprised to read that there is very little presence in these camps of large charities or of government help. There are little or no medical facilities. People who have reached the “safety” of European soil are dying, and will continue to die if nothing is done to provide proper shelter, provisions and medical help, especially as winter approaches. This is a matter of great urgency.

I urge you to raise this issue with anyone who can help. Although people are donating money and items to charity the charities are not getting to the people who need them because of government policy and red tape. I am unsure if UK policy is affecting this, or if it is the local governments where the camps are located. Either way, I urge you to talk to our own government and ambassadors for other governments, so that we can do everything possible to prevent these people from dying.

I am sure that you will take any action you can to save the lives of these people.

Yours Sincerely

 [Your name]
P.S. The article in question can be read online here.

Monday, 26 October 2015

Eat well for less

I've really been enjoying the BBC's Eat Well For Less series. It's full of good advice about feeding a family healthily on a budget, as well as dispelling a lot of myths about food.

I've not found it overly helpful though, because as a family we're well within the normal spending range for our family (we're a couple, and spend about £40 a week on groceries, which is about average for a family of 2). We tend to cook our own meals, we've steered clear of takeaways since we came up with a meal plan, we don't usually buy branded products and we shop at a budget supermarket. Surely we can't make any more savings?

Then I came across the absolutely fascinating Facebook page! The people running this claimed they could feed a family of 4 for half of my budget. I genuinely didn't believe it. But I've been reading through their menus, and it seems with some careful planning a bulk buying you really can feed a family for as little as £20!

I'm not sure we have the storage space for 3 months worth of food (especially as our flat has issues with damp, and I wouldn't want to lose that much food if it went bad!) but I'm taking it as a personal challenge to get as close to £20 a week as possible. I'm going to try to buy a month's worth of freezables and non-perishables in advance, and then buy perishables week on week. I think initially it will be more like £30 a week, but we'll see where we'll get.

Do you have any top tips for buying in bulk? What about buying in bulk when you don't have a car (which we don't!) I'd love to hear them!

Thursday, 15 October 2015

PLAYexpo Manchester 2015

Last weekend the husband and I went the PLAYexpo Manchester with some friends from church. We borrowed a friend's wheelchair as I wouldn't have been able to last more than an hour on my feet at an expo like that. I'm so glad we went as we had an amazing time!

There was a LOT to do, something I'm not really used to from attending MCM Expos. Not only did they have all the latest big name game releases, they also had lots of Indie game designers (I thoroughly enjoyed Unboxed, the Box simulator!) and more than half the hall was taken up with retro games. You name a console, you name an arcade machine, they had it. The selection of games on show to play was excellent, and I could easily have spent the day moving from table to table reliving childhood memories.

They also had a huge display of pinball machines, at least one of which had an open glass side so you could see the mechanisms inside. From my vantage point in the wheelchair I could actually see the sparks flying between switches as the machine was played with, it was awesome.

We, of course, went in cosplay, as Emmet and Wild Style from the Lego Movie (on the grounds that we've totally played the game of that film, and it was a good game!). I didn't make the tracksuit or the construction clothes, as all were cheap to buy, and my husband already had the blue shirt. I did however paint the tracksuit, style the wigs, and add all the detail to the Emmet costume. I loved the cosplay masquerade, and was pleasantly surprised by the very high standard of costuming!

If you want to see more about how I made the Emmet costume, you can check out my youtube channel here. Were you at PLAYexpo? What was your favourite part?

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Wedding Crafts

 My brother-in-law recently got married. Everyone had a great day. I helped with some of the organisation as well as reading a prayer on the day, and I did quite a lot of wedding related crafting for the special day!

I helped the bride make this seating plan, using card, paper and stick on butterflies! The wedding was Disney themed, and so I helped to print off text using a free Disney font I downloaded, as well as a picture of Ariel from the Little Mermaid getting married, to match the couples' wedding invitations.

They hadn't set up a gift list as they had already set up home together, but I really wanted to get them a thoughtful present they'd appreciate. I scoured the internet for ideas and eventually hit upon this little gem; maps of where the couple were born, met and married. This particular couple love to hang sentimental items on their walls, so I knew they'd appreciate this. After finding a suitable frame I cut the maps into heart shapes and decorated with pictures of flowers. I used little slips of coloured paper to add names and dates. (Top Tip: Check the details with a family member, I got the bride's place of birth wrong and am going to have to edit their present. Good job they have a good sense of humour ;) )

A quick google search will show lots of other ideas and suggestions around this map theme for newly weds. I particularly love map-crafts at the moment!

I also decided to add the finishing touches to my wedding outfit myself. I crocheted the simple shawl using granny stripes. I'm not a very skilled crocheted so it wasn't shaped, but I sewed on pink buttons to hold it in place. I deliberately chose some beautifully soft yarns that matched my dress. I used Yarn scraps to crochet the flower in my hair too, which I attached to a clip.