Since the earthquake in Haiti on 12th January, we've all been looking for, and sharing, ways to contribute to the massive relief effort that is now required in the second-oldest republic in the Western Hemisphere.
The earthquake measured 7.3 on the Richter Scale and an early estimate by Haiti's Prime Minister, Jean Max Bellerive put the possible death toll at "well over 100,000". That's before they even begin to count the hundreds of thousands of Haitians who have seen their entire lives literally buried before their eyes.
Regardless of our personal situations, we can all do something to help. The BBC have listed all the major aid organisations and their Hatian appeals here.
If, like me, you would prefer to give assistance direct to the one of the many smaller organisations and ministries based in Haiti, you might want to consider Davis In Haiti. Supported by World Outreach Ministries, Davis In Haiti have lived and ministered in Haiti for 30 years. Their daughter describes her parents' longstanding mission as:
"for the people and not for the money. They take NO money out for business costs, paperwork [...] 100% goes to the people! We did without so that the people would have."
If you'd like to know more about this mission, you can visit the Davis blog here, or find it in my recommended blog roll on the right hand side of your screen (if you can't see it, scroll down). They are posting regularly, as time and power shortages allow, and offer a direct line to the situation in Haiti on a day to day basis. Their most recent update said this:
"The job is SO HUGE that it is hard to realize what is all needed and where it will be needed. As discouraged as we are right now, the enormity of what lies ahead is heart stopping."
If you'd like to help, please contact me for their address, or contact them through their blog.
If money is tight, as it is for many of us right now, remember that spiritual assistance is never in short supply. Support these guys in your prayers. We can ALL do SOMETHING.
There are a variety of reasons to drink plenty of water each day. Adequate water intake prevents dehydration, cleans out the body, and promotes healing processes. Substituting water for beverages high in calories can also help control weight. Follow the steps below to make sure you're getting enough of this most basic necessity. (For the full article, visit wikiHow)
Determine how much water you need. You've probably heard the "8 by 8" rule - drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water per day (2 quarts, 1.8 litres) - but the amount of water a person needs varies depending on his or her weight, activity level and climate. Another way to determine your specific recommended water intake is to divide your weight (in pounds) by two. The resulting number is the number of ounces of water you need each day. For those who use the Metric system, divide your weight (in kilograms) by 30 (ex. somebody weighing 70 kg is going to need 2.3 litres per day). Keep in mind that these recommended intake numbers are controversial [...].
Measure your daily intake of water. Do this for a few days. If you find that you're drinking less than the recommended quantity, try some of the following tips:
Carry water with you everywhere put it in a bottle or other container.
Keep a glass or cup of water next to you whenever you'll be sitting down for a long time, such as when you're at your desk at work. Drink from it regularly as you're working.
Try wearing a digital watch that beeps at the beginning of each hour. Use that as a reminder to pour yourself a glass of water. Vow to drink that water before the next beep. If you drink only one small (6oz or 180 ml) cup per hour, you'll have consumed 48oz (1.4 litres) by the end of an 8-hour workday.
Get a water purification system.Purified water tastes very good and may help make drinking water more appealing to you. Be aware, though, that as you grow accustomed to purified water, you may find that tap water leaves a bad taste in your mouth.
Addlemons or limes to your water. This makes it taste better and makes you want to drink more of it. Be careful not to make it too sour; just a splash of sourness should do the trick. Cucumber slices can also be added to a glass of water. Some mint leaves can be added to a pitcher of water which should be allowed to sit overnight. These are cheap alternatives to the bottled flavoured water. If you do choose bottled flavoured water, check the ingredients, as these are likely closer in form to lemon or limeade than they are to water.
Eat water rich foods, such as fruits like watermelon, which is 92% water by weight. Blend up some seedless fresh watermelon flesh with some ice and place a few sprigs of mint (optional) - one of the most refreshing drinks, especially for the summertime. Cranberry juice is also another option, and has a bitter taste. Patients suffering from urinary infection caused by insufficient intake of water should drink cranberry juice and eat watermelon if not plain water everyday. A tomato is 95% water. An egg is about 74% water.
Keep water cold if it tastes better for you. Keep a pitcher of water in the refrigerator at home. Add ice or freeze water in a sports bottle before taking it with you, it will eventually melt and stay cold. Bear in mind that cold water takes energy for your body to regulate the temperature, and does burn some calories. Room temperature water is better if you're dehydrated. Your body can absorb the room temperature water immediately, instead of the body having to raise the temperature of the water first in order to process it.
Climate can drastically change how much water you need. On hot days that require you to be outside, you should drink more water to counteract the fluids you lose when you sweat. This not only keeps your body hydrated, it can prevent heat-related illness. Just as important (but often overlooked) is consuming enough fluids in cold & wet conditions. The human body works much more efficiently (including heating and cooling) when properly hydrated. Inadequate water intake affects the brain's function first, which can become very dangerous (especially in extreme conditions).
Herbal tea, seltzer water and soup broth can count as part of the daily water intake.
Make refreshing flavoured water by filling a pitcher with filtered or tap water and then adding a few slices of citrus fruit, or a tea ball with herbs such as peppermint. Refrigerate for 4-8 hrs. Remove fruit slices or herbs, so the flavour doesn't get too strong.
Thanks to the marvellous purveyor of laughter, @JazzTirard for this, the latest in a long line of great jokes. Gotta love twitter!
A mother passing by her son's bedroom was astonished to see the bed was nicely made, and everything was picked up. Then, she saw an envelope, propped up prominently on the pillow.
It was addressed, 'Mum'. With the worst premonition, she opened the envelope and read the letter, with trembling hands:
It is with great regret and sorrow that I'm writing you. I have had to elope with my new girlfriend, because I wanted to avoid a scene with Dad and you.
I've been finding real passion with Stacy, and she is so nice, but I knew you would not approve of her, because of all her piercings, tattoos, her tight leather biker's clothes, and because she is so much older than I am.
But it's not only the passion, Mum. She's pregnant.
Stacy says that we will be very happy. She owns a trailer in the woods, and has a stack of firewood for the whole winter. We share a dream of having many more children.
Stacy has opened my eyes to the fact that marijuana doesn't really hurt anyone. We'll be growing it for ourselves, and trading it with the other people in the commune, for all the cocaine and ecstasy we want.
In the meantime, we'll pray that science will find a cure for AIDS, so Stacy can get better. She sure deserves it!!
Don't worry Mum, I'm 15, and I know how to take care of myself. Someday, I'm sure we'll be back to visit, so you can get to know your many grandchildren.
Love, your son,
PS: Mum, none of the above is true. I'm over at Jason's house.
I just wanted to remind you that there are worse things in life than the school report that's on my desk.
Have you ever dieted? Cut out this or that food group? Gone to bed hungry? Many of us have. Why do we do it? To fit back into the favourite jeans? So we can run for the bus? To improve our self esteem? There are innumerable personal reasons, but there is one factor we all share - how we measure our success:
"What do the scales say"?!
But you know, you can ditch the scales, start eating and still get into those jeans. Here are 4 reasons why:
1) Healthy eating should neverbe about what you "can’t" eat. A balanced diet means just that - balance. Every food group should be represented; each group does a different job. Healthy eating is about what you do eat. Never go hungry. Reassure your body that food is plentiful, so there's no need to start stockpiling fat. Learn to distinguish between hunger and thirst. (A rumbling tum means hunger, no rumbling means thirst. Try it!)
2) Good nutrition is the key, so a colourfuldiet with regular protein and plenty of water is the easiest way to go. Each colour of fruit or veg represents a different blend of proteins, vitamins and minerals. If you have a number of colours on your plate, you will be on the way to balancing your diet and, therefore, your body, without even thinking about it. Clever, huh? And easy! 3) So, what do the scales say? Many of us focus first - sometimes solely - on how much weight we think we need to lose. Many diet companies are built on the foundations of weight loss. Heck, I'm a wellness and weight-loss coach - check my advert at the top right of this very site - "Want to lose weight?" Well, I'm here to tell you that our weight is not the whole story. Yes, of course it can be a key factor; and the term "weight loss" has become a quick way of referring to a complex issue. BUT using weight as our sole focus can be dangerously misleading. Weight loss does not automatically equal a reduction in body fat. The body can (and will) jettison all kinds of things before turning to its reserves of fat, leading to successful weight loss with dreadful side effects.
4) Lean muscle mass is what keeps our bodies ticking along healthily, burning body fat and giving us energy. Muscle weighs more than fat, so if your body is redressing the balance between body fat and lean muscle mass, you might actually put on a little weight. Staying off the scales will help, but if you really can't do that, know that you are only seeing half the picture. Also, muscle takes up less space under our skin (check the picture below!) So, when my clients start their intelligent nutritional programmes, I ask them to stay off the scales for up to two weeks. When they eventually do get on, they often fall off! But if the number on the dial is unexpected, they aren't discouraged. Why? Because they all know - measure regularly.. :-)
Want to bin your scales? Want to know more about Intelligent Nutrition? Want some support? Well, I want to help. :-) Click here!
The Willow Foundation, founded by Arsenal goalkeeper, TV presenter and all-round good egg Bob Wilson and his wife Megs, is a national charity that provides special days for seriously ill 16 - 40 year olds.
I can't imagine how it must feel to discover that you, or one of your loved ones, might not have much time left on this earth, how every moment must take on an unbearable extra significance. I do know how it feels to wish you'd had one special moment, one window of time when life could have been savoured together, a mental and emotional snapshot of sunshine, free of the shadow of illness. I have also seen what a difference this opportunity can make in the lives of the sick and, when the worst happens, in the grieving process of those left behind. For many people though, it must seem an impossible dream - financially, logistically out of reach, in the midst of the grinding minutiae of day to day existence.
That's where Bob and Megs come in. The Willow Foundation, founded in memory of their daughter, Anna, who died aged 31, five years after her initial diagnosis, exists to provide precisely that opportunity - Special Days. Remarkable people, bringing remarkable relief to remarkable people.
Equally remarkable is the fundraising adventure being undertaken by Suzanne Meiklejohn. Currently resident in sunny Majorca, on 29th January, 2010, Suzanne will be going 'from Med to Sled', joining a week long arctic expedition 300 miles north of the Arctic Circle. Her goal is to raise £10,000 for the Willow Foundation. If Suzanne's fundraising acumen matches her sheer courage in taking this expedition on, I suspect she'll raise much, much more than that.
So, visit Suzanne's website and have a look. You can donate online, you can follow her blog (also to be found further down this page in my 'recommended blog section') and you can spread the word. If you can only do one of these things, that's fine.
On this day 20 years ago, 96 people – men, women and children - went to watch a football match. None of them came home. I watched on my television, a fifteen year old football fan unprepared in every way for what I was seeing. The following year, on a school exchange trip, the German woman with whom I was staying told me that she had watched the same scenes and wept. She cried again when telling me this. Yet still I could not comprehend. In the twenty years between then and now, I have watched and read everything I could on the subject of Hillsborough - the documentaries, Jimmy McGovern's excellent dramatisation, the websites, the reports but I still don't understand: how could this possibly happen?
Of course, like every football fan of my generation, I understand the logistics – a lack of crowd filtering outside the Hillsborough ground meant that crowd levels became dangerously high; a crush was developing and lives were endangered; the order was given to open the gate at the Leppings Lane end to allow people in en masse, thus easing the pressure; the tunnel leading into the central pen was not closed off, meaning that this human tide swept directly down it, into an area that was already full; the fences between the terraces and the pitch prevented any release of pressure onto the pitch; almost a hundred people were crushed to death as a result and many more were injured, all in the plain sight of everyone else in the ground. So, I suppose my question is not ‘how’ but ‘why’: why did so many people die when it was so preventable? Why did individuals, paid and positioned for the sole purpose of safeguarding the wellbeing of ordinary people on a day out, fail so spectacularly to make the right decisions – initiate crowd filtering outside the ground, delay kick off, close the Leppings Lane tunnel, take immediate action when the message came through from fans all over the ground – “people are DYING in there”, allow the forty empty ambulances outside the ground onto the pitch to give life saving treatment?
It seems that Chief Superintendent David Duckenfield, the officer in charge, lacked experience and didn't show the leadership required but he wasn’t the only official there – there were many, many small failures amongst the emergency services at Hillsborough that day. My fear is that at the heart of the issue was a dreadful and frighteningly casual attitude towards football fans: get them in, let’s get this over with and then we can all go home. But 96 people never went home again.
The youngest victim, Jon-Paul Gilhooley, current Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard’s cousin, was 10 years old – these people were not hardened thugs, bent on causing mayhem. They were families, friends, young and old, off to watch their beloved Reds compete on FA Cup semi final day; and having the temerity to assume that they were safe in the hands of those policing the event.
If you have never done so, take some time today to read a little, watch some footage. You’ll see police officers outside the ground reacting aggressively to those trying to alert them to the developing crush. You’ll hear accounts from those within the ground being told by officers to ‘sit down and shut up’ when alerting them to the obvious crush in the Leppings Lane end. You’ll see and hear about officers attempting to push people back over the fences as they tried to escape the crush, and then preventing fans from carrying the injured to waiting ambulances - in case they were really trying to 'get at' opposing supporters. You’ll also see fans fashioning stretchers from advertising hoardings, reaching down from the upper tier to pull people out of that pen, holding and supporting each other in the midst of their grief and confusion.
You’ll see and hear how Liverpool Football Club reached out to the injured and bereaved in the following days, weeks and months – players attending every single one of the 96 funerals, making countless hospital visits, throwing Anfield open to all; even operating a counselling service at the ground. A mile of linked scarves from Goodison to Anfield; a carpet of flowers covering the Anfield pitch; a million visitors paying their respects; You’ll Never Walk Alone at Liverpool cathedral. It was, and is heart breaking.
It has been said many times in the last week that the legacy of the Hillsborough 96 is the creation of 26 new, all seater stadia, the elimination of terraces from the top tiers of British football, the removal of fences around the pitch and the general improvement of safety and comfort in today’s football arenas. While this is true, it's too easy. It seems bitterly ironic to me that many of the Hillsborough survivors, and countless more just like them have been priced out of the game they love as a result. The attitude towards football fans has not really changed. It has just been given a shiny new face.
The real legacy could, and should be the public acceptance of responsibility for 96 avoidable deaths. We live in a compensation culture today; how ironic then, that the Hillsborough bereaved have not even received the compensation of “I’m sorry. We made the wrong decisions and accept responsibility for the consequences of those decisions”?
It’s not about needing someone to blame. It’s about seeing clearly that the death of ones children at a football match could have been avoided, but being unable to hold anyone accountable for failing in their duty of care. The officer in charge on the day retired some years ago on medical grounds; therefore it is not possible to challenge his decisions and actions that day. Many police officers present at Hillsborough have been given financial remuneration in recognition of the unbearable scenes they witnessed that day. While, undoubtedly, many were professional and did the best they could, others contributed to the death toll because of their attitudes to those in danger. How could it be, then, that the innocent, the survivors, the bereaved, have not been given even similar recognition? In their twenty year battle, the Hillsborough families have been fighting a faceless, amorphous body, intent only on avoiding responsibility.
It’s time someone put their hand up and turned their face to the light. That’s the only legacy that is truly worthy of the Hillsborough 96.
When you walk through a storm, Hold your head up high, And don't be afraid of the dark. At the end of the storm, Is a golden sky, And the sweet silver song of a lark. Walk on through the wind, Walk on through the rain, Though your dreams be tossed and blown. Walk on, walk on, With hope in your heart, And you'll never walk alone, You'll never walk alone.
In 45 minutes from now, Barack Obama will be sworn in as the 44th President of the United States of America; the most powerful man on the face of the earth. I'm excited! Perhaps a little more than I expected - after all, as a British citizen, Mr Obama's policy making will not be made with me as a priority, and rightly so. So what is it about this man that has seen excitement sweep across countless countries from the USA to Kenya to China to Britain, stopping off pretty much everywhere else en route around the world? I suppose it is partly his unique status as the first African American President, partly his status as the first mixed race President, partly his undeniable skill as an orator, partly his track record in bringing people together to work for the common good, partly his calm, strong presence, partly his clarity of mind, partly his name, partly his Democratic allegiance, partly his love of basketball, partly his need for nicotine gum, partly his age, partly his looks, partly his...blah blah blah... Whatever the reason, it seems that almost everybody, expects him to change their own individual environment for the better. Yes, I'm a Brit and yes, I look forward with eager anticipation to his dealings with Europe on world events - remembering with glee that Europe was part of the Obama canvassing tour. How flattered and excited we all felt at that!
The trouble with such incredibly wide appeal is that with it comes a level of expectation that will be impossible to meet. You cannot please all the people all the time. That said, I don't think Mr Obama intends to please all the people all the time; he will decide on his course and steer it the best way he can, bringing with him the best people he can. That is not assumption - it was his method of operation since long before he stood as a Presidential candidate. Let me make a bold prediction here: there will be no pretzel choking in this administration. Nor, however, will there be an appetite for making political gain out of such fluff.
I am going to pray for Barack. He is set to shoulder a burden beyond our comprehension; in the face, let's not forget, of some dark prejudices and opposition rooted both in very recent US past and in areas of the world where conflict is still sought in preference to reconciliation. He will do so with grace, gravitas and good humour, I suspect. I hope, however, that all those of us who celebrate the dawn of his watch will remember that for him to succeed - and to meet even some of our expectations - we all have a responsibility to do the best WE can along with him.
Congratulations, Barack Obama. May God be with you.
One of seven; easily confused and easily amused; an AFC Wimbledon devotee; a Christian; an Internet Marketer; a lover of social networking; a wellness and weightloss coach; a book worm; a Jim Rohn devotee; and an obsessive player of xbox games. Every day, I scatter my brain and see where it sticks...