Holocaust Memorial Day 2017

27 Jan

Holocaust Memorial Day always has a special place in my heart.

My mum was brought up in the Jewish faith, therefore my grandparents, aunt, uncles, cousins are Jewish. Although my mum married a non-Jewish man and in fact became a Christian many years ago and now attends church regularly. I have always had the privilege of learning and experiencing the Jewish faith. My Grandad was Polish. He thankfully managed to escape the holocaust, eventually starting a new life in London. Unfortunately his family were not so lucky. He would never speak about what happened, I guess the emotions were too raw as well as the heavy burden of feeling guilty that he survived and his family didn’t.

This year’s theme for Holocaust Memorial Day is ‘How Does Life Go On’ and it is something that makes me think. How does a person carry on?! People who witnessed people being murdered, starved and tortured, as well as the suffering they also suffered themselves. How do people overcome their family members, mother’s, father’s, siblings, children being murdered in such a ruthless evil abhorrent way.

I have always had such huge respect for survival victims of Genocides, despite the evil and unimaginable horror how people manage to go on and bring awareness and change despite knowing evil at its worst. How do you begin to forgive the perpetrators? Does justice ever bring closure? We are lucky to still have survivors of the Holocaust and other victims of genocide to bring their stories, to keep people’s memories alive. But even when we no longer have survivors alive to tell their stories, we still need to remember.

“For the dead and the living, we must bear witness. For not only are we responsible for the memories of the dead, we are also responsible for what we are doing with those memories”. – Elie Wiesel
But it is not just about the past. What do we do about the future. How do we stand up when we see something happening that is so wrong. We look at places like Syria right now, evil of humanity at it’s worse just like the holocaust, except it is happening, even as I write this. We are fortunate enough with technology in the modern age not to have the excuse of being unaware of the suffering taking place. It is in the news, on social media. I am not sure of all the answers, but we can support those out there fighting by supporting charities that help, or support those rescuing people who have lost everything, not everyone can give money but many organisations are desperate for clothing and supplies. We can  and need to show kindness and compassion to those grieving. We should treat people how we want to be treated.

“There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must NEVER be a time when we fail to protest”. – Elie Wiesel.

I finish with this poem.

Though we did not witness their suffering
And though we did not bring about their deaths
It does not lesson the guilt that we feel
For those more than six million dead

Such numbers we can not imagine
And the atrocities, we did not see
But that does not lessen the tragedy
Of possibly the lowest point of humanity

We cannot forget what they went through
All that suffering without cause
All they did was hold on to what they believed in
Nothing against moral or criminal laws

But hope,
That was not forgotten
Even as they were lead to their final rest
And it is this hope that we should look back on
Not just the way they were so cruelly oppressed

And it may be hard to understand
Such horror caused purely by mankind
Yet, in order to prevent repeat
We must ensure that we keep the memory alive

So think back to the days of the Holocaust
And those who lost their precious lives
And know that we cannot let them ever be forgotten
So that in our minds, their unfailing hope survives

Serena Arthur ©

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Learning to let go

24 Jan

“Letting go is the toughest thing to do in life, but sometimes it can turn out to be the best thing you’ve ever done”.

We have many people come in to our lives throughout our lifetime. They say some come for a season and some come for a lifetime. The ones that come for a season, may be someone we meet at work or somewhere else along the way and there are times you think no matter what that person will always be in your life. Then you leave that place of work or something else happens and the friendship slowly dwindles and this can be tough. A person who you shared so much with and really helped is no longer there but slowly in time you cherish the memories and you remember that maybe that person was there at that moment and either you helped them or they helped you but that season has now come to an end.

“If someone comes into your life and has a positive impact on you, be thankful that your paths crossed. And even if they cannot stay for some reason, be thankful that they somehow made you happy, even it was just for a short while”.

Then there are those you have known a very long time, decades even and there have been many highs and lows, but over time you change, and as you grow, you either grow closer or you grow apart and again this can be tough. I have a friend who I have known over 20 years now. We met in Primary School, we went to different colleges, different sixth forms but we always stayed friends. We have been through a lot individually, many highs and many lows. We have both suffered in different ways but we have always stuck together and I have no doubt that when we are old we will still be friends.

“Everyone has a friend during each stage of life. But only lucky one have the same friend in all stages of life”.

But what happens if a person in life turns destructive??? At first you worry, you are there and you run after them every time there is another blip, then there is another blip and another blip. And then a person really starts to cause a lot of hurt. Unfortunately, in the past couple of years I have learnt the hard way, yes it can be tough. And then there are two types of people, the people who apologise but repetitively continue in their ways or there is the other type who continually cause hurt but do not see fault at all and persistently put the blame on everyone else but themselves. And the question is how long do you go on continually making excuses for that person. Oh, they are going through a hard time, or maybe this time they really are sorry. Unfortunately, the apologies you don’t get build up and resentment builds.

“I never knew how strong I was, until I had to forgive someone who wasn’t sorry and accept an apology I never received”.

What relationship are you clinging to today that is having a negative effect on your life? Is there someone today you must stand up and simply say no, I am not putting up with this anymore. It’s a tough thing to do but trust me you will feel so much better.

Someone once said to me if you were in a relationship with someone would you put up the pain and hurt that is being caused. I answered “no”. They said well why is a “friendship” any different.

“It is not easy to detach from people you have had close ties with, but sometimes it is necessary in order, to restore your sanity. Your mind. Peace”.

It is natural to feel a lot of emotions when you have to detach someone from your life. Guilt, anger, frustration. But in time you learn to heal, you learn to forgive because you there is no longer that negativity in your life and sadly one day when the person opens their eyes and realises what they have lost, it is too late because life moves on and there is no need to feel guilty for not wanting to go back to the past.

There is a great quote that goes:

“In life you will realise there is a role for everyone you meet. Some will test you, some will use you. Some will love you , some will teach you. But the ones who are truly important will bring out the best in you. They are the rare and amazing people who remind you why it is worth it”

People inspire you or they drain you, choose wisely.

A Battle with the Black Dog

26 Jul

A lot of people would have heard of the term or seen the video called ‘I had a black dog, his name was depression’ where writer and illustrator tells the story of overcoming ‘The Black Dog of Depression’.

The Black Dog Campaign reduces the stigma surrounding mental illness and encourages people to seek help early, rather than suffering in silence.

The campaign aims are:

  • Reduce stigma, prejudice and exclusion
  • Encourage more people to seek help
  • Educate members of the public – #StopStigma
  • Take mental health into schools, colleges and the workplace
  • Change perceptions of mental illness
  • Demonstrate the importance of research
  • Involve young people in mental health
  • Change attitudes of future generations

The subject of Mental Health is a big passion of mine. It is something sadly I have had to go through myself with my own battle with depression and anxiety. 1 in 4 people will suffer from a mental health issue in their life.

My first experience of depression was in my mid-teens, I remember feeling so awfully low and a regular feeling of thinking ‘I don’t want to be here’. I was unhappy at school and lived in a different village to my college so only knew one or two people where I lived which was very isolating and I struggled academically in most of my subjects. I never told anyone how I felt at that age I did not understand and just hoped things would pick up. Through sixth form it was a little better but I just wanted to get away from college and into the world of work.

I became much happier once I started a full time job and for a few years sailed along quite nicely, things seemed to be good. At the age of 18 I found my faith and was baptised in 2004, I felt I had a purpose in my life, and although times were not always here I felt I had more of an inner strength. In 2006 and at the age of 20 I went on a missionary trip to Namibia for the summer. This involved staying in an orphanage, visiting AIDS patients in the villages and taking food, as well as other activities. I was never prepared emotionally for this trip, I felt very chilled. It wasn’t until I had I had a bad experience at the airport which was very hostile and involved taking me to an enclosed room for a search of my suitcase that I my first real experience anxiety hit. I was okay the first day, and then thereafter I suddenly felt in danger, I was a long way from home and was absolutely petrified. I couldn’t eat, and was regularly sick from panic. The fear was indescribable. I spent the entire rest of the trip feeling like this and it was torture. A few weeks later I landed back in the UK and felt a huge sigh of relief like I was safe again.

However as time went on I realized it had followed me home, the anxiety was chronic, I felt in danger every moment of every day, fear that I had done something wrong or had made a mistake somehow and it ate me up. This soon led to a very dark time in my life. I find it hard to describe just how dark that place was. The thought of ending it all went through my head on a daily basis, it wasn’t necessarily that I did not want to be here but I had no quality of life the way I was feeling. This went on a good few years. I tried to go abroad a couple of times again to battle my phobia of airports and holidays just felt like torture the same fear and panic attacks would come back, something is going to happen, there is no way I can get home.

I could be surrounded by a great group of people but never felt so alone and isolated. People who saw me day to day in my job would never know the turmoil I was going through, not even some of my friends knew the torture I was feeling. It was like a constant black cloud that followed me. There were times I felt in utter distress. It was only when I started getting really dark thoughts about suicide I decided to see a GP who was absolutely brilliant, he did an assessment which showed I was severely depressed and had generalized anxiety disorder and symptoms of OCD. It was many situations that led to this point. Not just the anxiety, but a mixture of life events in this time. After trying counselling which did not work for me I went for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for six weeks. This was the best thing I ever did. Finally someone I felt could get inside my head and untangle all the knots where it had gone wrong. I could talk freely and no matter how insane it sounded I knew my Therapist understood. He set me exercise and goals to achieve.

One of these was changing jobs and another to go abroad again. I went to Florida with some family again to see a friend and it was the first time I loved a holiday in a long time. So much so I achieved my main goal to travel on my own and meet my friend out there for a couple of weeks before flying back.

I felt at a time I would never lead a normal life. My anxiety/depression has never completely gone, it is always there, that black dog lingering in the distance waiting, but I feel I have techniques now and I have never stopped taking my medication. There are times when that black cloud comes over me again and it will last a good few days, and no matter how awful it feels, I know that glimpse of light will shine through again.

Depression/Anxiety is a cruel illness. It is such a dark place, and people who do not understand will tell you cheer up, it isn’t that bad etc. Unfortunately the brain does not work that way. In this day in age, the pressure is so high and constant.

In the past couple of years I have known or known of people who have had friends/family who has taken their own life, and it literally breaks my heart. The thought that someone feels there is absolutely no way out. There is a saying “They say suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem”. We will never know the torture a person goes through before deciding that there is no way out, why a person walks in front of a train, or out to sea and the unanswered questions and guilt left on loved ones left behind.

Depression can still be such a taboo subject, and there needs to be more help out there and openness to talk about our feelings no matter how dark they may be. I long ago went on a STOP suicide workshop, a campaign, a pledge where you say “I’d ask”, meaning if someone came to me and said ‘I feel hopeless’ or ‘I do not want to be here anymore’ instead of saying oh don’t be silly, I would respond and dare to ask someone if they were getting thoughts of ending their life?! We need to be more open to ask the question and maybe more lives could be saved if only we could tell somebody and not feel guilty and ashamed.

Note: The cure for asthma is not “just breathe!” and the cure for cancer is not “stop growing those cells!” Similarly, the cure for depression is not, “just be happier!”, and the cure for anxiety is not, “stop worrying so much!” These are not phases of life for teenagers and the weak-minded; they are serious chronic medical illnesses.

People who die by suicide do not want to end their lives; they want to end their pain.

Stephen Fry once said “If you know someone who is depressed please resolve never to ask them why. Depression is not a straightforward response to a bad situation; depression just is, like the weather. Try to understand the blackness, hopelessness and loneliness they are going through. Be there for the when they come through the other side. It is hard to be a friend to someone who is depressed, but it is one of the kindest noblest and best things you will ever do.

It is tough if you have never suffered this way to understand how a depressed or anxious person is feeling but today let us stand together, look out for the signs, and speak up if we need it. There is support and as isolating as it feels, there are many people going through a similar situation.

Today if someone talks about ending their life, no matter how attention seeking, you think it is, let’s take the pledge and say “I’d ask”, let us open our eyes and break the taboo of mental health and like Stephen Fry said be kind and noble for people who need us.

 

A Journey With Pemphigus

22 Mar

It was September 2014 when I woke up one day and noticed a deep type cut on my lower back, it was so odd I remembered showing close friends who thought it was very odd. I thought I must have cut myself somehow or scraped it and not realised. However as time went on I kept noticing more of these lesions, mainly over my back appearing, I would feel my skin disappeared as I rubbed an irritation on my back, this soon spread to my front. I had no idea what it could be, I had never seen anything like it. I was googling and nothing was coming up with my symptoms.

Eventually I decided to see my GP to try and find out what was going on. My GP first thought it was a staph infection and prescribed lots of different creams yet nothing worked. I went back time and time again and got different treatments but again nothing was working. By this point I was covered in burn type wounds all over my torso front and back. I was beginning to worry that something serious was going on. After spending a lot of money on various prescriptions, the GP decided to do some swabs. Unfortunately with a new system in place at my local hospital, two lots of swabs went missing. Unable to cope much longer I decided to get a private appointment just to find out what was happening. I was seen by a lovely Dermatologist who first introduced me to a word I had never heard ‘Pemphigus’. She was certain this is what I had and said I needed to be seen urgently for a diagnosis.

I want to take a break just there in my story and introduce you all to Pemphigus. Here is what this strange word to many means:

Pemphigus is a rare autoimmune disease that causes blistering of the skin. The blisters have thin roofs and break easily to leave raw areas (erosions) that can be extensive and painful. Pemphigus does not go away by itself, and always needs treatment by a specialist.

The skin:

  • The skin lesions start as thin-walled blisters (collections of clear fluid within the skin), arising on a background of normal-looking skin. Because they are so fragile, pemphigus blisters break very easily, leaving raw areas known as erosions. 

  • Erosions are areas of skin (or mucous membrane), which lack its top (outer) layer. They look raw and feel sore – like a burn. Erosions can join together to create larger areas of raw skin that look as if the top layer has been scraped off. 

  • Erosions can become crusty and scabbed. When they heal, those on the skin may leave discoloured marks. 

I was told only 1 in 300,000 suffer from this rare disease. I thought how on earth had i ended up with this. It is still unknown as to why people suffer with this disease.

It was January 2015 8 weeks after seeing a private consultant i finally saw an NHS Dermatologist. Although i had waited a long time I could not fault this team. Less than a week later i had the well needed biopsy to determine the diagnosis and this is unfortunately what the results showed. When doing biopsies for this condition, Dermatologists quite like a whole blister, but because blisters that form are so fragile, they very quickly turn into a wound. It was only after my diagnosis i actually fully researched a lot about what pemphigus meant. I have always been a very well so it was a bit of a shock. I was under attack from my own body.

In order to gain control i needed my immune system to be suppressed to stop it from attacking itself. I was started on a very high dose of 75mg of steroids. This was tough, not only was i dealing with the diagnosis, my wounds which by this point had spread to my face, arms, legs and scalp, i was dealing with the psychological affect of how much weight the steroids made me gain. My face bloated hugely into what is called a ‘moon face’. I ended up feeling horrid. I was then started on other meds alongside the steroids. Unforunately the first set made me violently ill. I was starting to find the treatment aspect a lot worse than being covered in blisters. I felt tired, emotional, sick, and many other side effects from these drugs. I then one day found a blister on my ankle which i wanted to cover because it was scared of it rubbing so i put a plaster over it to protect it. It was one evening at home i decided to take the plaster off, as i ripped the plaster off it peel a huge chunk of skin off my ankle, the pain was indescribable, i had never felt anything so horrendous. I look down just to see a whole strip of skin hanging off the plaster. I could barely walk and had to have it bandaged for more than 3 weeks, including a trip to A&E for IV antibiotics.

IMG_20150101_130545DSC_4238DSC_3502

I was then started on a new drug called Mycophenolate, this is normally used on transplant patients to lower their immunity before having a new organ. It was increased every couple of weeks and i soon started to get headaches, numbness, tingling and very little sleep. I have never suffered insomnia and i never want to again. I went days without sleep, it didn’t matter what i tried i was wide awake and mentally i was starting to suffer. I became a shell of who i was, the steroids altered my mood, i felt at war with my own body. Someone suggested lowering them again and trying again but extremely slowly to increase so my body had more time. Thankfully this worked and I have now been on this drug over a year.

After much of my life being spent at hospital in 2015 for various appointments, scans and other tests i am pleased to say that March 2016 feels positive. I have no more wounds, apart from the occasional blister and my scars are healing well. I am now off steroids after around 16 months, losing weight and the other drug is taking over. Pemphigus is not a curable disease, i can go into remission and it could last my whole life or i could relapse at anytime but hopefully i will never be as bad as i was. I have joined some social network groups supported by the pemphigus foundation. Sadly most sufferers live in America and a few in the UK but the support group has been invaluable. Picking eachother up and encouraging one another when we feel the battle is too hard to face. I have met some amazing people in the care working team, from Dermatologists and Nurses etc who all made my journey a little lighter as well as my amazing family and close friends who stood by me every step of the way.

This has been an interesting journey, not one i would have necessarily wanted to have faced but it is funny how life directs you and changes you through the tough times. My journey isn’t over it is a continuing one but I know one thing and that is that Pemphigus cannot beat me!!!

Steroid reductions

Django – In loving memory

30 Dec

In November 2012 I lost my beloved pet Django. I have so many wonderful memories of such a loyal companion I thought I would put them in to words in order that I never forget… Django I hope you are having fun in doggy heaven, you will always be missed.

Django was a cross Jack Russell / Yorkshire Terrier but you could not really see the Jack Russell in him as much. Django came to live with the Dunn household at five or six years old after his previous owners could no longer have him. I remember the first day going to collect him with Dad, hearing him bark behind the door, the foghorn bark he had. We brought him home, and remember everyone playing with him. It did not take long for him to settle in. We had a Norfolk Terrier called Sally at this point, who although they never fought, I am not sure she was so keen with the new arrival, I am not sure what Django thought either. Sally was a very greedy doggy and Django would have to gobble down his dinner as quick as possible in order that he got to eat, because as soon as Sally finished hers she was after his. She did like to tease him, she was never a playful dog but would sometimes steal his toys which he loved and wind him up. Sadly we lost Sally on 16 September 2007. What was strange after that was although Django did pine for a bit suddenly he ate his dinner very slowly as if he did not have to worry any more. I do think Django enjoyed being an only dog, he loved the attention and affection.

When Django first came to us he was quite a nervous dog, was quite wary of people and did not like things coming through the post, he would also flinch if you walked past him with a paper. Another odd thing was around 8pm every night he would head upstairs to his basket and no matter how much encouragement to gave him to let him know it was okay to be downstairs he would never come. It made me wonder a lot what his past has been like. However after being with us a while he soon came out of these habits, he learnt to trust us.

Django was a very loved and affectionate dog, he loved his playtimes and cuddles. You rarely saw him without a toy in his mouth, when you arrived home, he would always grab a toy and then want to be fussed, not letting go of his toy for ages. He had his routine as well, after dinner he would always put biscuits in his mouth and then put his squeaky turkey in, he would wander round the whole house crying not knowing where to bury his biscuits, he would go upstairs/downstairs for ages until finally he would bury them in his basket on the landing where he always did eventually anyway, he just had to complete his routine. He was a very lucky dog who had a whole box of toys to choose from but he always knew what he wanted. Sometimes he would cry and let out a yelp needing assistance, I would have to get out every toy until the one he wanted was found, he always knew which one he wanted.

 I loved the mornings where he would run downstairs and grab a toy, wanting his teddy thrown or his ball down the stairs, no wonder I was late for work with his big brown eyes staring at me as if to say please play with me.

Django very much became my companion, sleeping with me on my bed, always by my side when at home. I loved having him curled up next to me and wanting to be fussed in the mornings. I loved coming home from work to a wagging tail. I always felt no matter how much affection I gave him, he gave double back. I enjoyed walks around the field with him trotting beside me.

Sadly in 2011 Django’s legs started to fail, he had always been a healthy dog with hardly any health issues but in the end it was his legs to let him down. They went down hill very quickly in the end, it is strange when I think back of the bright eyed spark and bouncy character he was to now struggling to do the things he wanted. No longer being able to take him for walks or the freedom of him running up and downstairs and eventually the freedom to even get out of his dog flap but he still seemed happy and although less mobile he still wanted to play and eat. Even though there was talk about Django’s future it seemed cruel at that point to let him go.

He went on quite happily for a while until suddenly he became very ill, and was very sick. This went on a couple of days until he suddenly became very weak. I had really struggled with thinking of letting him go but knew in the end, he trusted me to do what was right, he couldn’t tell me but I had to rely on me to not let him suffer. It is so easy to become selfish in order to keep something you love so much with you. Strangely enough on the Monday morning, when his eyes looked at mine, that look was there to, it is time to let me go. It was one of the hardest heartbreaking decisions. I never thought I could be there when he went but managed to go with Dad and I think I have felt so much peace in that decision that I was there with him, that he did not slip away looking at a stranger but in front of me, someone he knew loved him so much.

 

The pain of losing Django has not been easy, coming down and no food bowls there, letting go of routine of not putting him in the garden or taking him up to bed with me. He brought so much character to the house. Seeing his toy box just sitting there is hard. It was first Christmas without him and not buying him a toy or saving him some Christmas dinner was very odd but I know now he is at peace and I have no regrets or doubts that he knew how much we all loved him.

I have so many wonderful pictures of him and Sally, neither of them can ever be forgotten. Some people think they are only dogs, but they really do become a part of the family and if you can’t accept them as part of the family or give them the love and affection that they offer you then there is no point having a pet.

 ImageOne day I will look forward to being reunited with him again and Sally too. Thank you Django for being so loyal, loving an affectionate. I will never forget you, there will always be Django shaped hole in my heart, but it will not be filled with sadness but with the happy and joyful times to gave me and the family. RIP now boy…

 

Below is a poem that found the day I lost Django and every word is true xxxx

You no longer greet me, as I walk through the door. You’re not there to make me smile, to make me laugh anymore. Life seems quiet without you, you were far more than a pet. You were a family member, a friend, a loving soul I’ll never forget.It will take time to heal for the silence to go away. I still listen for you and miss you every day. You were such a great companion, constant, loyal and true. My heart will always wear, the pawprints left by you. 

Holocaust Memorial Day 2012, ‘Speak up, Speak Out’

30 Dec

 

I actually wrote this January 2012 and forgot to post and just found it on my laptop, so here goes…Holocaust Memorial Day 2012

It is now over 60 years since the horror of the holocaust where millions of jews, gypsies, gays, disabled, anyone and everyone who was not a nazi were murdered. Many people in this day in age will not think of this day, for it would not be in their life time, but there are many who will never forget the horror of the holocaust, the survivors. 11 million people were killed in the nazi death camps during the holocaust, roughly 6 million of these are Jews. The nazis killed approximately two thirds of all Jews living in Europe. An estimated 1.1 million children were murdered. The nazis establish 39 different concentration camps in total with six extermination centres in Poland, 1.5 million Jews died at Auswitz.

On January 27 2012 it will be Holocaust Memorial Day. It is an opportunity for everyone to learn lessons from the Holocaust, Nazi persecution, and subsequent genocides and apply them to the present to create a safer, better future. It is using the past to challenge hatred and persecution in the UK today.

The Holocaust has always been an interest of mine, my mum’s side of the family is Jewish, my Grandad was Polish. He lost members of his family in the Holocaust but thankfully managed to escape. No matter I how much learn the harder I find to take in the enormity of what happened. I struggle to comprehend how human beings could be so evil to another fellow human being. How people could wipe out so many lives on an unimaginable scale simply because of who they were. Did they ever feel any conscience in what they were doing? whilst people were starving to death, dying of diseases in the thousands, children being murdered did they ever think of those people as individuals.

In May 2010 I went on a trip to Poland where I managed to visit Auschwitz-Birkenau. It is hard to explain my feelings of this trip, I guess one word would be surreal. I felt very emotional and knowing how much suffering went on in a place where I was standing.

The reason I decided to write a bit about this subject is through educating myself the past week. Having heard Holocaust Memorial Day was coming I decided to read up on the website. I noticed the words ‘Speak Up, Speak Out’. It made me realise that it is not just rememebering what happened during that dark time but it is up to me and anyone else as an individual to challenge ourselves now.

Descrimination still goes on this day. People are murdered because of the colour of their skin. It was 1996 that Stephen Lawrence at the age of 18 was brutally murdered just simply because he was black. Gregory H Stanton writes, calling someone a name, or referring to a group of people with a derogatory term allows a period of classification and dehumanisation to take place. During the Holocaust, Jews were referred to as ‘vermin’; in doing so the Nazis made it easy for those who stood by to not think of Jewish people as people or individuals with feelings, beliefs and dignity. This is not a one off; name-calling took place in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, with Tutsis being called ‘cockroaches’ again taking away their humanity and reducing men, women and children to vermin that can be easily destroyed. It is this that we must keep in mind when we choose to use language that may divide and exclude and instead replace the words we use with those of respect and dignity.

I can’t change society but I know I can challenge myself in the language I use and the words I say. It can be difficult to speak up but as I focus on Holocaust Memorial Day I hope it will not solely be just one day but that it will be in my mind everyday.

“Words are powerful. With them we can heal or harm. Holocaust Memorial Day 2012 asks you to Speak Up, Speak Out and to carefully consider the way you use language in person, on line or when speaking about other people.”

 

Homelessness

13 Nov

I have meant to write my thoughts on this subject for a very long time. This subject is a real passion in my life and I have had many thoughts I wanted to write out.

If I was to ask you what your view on homelessness is, what would you say?

If I asked you why you think people are homeless, what would you answer?

What thoughts run through your mind when you walk past “homeless” people on the streets?

Please take time to read my blog below.

Since starting at a Homeless Night Shelter in 2008, I can honestly say my views and perspectives have been completely changed. I see people from all walks of life, all ages, ethnicity, people who you would walk past on the street and never put into the homeless category as such.

Before volunteering in this area of work I had no time for homeless people, not necessarily intentionally it was something I never thought about in my daily life. Most people I would see out on the street would be very drunk and my view would be why did they let themselves get into that position, how very shallow minded I was.

Homelessness has become a big passion in life for people who in many ways seem like they have been outcasted of society. Having met a number of different people over the past few years, I can honestly say I am ashamed as my previous thoughts and views on this subject. I have learnt and seen that the majority of people do not become alcoholics because they can’t be bothered to work or have spent all their money on alcohol and drugs. In fact alcohol and substance abuse can be something that comes later in the stresses and loneliness of life on the streets. It is a well known fact that people become homeless for various reasons whether this be woman escaping abusive relationships, young people fleeing abusive homes or breakdown in relationships, loss of employment, these are just a few to name. These are people ranging anything from 18 (or under) to anything beyond 60s.

One of the main reasons for writing on this subject is to give people a sense of understanding in a subject that seems to almost be invisible. Another reason is having heard views stated to me labelling every individual the same, because they have seen one drunk, they are all drunks. This is categorically untrue. When I first applied at the night shelter I was pre-warned that people may come in drunk or high from substance abuse, but then I was asked the question, if I was alone, afraid not knowing where I would be one day from the next would I indulge in something to give me some comfort?! I not sure I could answer no. Many people will suffer mental health problems through homeless, low self-esteem, low confidence. It is also a sad well known fact that people on the streets face more violence and abuse than most.

I have met so many characters, that are so funny and cheerful despite their circumstance. Being a volunteer can be so rewarding in that it sends the message that people do care, and they are loved. On a trip to London recently I saw so many young people sitting in sleeping bags on the streets with their dogs for companionship. Whilst heading home to my family I couldn’t stop thinking about these people. Whilst I knew I was going home to a loving family, a warm bed I had tears in my eyes knowing that would be their home for the night. I wished I could give people the security they need.

It has made me so much more thankful for my family, my parents who although I am 25 will still ring me when I am slightly late and wonder where I am. I have the saftey and comfort of a warm bed at night and I find it hard to think that in this day in age there are people out there as I write still longing for a loving home and a secure job, but the fear is, is that this problem will only get worse with the economic crisis.

Each one of us could easily end up in this position, without supportive families, and friends, we should be thankful each day for what we have. I urge people not to just walk past a Big Issue sellar next time you are in town, because you think the magazine is boring, I challenge you to buy one and help towards a cause that really is a Big Issue, help people not invisible in society but feel included. It is small things like this that can really help people on the road to recovery.