So you don’t like Foodbanks? Fine, look away.

20140422-181214.jpg Since the Mail on Sunday’s supposed ‘sting’ on foodbanks I have read, seen and heard a fair amount of criticism aimed at foodbanks, the people who run them, charities in general and of course the people who use them.

As someone who runs a charity to help disadvantage families I have one message for those who are critical: get involved or get out. There is nothing constructive about the criticism I have read. Charities, like businesses, are constantly trying to improve the service they offer. Feedback is essential for this, however, generalised and misinformed abuse is not. If you don’t like what charities like this do then ignore them. Ignore us and ignore the families we support. Bracket them, as you will, as ‘benefit cheats’ and scroungers. People who want something for nothing. Lay-abouts. Thieves. You will never know the truth because you don’t want to. I wonder if admitting that there are people in society who need help with food and clothing, people who are similar to you (you know: human) would make you feel guilty? Is that why you attack? Fear of guilt? Is this why the foodbank critics and the people-haters at the Mail on Sunday label all users of such services in this way?

Here is the truth:

There is nothing pleasurable or joyful about getting help from a charity – going to a foodbank or coming to a charity like First Days for support is not getting something for nothing. Sure, you might walk away with something essential for your child or three days worth of food but it is not pleasurable. How can it be? There is no pleasure in being in a situation where you can’t fulfil your primal instinct of caring for your family. It is not a joy to be working hard, as so many of our clients are, trying your best to raise your family and still not being able to provide for them. I can guarantee, each and every person who has ever been to a foodbank or a charity for emergency help does not want to be there. But they are. For whatever reason they are. Instead of punishing them, degrading them or criticising them (not to mention comparing a reporter who fraudulently obtains food to them) try and understand why they are there. If you are not satisfied with their answer use the handy ’5 Whys’ tool. Ask why again and again and again. You will find, after really trying to understand why people – human people just like you – are in a situation of needing emergency food or supplies that their reasons are at best unfortunate and at worst terribly sad. Take a walk in their shoes and I expect you’ll want yours back pretty quickly; getting ‘something for nothing’ has never felt so desperate. If after pondering this you still believe that charities like this shouldn’t exist and that people, other humans, do not deserve help at their hour of need then please just look away. Turn your head back towards your own life and ignore what we are doing. There are enough kind hearted people who can see that society hasn’t provided enough, or has taken away too much, and they are working hard to help their fellow man. If you don’t want to help, to acknowledge or to contribute you don’t have to – just please, do not stand on the sideline shouting at those who do.

Posted in First Days, Life | Tagged , , , , | 5 Comments

Happy Easter From Wilbur!

Wilbur’s making his modelling debut today on the Caffe Nero Facebook page – head over there to like the picture!


photo by the talented Michael

Posted in Childhood | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

10 Reasons You Should Employ Parents

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Since I’m a fan of making big plans I have been thinking about the type of person I’d like to employ when my charity has staff – what characteristics would be preferable and all that. It got me thinking – parents are pretty incredible aren’t they? I mean, non parents are too and there are obviously people out there who aren’t parents who embody all of the following characteristics. None the less, here is why you should employ a Mum, or a Dad, who has ever spent any reasonable period of time looking after their children:

1) We can adapt our expectations, plans and strategies in an instant

Whist we are meticulous planners we are also hugely adaptable. Our other employers (aged 0-5) change their minds frequently, point-blank refuse to take part in an activity or follow a particular directive so we have to change. We change our expectations, adapt our plans and update our strategies constantly in order to complete the task in hand.

2) We can get more done in a childless hour than most non-parents can do in a day

There is nothing, in the world, as productive as a parent who has been gifted a precious child free hour. It’s amazing what can be done when you have a child clinging onto your legs, asking for snacks or demanding you dress up as Father Christmas immediately, so imagine what can be done without that distraction – we can very easily go into hyper-drive and achieve ridiculous amounts in a very short time – what sort of prospective employer wouldn’t want this type of person working for them?

3) We Care

In order to get to work we have often been up for a couple of hours prepared 3 or 4 people to leave the house, shepherded them to school or childcare, popped to the supermarket, grabbed a coffee and still made it to work right on time. We have come to work to work. No one makes the kind of effort that parents do to make it into the office to just sit around doing nothing. We care about our home life, for sure, but we also care a lot about work too, or we probably wouldn’t be there.

4) We are top class negotiators

Have you ever tried to get a toddler out of the house, on time, when they are refusing to get dressed/eat/not take their entire Sylvanian Family collection with them? It takes expert negotiation. Some days we negotiate more deals, with the strangest terms and hardest opposition than we would ever face in a normal job. If you want a battle won, with anyone, get a parent to fight it – we know all the techniques to win and are not afraid to use them.

5) We are innovative

Children are renowned for announcing that they need a, preferably home made, contribution to the harvest festival AND a Peter Pan outfit with 10 minutes to spare. No worries, we will sort it out and it will be fine. We will find, make, create and innovate under pressure – no sweat. Ok, a little sweat, but we’ll do it.

6) We have stamina

I used to think that you quite simply could not get more tired than I was driving home from Glastonbury. Oh, how little did I know. As a parent I have the aforementioned level of tiredness sometimes for days, weeks and months on end. The type of tiredness where your eyelids sting and blinking hurts and yet you carry on for another 12 hours because, well what other option have to got before getting into bed and being woken 4 or 5 times in the six hours you ‘sleep’ before you start the day again. We manage to do this whilst being solely in charge of infants, toddlers, teenagers, pets, households, budgets, heavy machinery, crisis’, friendships, relationships, craft projects, outings and nourishing food. Again and again. With skill and precision and a lot of coffee.

7) We own multitasking

Most tasks that non parents would do with two hands we can do with one, whilst doing something else entirely. Parents have the ability to think about one thing, do another, supervise other humans and operate a complicated ‘child friendly’ gadget whilst holding a perfectly normal conversation. Its a skill to behold. Behold it.

8) We are unflappable

Toddler tantrum in the supermarket? Dinner thrown across the room? Laptop smashed onto the floor? Football through the neighbours window? Yep, we’ll deal with it. Work crisis’, family problems, relationship issues? We will deal with it. We might be paddling pretty hard under the water (who isn’t?!) but on the surface – nope – not flapped.

9) We know what’s important

We have an uncanny ability to quickly prioritise. When there is a lot going on, with a lot of variables this skill is essential. We can quickly figure out which tasks are essential and order them (removing marble from toddler mouth before resetting the trap on Mousetrap). We are masters at assessing situations and quickly working out where the high-risk elements are, what’s important and what can be left ’til another day.

10) We love to learn

As parents we are constantly learning. New ways of doing techniques, methods, solutions and skills. We have been on the steepest learning curve you can go on to become parents and we’ve accepted that you just carry on learning throughout your tenure as parent. This makes us perfect from employment – employees need to be teachable and that is what we are. There is nothing like a toddler who won’t sleep or a preschooler who won’t toilet train to make you study, reassess and up-skill in order to get the job done well.



Posted in Life, Parenting | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments