Thank God It's Them Instead Of You
11 Dec 2019
A quick look at what some LifeSearcher's and Friends of LifeSearch do to help others less fortunate
Burlesque against Period Poverty
As most of us are aware, sanitary products are taxed as luxury items. It's ridiculous. Talk about the worst time of the month, imagine going without …
Every April, alongside coproducer Emerald Elle (muggle name Emma Finn) I produce the Cork Burlesque Festival, a three day showcase for the best burlesque and cabaret talent in Ireland and beyond.
Artists from all over the world bring their talents to Cork Arts Theatre. And every year we generate funds for Homeless Periods Ireland, a fantastic charity which tackles period poverty among the country's homeless.
During the Festival, we run donation points so attendees can donate both cash and unopened sanitary products and the response so far has been amazing.
Now I live in Leeds, I’m about to set up a donation point over here too. Watch this space!
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Homelessness and (our) bad habits
Imagine being stepped over and ignored all day long. Imagine being almost totally invisible.
It doesn’t take much to say hello – or to offer some coins, supplies or simply an ear – to the homeless, but many of us walk on by. We seem to think that engaging with the homeless means encouraging or furthering someone's habit …
But that presupposes all are addicts and alcoholics - and that's absolutely not true.
I volunteer at a local night shelter, which provides accommodation to homeless and vulnerable people during winter. All guests sign an agreement to follow the rules and in exchange they have a safe place, beds, food and travel to local events. As a volunteer, I serve food and drinks and look after locker keys, but the majority of the time is spent talking with guests.
Everyone has a story. Sure, some have habits and dependencies but I'm often surprised by the number of homeless who have jobs.
One guy came in so smartly dressed I assumed he was a volunteer. But no - it turned out he had a full time job outside the city and the cost of travel meant he couldn’t afford housing. He slept in his car.
A chap on a zero hour contract told me that he'd often catch the bus to work only to be told they didn’t need him. Such an unreliable income meant he couldn't commit to accommodation costs.
One man particularly sticks in my mind. I watched as he effortlessly completed several Wasgij puzzles, one after the other. Being failed by the school system – plus some bad decisions – and his life took a wrong turn. It was such a waste of talent and a brain that was clearly quite incredible.
Society is fragile. Job/ home/ family security aren't what they once were and I truly believe homelessness could happen to any of us. The people I meet are just like you and me: normal folks, sons and daughters; mums and dads who, for whatever reason, fall on hard times.
So next time you come across a homeless person, try giving them a hi – how are you. At least make eye contact and throw them a smile. It doesn’t take much - they're human too.
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2020 calendar charts migrants' raw deal
As I’ve gotten older I’ve become more and more concerned by the treatment of migrants in this country. I won’t go on too big a rant, but modern political campaigning, especially in and around that B-word, sees migrants demonised as slackers and leeches and job-thiefs. It boils my blood.
Far as I can see, the UK is blessed to have a mobilised, motivated migrant population. We attract bright minds and we’re a haven for people fleeing conflict and persecution. We should embrace those things. We don’t, however.
My wife hails from a small town in the deep west of Latvia. After finishing school she worked in a shop; saved all the money she could and headed for London to study architecture (and pay our mega tuition fees). Alongside me, she now runs a successful creative agency and contributes huge amounts for the UK tax pot. Her story is repeated ad nauseam.
In the course of my life, sadly, I've met too many people who have medical or engineering or teaching qualifications in their homeland but, for reasons of bureaucracy, they’re not able to practice here. Instead they work jobs well beneath their level. It’s not like the UK has a surplus of professional skills. Sad thing is, in many ways they’re the lucky ones. Some migrants get trapped in limbo between institutions; others are locked out of the system and denied their rights.
In many ways we’re a country with thick borders and little sympathy. I’d rather it was the other way around.
This year, our business commissioned a comic book artist to create a 2020 calendar entitled Tiers of London, to tell 12 captivating immigrant stories. They’re dark, vivid, funny even - but each image asks us to look deeper under the skin of the UK. All proceeds will be donated to the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants.
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