When I throw the towel in

Over the past few weeks I’ve posted a couple of times about a crazy scheme I’d thought up, half stolen, slightly adapted, and planned to implement in the run up to my 30th birthday.

My plan was to raise £30,000 to help tackle violence against women before I turned 30 – which is in March. I thought I would raise awareness, encourage people to take the issue seriously, know that it’s far closer than they might think. Violence against women is not something that happens to other people. It is not something the church is immune from either.

I was going to come up with some amazing fundraising initiatives, I was going to get hundreds of people on board, I was going to use them to exponentially increase the amount of money I could raise.

I was going to do a remote fundraising activity. Wherever you are in the world on one particular morning we would all do the same endeavour. This was my masterplan.

But I am throwing the towel in.

The worth in doing this is undoubted, the need for raised awareness: the need for raised money at a time when shelters are losing funding.

But I wouldn’t do it justice. I am exhausted, I am distracted, I can come up with a hundred reasons why I should still do it, but I don’t think I should. For this to work I would have to commit time and effort that I simply do not have.

I could drop other things, I could work earlier, I could work later. I have plenty of train journeys with time to use. That’s not what this is about. More about that tomorrow.

I also felt I was walking blindfolded into a complicated and challenging issue, I was conscious that I might say the wrong thing, back a project doing something in a way a swathe of people opposed. And this meant I stalled, I waited, I hoped it might miraculously fall into place.

I heard the passion of people who have done similar things, set themselves an outrageous goal and sacrificed to make it happen. The thrill of it, discovering themselves, finding someone on the journey. When they gave themselves to a goal this or that wonderful thing happened. I wondered if that might happen to me.

So I’m not doing it. I’m not trying to raise £30,000. But this is not about me, it’s not about my achievement, or my effort, or even my willingness to admit fault and do what I am doing now and packing the endeavour in before I have really begun. I hadn’t even settled on which charities I was going to do it for. There was no perfect project, nothing that really fitted what I wanted, I was being too picky.

Here’s some of the organisations I was looking at supporting, I’ll be making donations to each of these and I would hugely encourage you to do likewise.

Restored – Ending violence against women

Waterfall

A Way Out

Turning 30 | Turning the tide on violence against women

My PicturesWhen 30 per cent of women across the world will experience violence from their partner in their lifetime this is something we should care about.

When every year between six and ten per cent of women suffer at the hands of their partner in the UK.

When 1300 calls are made to the police every day.

That’s one a minute. And the majority of cases are not reported.

When men think hitting a women is okay. When love loses to control. When domination takes away freedom.

Then it is time to act.

A few years ago I sat beside a pool in Portugal. The sun beat down, the heat became overpowering and I dived in to cool off. It was almost all I did for a week. I took a few excursions, explored the sights, and returned each evening to the converted barn, frankly more of a shed, that stood atop a hill in a village with seven permanent inhabitants. The gnarled olive trees littered the hillside, the hum of distant traffic invading across the airways as the sun dipped for its final appearance of the day and vanished leaving only a smudged hue along the horizon.

That week I averaged a book a day. I read fiction, I read theology. But one book stands out several years later. One book I could not shake or forget with inevitable business of work that bookended by holiday. This book was Half the Sky, written by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. Half the Sky has the unambiguous, unashamed, agenda that if we are to solve many of the world’s most intractable problems, many of the fundamental stumbling blocks of development, women are the key. And many of these most intractable problems affect women the most.

Women bear the brunt of healthcare deficiencies, childbirth is dangerous the world over but in places with only rudimentary healthcare it makes giving birth a double or quits battle of life and death. When women are educated countries do better, when they contribute to the economy, when they start and run businesses.

But women are also marginalised, they are attacked, they are not wanted, they are mutilated. Female babies are discarded, girls are treated as property, they are traded, women are forced into silence. And they are beaten. And they are killed.

It is a tragedy. And it happens in our world today.

And it also happens in Britain too.

As I sat by the pool in Portugal tears streamed down my cheeks. I felt broken by the pain seen and shared. I felt lost by the distance I stood from this hurt. I felt unable to do anything. How can I stop women thousands of miles away having their bodies torn apart. How could I do anything to stop their worth being disregarded, how could I help them play the role they were created to play?

And I came home. And my life went on. I saw the problems, I was bewildered by their complexity and distraught at their impact. And I walked on.

I want to walk by no longer. I want to stop by the side of the road. I want to walk back up the road, I want to help not only those affected but ask why they are and what can be done to stop them. Sometimes that’s harder, it’s longer, it’s a more boring work.

It’s why I’ve set out on this crazy idea of raising money to tackle violence against women. If you want to join with me please let me know.

The easiest way to raise £30 000 is for 1000 to give £30 each. The problem is I don’t have 1000 friends. According to facebook just over 500, but I’m not sure who a few of them are. I’m getting close to a thousand followers on twitter but many of those don’t engage with even the funniest things I post. Maybe more pictures of cats are needed.

The only way I can reach this target is if you get behind it and encourage other people to be a part of this. The money is only half of it. I want to raise awareness, I want to share stories, I want to give hope. I want more people, and particularly more men, to stand up, to be counted, to insist violence against women is never acceptable, never justified, and not allowed to go on in silence.

I want to listen and I want to learn. I am new to this. I want to hear stories that break my heart and ones that fill me with hope.

My rough plan is to set up a web page, decide where the money is going, find ways for you to give, do some awareness raising. I may do some small fundraising activities this side of Christmas but the big splash will be in February next year where I’ll organise a big remote activity. To take part you’ll have to donate £30, and are very welcome to raise sponsorship over and above that.

I’m open to suggestions as to what that could be, I’m not much of a runner, so maybe that would be a good challenge, or maybe a big walk on the last Saturday of February which anyone in or around London can take part in, but also encouraging other simultaneous events around the country and across the world (probably not exactly simultaneous because of time differences (although that might be fun)).

What do I need first? I need someone to build me a web page. So if that’s your skill set please get in touch. A friend has worked up a few design ideas (at the top of the page), which I’d be grateful for any feedback on before we settle on anything final.

What do I need next? I need a few people to help me organise, I’d quite like a little steering group to keep me motivated and provide input and wisdom so volunteers appreciated for that too.

Otherwise just let me know you’re interested by subscribing to the temporary page I’ve set up.

Doing a good turn as I turn 30

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I sort of announced this yesterday on twitter and facebook.

Six months yesterday I turn 30 and I’m not really one for parties. I usually have to be dragooned into doing something, conforming to social norms, that sort of thing. Maybe it’s because I don’t like drawing attention to myself. Maybe I feel self conscious, socially anxious, maybe I am just stubborn.

A few weeks ago I decided I should find some way to mark my birthday next March.

I’d been reading Miss 29’s blog as she sought 30 blind dates before she turned 30. And I remembered Ally Vesterfelt’s Love Runs challenge to raise $30 000 to build a classroom in Uganda for the same landmark. I was keen to step out of my comfort zone, but I knew which one of the two I’d rather do. So a crazy, ridiculous, insane fundraising drive it is. And with a currency exchange that makes it even harder.

And at about the same time a wave of issues relating to women, gender, and abuse hit the airwaves. Taking Elizabeth Fry off the £5 note raised the question of whether enough was being done to recognise the achievements of women, a petition started, protests launched, and the bank agreed to put Jane Austen on the £10 note when that’s next changed. Alongside this narrative of protest and achievement was a shadow story of insult, objectification and abuse that swept like a tsunami towards those leading the campaign. Most notably on twitter, the abuse levelled was horrific and questions were raised as to whether enough was done to respond to the vile and criminal threats made against many women. Continue reading