19 Oct A Call to Arms
“The true measure of a nation’s standing is how well it attends to its children – their health and safety, their material security, their education and socialization, and their sense of being loved, valued, and included in the families and societies into which they are born.”
UNICEF, Child poverty in perspective: An overview of child well-being in rich countries,
Innocenti Report Card 7, 2007
UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre, Florence
It doesn’t seem like a year since I sat in a small Turkish internet cafe covered in sweat and mud writing a blog requesting charitable donations as I turned 29. A year later and I sit in a B and B in South Africa, where I have flown to help my sister to fulfil her dreams of running a marathon a day across the country.
I have little time now to write and express the things that I have learnt over the last year, the ways that people and children live in the world and the difficulties that we priviledged could barely imagine but below is a recent email I wrote to the Chairman of the Derbyshire Children’s Holiday Centre, the charity which I support through donations toward my around the world bike ride. Food for thought for us all:
I don’t want to insult your intelligence by assuming that you haven’t already heard of this or read it yourself, but please find below a link to the 2007 Unicef report: An Overview of Child Well-Being in Rich Countries, very interesting reading indeed. Note that of the 21 countries surveyed, the UK comes… 21st! A dire state of affairs for those of us who think we are living in a progressive country where the needs of our children are met. As well as stating the relative situations and feelings of youth in the West, I think it offers a great insight into the expectations that are held by youth, expectations fuelled by the Hollywood’s and MTV’s of the world, the same media outlets that paint me as the glamorous rich man travelling through poor countries, outlets that really should accept the representational responsibility they have. Maybe we need more social realist directors like Ken Loach or Shane Meadows in mainstream viewing, addressing the real situations and struggles in working class UK, but then that doesn’t have fancy effects or flashy cars with semi clad models in it I suppose… In a monastery I stayed in a couple of nights ago, a European documentary on a small old TV showed hotels made of ice, golf on snow and decadent cuisine and wine being consumed, I couldn’t help feeling ashamed to be taking charity from the monks who live off donations of food from the surrounding village.
I stumbled across it while reading another article on the report from this month, on a website that actively opposes branding and advertising campaigns that glamorise and promote exploitative market dominating forces, forces that mould our children’s expectations, forces that stand to be more powerful than todays governments and in many cases fund them anyway, it’s a very good read and I really hope you can read it if you have 10 minutes. The link for that is here, the language a little more evocative:
Anyway Bill, I hope you are keeping well and that the charity is prospering. As ever, I cannot tell you of my gratitude that there are people like you, providing the necessary support for those who have to grow up in this otherwise ridiculous world and future that we as a society continue to walk blindly into.
I will endeavour to help raise awareness of these issues as I travel and write and to do all I can to support your charity through my own journey.
And I do continue to address these issues as I travel. Last month an after school tutoring group for disadvantaged children in Malaysia donated over seventy pounds on hearing of what I was doing and who I was supporting, a truly humbling encounter.
On the 21st of October I will be turning 30. Please use this date to donate whatever you can spare to the charity that I truly believe makes a difference to future generations, the future of our society, the future of our global family.