The Raw Reality of Court is Scary and Secret

50% of everyone in the UK will face a court case at some point in their lives, but for those who haven’t experienced it, (and even some who have) the full gravitas of what court can mean can’t possibly sink in.

Before I started working at the PSU in the Royal Courts of Justice, I thought I’d only ever need a lawyer if I accidentally stumbled upon a criminal act. The sad reality is that court isn’t always a consequence of wrongdoing. It turns innocent lives upside down just the same, especially if you can’t pay.

Spending time in this grand gothic building with no legal knowledge really does connect you to the sheer emotion of that.

Walking to collect the post you’ll find flustered people asking you for directions, sometimes crying for the solution, sometimes screaming that they’ve lost their case and just want to find a way out of the wrought iron, security guarded, gates.

People are nice to each other here, mostly that kind of sympathetic kindness. You never know why somebody’s in this building, (and you don’t want to pry), but they could be facing homelessness, so you’d better be kind to everyone just in case.

You’ll walk through the grand stone courtyard past the GeoAmey vans, wondering who the prisoners are inside. The screams of protesters from outside the gates flood through as a high profile case reaches its end. Today, the battle for Charlie Gard’s life ended and the grief hung in the air.

All the while you know that people are keeping their heads down to avoid the cameras as they enter the building to face their own battles. They could have spent hours getting buses or walking here because they can’t afford the train; they could know this place well now after a 15 year long fight with the council to make their home safe to live in; they likely have no idea where they are going.

These are the Litigants in Person. They’re the people without lawyers and without a support system behind them. They walk into this huge stone structure alone to fight for everything they care about, and this is only one court in the UK. It happens everywhere.

Legal jargon too often distances us from the emotional ordeal of going to court, and that same ordeal often makes it into a very private, secretive affair, shrouded in shame and fear. The Personal Support Unit is there to help with anyone who needs immediate help in 20 courts across the UK, please consider lending your support. www.thepsu.org

 

Why Everyone Should Have a Storybook

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I recently attended a training event about story telling by Rob Woods. Working as a fundraiser, “the story” is an especially essential skill to master in order to win people’s hearts – but its also an important social skill.

We all know have that one friend that always drops a gripping story whenever you meet them; and even if the conversation is a chaotic babble, it’ll get everyone’s attention for up to a solid 3 minutes. So, how can we become more Caitlin (that one friend for me).

  1. Make sure your story has four clear parts or else you might get lost in it:

Who? The problem? What was done? The Result? – stick to this, or any relevant structure and you’ll keep it snappy. The way I do it is to think up the 3 key lines before you start because if you’re trying to tell a story under social pressure you’ll get distracted unless you know where its going.

  1. Keep a storybook:

You need content. As social creatures our lives are filled with stories but too often we hear the best stories when we’re extremely busy, intoxicated, or we may just forget over time.

If you can carry a book dedicated to the stories you hear and write them up under the divisions: Professional, Personal, and whatever other areas are particularly important to you, then you’ll have more genuine and exciting content for your conversations.

Whether you want to cite that time your friend’s Mum hit Benedict Cumberbatch with her car when you’re telling celebrity stories, or, give an incredible client testimonial about your business in a meeting with an investor, you’ll build material that’s both great to use and read back on too.

http://brightspotfundraising.co.uk/ – Rob Woods’ Website

The public is vested with a duty to Prevent terrorism, but how many Brits even know what Channel is?

In the wake of devastating UK terrorist attacks, emotions have been running high. It’s common knowledge that many of the attackers were known to the police, but do people know what happens once a report is made?

So often people ask in fear: so if a potential terrorist is reported before they’ve done anything illegal?

a) the police won’t do anything, or,

b) they’ll be instantly arrested?

 
Channel is the way local authorities try to de-radicalise individuals; it’s a referral process only carried out if the subject subscribes to an extremist ideology and demonstrates a violent expression moving towards terrorism.

 
The local authority has a responsibility to set up a multi-agency panel discussion that can share appropriate information about the person. Channel then assesses the risk through a non-exhaustive 22 quota of vulnerabilities. After review, somebody must show: engagement, intent, and capability of terrorism. Only then will they be subject to the prevent intervention process.

 
This involves multiple different agencies coming together to make a customised support system for the individual. If illegal travel is a risk, it is likely that they will have their passport confiscated by the police, or if they are being taught twisted religious ideologies, an intervention provider of that same faith (who may have even shared their journey of reform) will engage them in discussions to help detonate their hatred safely.

 
Charities, schools, the police, and the council all share information to make an informed decision. The system tries its best to be objective and keep everyone safe.

 
Unfortunately, the right cases don’t always reach Channel. Its sometimes hard to take a report forward and family members have had to push through third party charities to make channel happen. In other cases, panels may be held for people who should never have been referred in the first place.

 
Public awareness of Channel is very low, with many people not even knowing that Prevent exists. It’s alarming that minority groups know the most about these policies because they feel persecuted by them (source: my on conversations with anyone about terror ever).

 

This is particularly alarming because according to the 2015 policy update, we are all under ‘duty’ as a society to uphold a set of guidelines most of the population know nothing about.

 
We need more education about what Prevent is, and what it does, for everyone, anywhere in the country. We need an open, informed discussion. No matter what our political views on the strategy are, we should all agree on that. The UK needs to be equipped with the knowledge of what will happen if we report our friends and family to the police, and we need to have a strong, informed counter-narrative to terrorist ideas if we are expected to prevent it’s attrocities.

 

If you want to support an initiative driving forward this kind of education, follow this link.

 

SOURCE: – Channel Duty Guidance 2015 –

Leela’s Story

I haven’t posted anything in a long time so I thought I’d try a retrospective post on… You guessed it, Tamil Nadu!

For our career fair we had to do so much preparation it was painful. One thing I regret I couldn’t give more time to was the women at work board. It had been displayed at our centre for a while and I wanted to update it with new stories and photos of inspirational women that were never too hard to come across.

I only managed to get a couple of additions but one woman I talked to really stayed with me. Leela was a primary school teacher who stopped to talk to us about why she loved her job. She said that the money gave her freedom and that she encouraged all little girls to stand on their own two feet so they grew to be respected.

She also talked of her passion for teaching and how lucky she felt to come into work every day and know she was guiding children into brighter lives than she had. Leela told us she had problems at home but as soon as she entered school gates she was safe and free. I wondered if Leela was abused but she wanted none of that to be part of her story and would only speak of her professional life.

The people I spoke to would so briskly mention personal struggles that would consume me. Asking another woman if she had any health issues elicited about five casual words. It translated that she had HIV. Yet she spoke for minutes about her babysitting and housekeeping.

These women live a life I cannot imagine with strength beyond suggestion. Leela got all excited about getting a photo with me: just a white woman who couldn’t speak her language. Truthfully I was humbled to share the lens with her and ashamed that I had nothing real to contribute to her world.

My little sister’s working towards the same dream as Leela. How jumping a continent can make them so different.

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Phoning for Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity

I recently took a job fundraising as part of a call centre and so far it has been tough. People don’t have to face you, and when asking for money from strangers the hostilities run wild. This Sunday though I had a rather sweet shift and I thought: hey, why not write about this stuff. Perhaps I should write my own scripts. Great Ormond Street Hospital’s an old one, operating since 1852 and it’s ten beds were the first hospital opened especially for the care of children. Since then over 300 beds have been added and only 50% of children treated are from London, it is a world class institution.

Being briefed on this charity I almost cried because it is something close to my heart. 40% of inpatients are under the age of two, a stat that took my breath away. My dad used to be a lorry driver for a medical firm and he told me how he had met and spoken to some of the children. Walking around looking for someone to sign off in a white coat, he was often mistaken for a doctor. The kids would wave cheerfully from the windows of the wards and when inside he met the most courageous souls. A little boy on crutches particularly grabbed at dad’s heart when he told dad he was dying. My dad told this story to his own children and it’s not hard to picture the devastation of watching a little, innocent, vulnerable body begin to fail. Especially if it’s the same little boy or girl you brought into the world.

I’m pretty sure the passion for a beautiful script was what sold over 50% of my calls to an increased donation and the compassion of the people I called often allowed us both to find a common ground. I will be donating myself to the charity, many people don’t realise quite how little the NHS funds and that the hospital is too a research centre. They need £50million a year for the next ten years to create a duality of good care for both patients and their families.

I think the concept of giving is not so much about keeping the lights switched on in an institution. It’s about sending a token of love to people going through the most helpless and devastating experience they should ever encounter. This is Great Ormond Street: the child first and always.

My war against Isis trembles with every missile fired

I work for a little charity in the east end called the Active Change Foundation who have come into some attention recently for our #NotInMyName campaign against the Islamic State.

I never expected to return to work on an international campaign but I did, and have been promoting ever since. Then the unthinkable happened: the little charity I have been with since January was name dropped at the UN general assembly by Barack Obama and the world went crazy. David Cameron echoed the mention and suddenly I felt we had hit the bigger big time. #NotInMyName

But what does any of this mean? Apart from my swelling chances of appearing on TV, and much appreciated recognition, not all that much. Not for our campaign anyway. #NotInMyName was referenced amid a call for attack and though I respect that a military decision must be made about Isis, any decision would bring equal sadness to my heart and cannot relate to the contrasting uplift felt with watching #NotInMyName

For Iraq has called upon us for much needed help but I wonder how many of its people must we hurt? Even if we were to strike Isis to pinpoint precision, only 1/3 of its members were estimated to be ideologies last time I checked, with the rest being coerced. Victims of hatred, barbarity, and irrationality are on the inside too. How many of Isis’ people are actually living la vida loca?

We must not either underestimate the validity of ideological war. There has been a scapegoat made of Muslims in the Western world and processes of alienation lead more young Muslims to question the value of jihad.

This is why #NotInMyName matters, and why it actually does make a difference. Extremists have made enemies of the West but people don’t see that the west has too made extremists of ordinary people. Once the rational world can stand together in solidarity then we can fight Isis. Not before.

I see the need for defence but my personal capacity for care extends to the long term. How long until the toxic Phoenix rises from the ashes? I do not deny that our fight is a slower path than that of the militants but perhaps if we can break a long cycle of bystander behaviour things can be changed bottom up.

Isis is a monster drawing power from the assaults of an outside world and the foundations of misinterpretation. It has enough power now that it does not know how to place it and without its faith (when The Islamic world says no), the only way is down.

I sit in solemn acceptance of military action, I have been told I dream a fairy tale. A tale where people in Algeria risk their lives holding up our placards, a tale where Isis are shaken enough to send us threats, and a tale where where four words can break the cycle of tyranny. #NotInMyName

Perhaps my fairytale has no place in politics but the liberalisation of society has created a vigilante of social media and I must remind you of the peaceful power held by another man that Obama referenced: Mahatma Gandhi.

If we must intervene, please, at least work with our voices.

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“The heat, it makes the people lazy.”

This one is a statement I have heard a few times about Tamil Nadu. Though it is a generalisation, there are many well trodden paths of climate that lead development the wrong way.

What with Vellore’s 50 degree summer, the wall of heat itself is deadly. People can’t leave the house in summer, and the lowest temperature our coordinator has ever felt was 12 degrees Celsius. Imagine any work outside. Imagine offices without electricity. Imagine working hard and being able to give 100%. I can’t.

The temperature also contributes to a terrible water shortage. The Vellore river basin has been dry for 15years, and every summer there’s a long wait for the rains. Karnataka’s dam also has something to do with this but both states are experiencing shortage and of course the state upriver would try to compensate. Groundwater’s dried up below the government drilling capacities so only private companies can access deep groundwater supplies and drive prices sky high for the locals.

This means there’s little water for personal use and huge strain on development: Tamil Nadu is heavily dependent on its Sambar crop. There doesn’t seem much hope for change in the dried out state.

“With rain comes movement, I embrace the rain.” – Local NGO