Charlie Waller Memorial Trust puts on a ‘Best of Musicals’ Event in Londons West End: Guest blog

I love theatre and mental health, so what better than to combine them!
The Charlie Waller Memorial Trust, an incredible UK mental health charity are putting on a spectacular Best of Musicals event in London, to raise money for their vital work educating about depression and suicide prevention.

Amazing talent from both West End and Broadway and hosted by Tim Rice at the Hammersmith Eventim Apollo!

 

charliewaller1
CWMT was set up in 1997 in memory of Charlie Waller, a young man who took his own life whilst suffering from depression. CWMT raises awareness of depression and other mental health problems, and provides education and training to schools, universities, GPs, nurses and employers, encouraging those who need it to seek help.
Our vision is of a world where people understand and talk openly about depression, where young people know how to maintain wellbeing, and where the most appropriate treatment is available to everyone who needs it.

If you book through me, you get a 15 % discount! Code is ELECTRODEAL

Tickets at http://bestofmusicals.com

Advertisements

Why I am fundraising for women in Ghana at Gigdev for my 30th Birthday.

gigdevghana
(image: E Segall)
In 2010, I set off for Tamale, Northern Ghana in West Africa, with the Jewish development charity Tzedek. There were 8 of us volunteers including three of my best friends from school- Anna, Katie and Hannah- and we were all placed at different NGOs and organisations to learn about sustainable development- and make a small impact on the communities we volunteered with.

My fellow volunteers were placed at Morning Star primary School, NGOs working in rural communities- some went into villages or wrote funding applications and I and my fellow volunteer Rachel were sent to Girls Growth and Development NGO known as GIGDEV.

Girls Growth and Development was set up by the mother of Ms Selina Iddi Abdulai, in order to help combat the poverty and disadvantages that are often found in the Northern region of Ghana- and to focus on women aged 15-25 who are at risk of abuse and exploitation. Many women leave the Northern region to go to the more prosperous Southern capital of Accra in search of work- known as ‘Kayaye girls’.

However, they often become homeless, do not find work to financially support them and are at risk of exploitation by others. A lot of the women at Gigdev fall pregnant in their teens and are ill treated by men (and family members).

‘ GIGDEV offers an integrated approach towards achieving self reliance for adolescent girls at risk for exploitation by offering lessons financial literacy, leadership, and health into their vocational training program. In addition to their vocational training program, GIGDEV also runs an early childhood education program as well as an advocacy and mobile outreach program on reproductive health, good governance, and human rights.’

Gigdev gives these women hope by teaching them a trade such as dressmaking, giving them education, shelter, food and child care.

I arrived in Tamale in July 2010, after a six hour journey across potholed roads feeling very sick, but amazed by the beauty of Ghana- lush green palm trees, cities, street sellers and the women selling food and cosmetics on their heads. A totally different culture- yet so incredibly beautiful.

We were staying in a village outside Tamale called Fuo, which has mud huts and goats roaming free. I and Rachel started volunteering at Gigdev, teaching basic literacy and grasp of English and Maths to groups of women. We used Ghanaian textbooks but also used our own knowledge to help. We also taught the women basic ICT skills so they could prosper in the future and we played with their children in the nursery, while they were studying dressmaking and hairdressing.

As I began to teach the women spellings, verbs, numbers, multiplication, division, English phrases and songs- we all began to bond. Some women would sit in my classes with their babies, others would compete to see who could get their sums right the quickest and there was a lot of laughter and jokes between us all.

ghanalaugh
(image: E Segall)

All the women were so different and I got close to them – and didn’t want to leave them by the end of my 7 weeks of volunteering. I remember two particular girls- one called Zubaida and another very cheeky one whose name escapes me (in photo above) and her friend Mama.

Zubaida loved to learn and was exceptionally bright, top of all my classes and had a real thirst for knowledge. She was especially good at Maths. A lot of the women found Maths easier to contend with than English, even though English is one of Ghanas official languages, a lot of them spoke in the local dialect Dagbani or in Twi.

I had been teaching Zubaida for weeks and we formed such a bond. I never fully knew her full story- but she was bright and kind and eager to learn. When I had to leave, we were both so sad.

I was so honoured to know this woman and all the other incredible bright lights of women I met. I had several very funny and cheeky women in my class (as you can see by the photos) who used to crack me up with their jokes and fun nature. The woman in the photo above would joke around with me and her friends- I have so many pictures of them all laughing. They loved taking photos on my camera too.

I think this is what touched me so much about these so called ‘Kayaye girls’ who had been at risk but who Gigdev was looking after. That they had hope. They had passion. They had joy. And they embraced me as a privileged white woman- I feel like they didn’t see colour and neither did I.

zubaida

(image: E Segall)

I remember them plaiting each others hair and putting new weaves in.  I remember them singing and dancing and laughing. One day at the end of the class I taught them the penguin dance – ‘Have you ever seen a penguin come to tea?’, which they loved and we all stood in a massive circle and did the actions. They found it brilliant because it  was new to them and they could just spend time laughing with their friends.

They supported each other and loved each other. I saw their strength. And their desire to have better lives.

Because of them and their positivity and the amazing staff at Gigdev- I became a better and more informed person.

They taught me far more than I could ever teach them.

And this is why for my 30th birthday, as I enter a new decade- I want to help new women to have the same opportunities, care and help that Selina and the Gigdev team provide.

Please give whatever you can towards building a shop which will sustain the GIGDEV project. The women will sew clothes to sell and sell water bottles too- as an Income Generator for the NGO.

You can donate here: https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/fundraising-gigdev-ghana-shop-for-girls-education

Here is a snap shot of of Ghana experience from my diary back in 2010:

‘I am working at Gigdev as a literacy, numeracy and IT teacher for women aged between 15 and 25. I also worked in the nursery for the womens children ‘Kiddicare’ for three weeks until it closed for the summer, assisting the teachers and looking after the children. 

I am finding teaching the women at Gigdev so rewarding, and I hope they are benefiting even on a small level. To be able to teach and build relationships with women around my age (i am 22!) and of a different culture, is very special and something I will treasure for the rest of my life. It is so interesting to see their reaction to what I teach them, whether that be a song as it was today, or reading, english verbs, to fractions…. which confused them at first but they soon picked up. I wish however I had more time to teach them and not only one hour a day!

I learnt that the education I have recieved is a luxury…that I can use a computer to communicate, that I am literate and numerate and can read books (let alone buy books) . I learnt that despite not having much and gone through so much, the human spirit in the women I worked with was strong, and BRIGHT and incredible……..and I hope that they go on to live good lives

Coming home from Ghana has been a very odd (and nice!) experience. At first it was so hard to acclimatise back to a culture so alien to African life, particularly in a fairly rural village surrounded by mud huts and goats where people get up with the sunrise and go to bed when it gets dark (6pm there). I found myself being confronted with contrasting lifestyles. It is hard to explain but I found a simplicity of life in Africa- without gadgets or material influence… people spend more time face to face talking together and there is a huge emphasis on community. ‘

 

ellieghana

 

https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/fundraising-gigdev-ghana-shop-for-girls-education

My article for Self Harm UK- ‘I don’t want to hide anymore (about stigma)’

selfharmuk

I am delighted to announce a blog collaboration with the amazing charity Self Harm UK (a part of Youthscape).

I have written a blog for them on my experience of mental health stigma as an ill teenager and what made me speak out further. In the past, I have had self harming thoughts and I myself like reaching out to teens and young people who are suffering out there- so they know they are not alone. I am so pleased to collaborate with Self Harm UK on this and my article can be found here:

Click here to read my article:

https://www.selfharm.co.uk/articles/i-dont-want-to-hide-anymore

Who are Self Harm UK?

From their website selfharm.co.uk:

‘ SelfharmUK (formally selfharm.co.uk) started out of the work of Youthscape, a local charity based in Luton, Bedfordshire, UK. Since it’s beginnings in 1993, the charity has developed a strong and professional reputation for delivering caring, child-centred work, which focuses on the emotional and social needs of all young people. Youthscape works alongside all young people, regardless of race, background, or faith.

By 2004, Youthscapes’s work increasingly involved young people engaging in self-harm. It wasn’t long before a plan began to form to try and reach them them, starting with the provision of informal support groups in local schools. With the help of funding from BBC Children in Need and other grant-making Trusts, the project was able to appoint a specialist staff team in 2005 and develop a more coherent provision that included art projects and therapeutic group programmes. Training and advice for parents and professionals soon followed, in conjunction with the Local Authority and local schools.

In 2008, Youthscape responded to the growing number of enquiries for support and advice coming from outside Luton by beginning to plan for a national project that could support young people from all over the UK. Further planning and fund raising led to the establishment of SelfharmUK later that year and the appointment of a Project Manager

The development of a website was a key part of our initial vision… to have a safe online space available to inform and support young people who self-harm, as well as cater for the needs of their siblings, parents and friends. We also wanted to provide information and training for professionals like youth workers, teachers and social workers.

We wanted to create a safe, pro-recovery site for people to use to communicate with others and express their experiences through the use of blogs, stories, poetry and art. Our next goal was to develop an online group programme – Alumina – which has enabled young people from all over the UK to engage with our staff in real time in order to explore the deeper issues surrounding self-harm. For some it had been the catalyst needed to reduce or stop their harming behaviour, while for others it has proven empowering, enabling them to seek further support in their local area.

We already have a multimedia training programme available to professionals in the UK. Our ongoing vision is to see this rolled out more comprehensively; to serve every part of the UK in supporting and nurturing young people who may be experiencing difficulties with self-harm.

There remains much to be done but we remain committed to improving the lives of anyone impacted by self-harm. Providing effective support for parents and siblings will be a major goal in the near future.

For now, the project remains part of Youthscape as a separate element of this registered charity.’

 

Dark nights and Brighter Days: Music and Writing

It feels like ages since I just sat down and wrote my heart out about my own life, which is how Be Ur Own Light started. In fact this blog was a diary and once called Diary of a Nearly Thirty Year Old (as I am 28!) The level of interest in mental health writing and my blog is growing which is wonderful and I love sharing everyone’s stories and featuring guest posts from brave mental health warriors. Today though I want to update you on my story.

Thank fully, I am not depressed or too anxious these days. I have been able to go out more, see friends and family and just enjoy myself. This week my Dad and I ran two charity events at Jazz after Dark, a teeny little club in Soho, Central London. Jazz after Dark is where Amy Winehouse walked in and began her career and where she wrote part of Back to Black. Our event was in aid of a young girl who passed away this year aged just 20. Many professional singers and musicians gave their time for free for us to raise money for an ambulance , which was the dying wish of the girl who passed away.

We managed to raise £3,500 for the charity supplying the ambulance through ticket sales, a raffle and auction. My Dad put so much of it together and on the nights we worked so hard. It was a thoroughly enjoyable 2 nights and I had the chance to watch live music and meet acquaintances and see old friends. I was so thankful to feel comfortable doing this and for feeling so happy at what we all achieved.

Additionally, my cousin got engaged last weekend which was lovely, we had a family party for him.

I am also contemplating a new career in writing professionally. I have always written, journalled, wrote poetry and did English at university.. I always have used writing as an outlet. However, I want to share my story in overcoming adversity and living with mental health issues. I have been so lucky to already have collaborated with people and 2 big mental health charities. So this journey is new and exciting and rewarding. I thank you for reading here in my little corner of the internet and for following the journey together.