Category Archives: Charity

Chugging Days Are Over?

Street fundraising – more popularly known as ‘charity mugging’ and shortened to chugging – may be on the way out for good. An undercover reporter revealed that Tag Campaigns, a large chugging company in Britain, has broken strict rules about its practices, according to The Telegraph.

Oxfam is pulling out of a campaign worth £630,000 with them after this report. WWF is awaiting the outcome of an inquiry before deciding whether to continue working with the firm. The NSPCC has also stopped using them.

The Telegraph reported that:

“Following the revelations, the Fundraising Standards Board (FRSB) – which investigates complaints about charities – began an inquiry, and Tag announced it would be working with the regulator to introduce a new training programme for its operatives.

Oxfam said it had halted its campaign and will only consider restarting it when the training has been introduced and approved by the PFRA.

The charity started its campaign with Tag on June 18, a week before The Sunday Telegraph’s revelations.

As with the Marie Curie project, paid staff stopped people in the street and encouraged them to send a text message donation. Donors would then be telephoned by staff from Listen – Tag’s call centre sister company, to persuade them to set up a direct debit.”

I’m certain many people will be glad to see the last of them. Do your donating online, where you can happily choose what you’re giving, and know exactly how much, and not be pestered over the phone afterwards.



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Interview: Cycling 400 miles for Mind

Made it!

Stuart Potter, when I met him, had just cycled from London to Edinburgh, the longest journey he has ever undertaken in one solo ride, for the charity Mind. He had along the way been taking part in conferences hosted by his employer 4Networking to talk about some of the issues raised by Mind and his own motivations for his biggest journey. First and foremost, how did it go?

“The cycling event really well, it was 400 miles over three days, a huge challenge both physically and psychologically. Not only was I riding for ten hours a day but getting up in the morning to give a really personal and emotional talk as well!”

Stuart has been a cyclist all of his life, and it has been this focus which allowed him an outlet for his emotions. After a cycling accident at the age of 17 left him with PTSD, Stuart found himself creating coping mechanisms. By the time he moved to university, without his previous network of friends and family, he had hidden his depression. “At uni I learnt to put a face on among all these people I didn’t know, and then the face became the norm. So the more I hid it, the more I felt afraid to let anyone see it. The only place I showed it was on my bike.”

He felt that cycling was the obvious choice for his challenge, but originally wasn’t sure which charity to support. “I’ve been fortunate enough to not need the support of any charities, I’ve got a great GP and supportive work colleagues. I spent two weeks agonising about what cause to do it for. Then one day I’m on the bike and realised there’s only one reason I can do this, because it’s why I cycle, for my mental health.”

“Mind are an umbrella for a number of small projects and campaigns, they train a lot of mental health nurses. The reason I did it for Mind is that they’re trying to break the stigma.” Stuart soon realised he had found a topic truly important to people. “I hit 100 followers on the first day, and then it just kept going up and up.”

“I realised that people just don’t talk about it. When I was diagnosed I did lots of research, and what is so hard to find is real stories of real people. You can’t work out if what you’re feeling is normal, if other people are going through what you’re feeling. And then to find out it isn’t normal, or you are going through a crisis… you start to think ‘who am I?'”

He has proved increasingly inspiring towards those who had never previously shared their experiences of depression:

“People don’t know what to say when you say I’ve got a mental health problem. Talking about the medication, there’s so much stigma, and people are ashamed, and more and more people have come to me and said ‘I’m so glad you’re talking about this.’ And if they can’t relate, they want to ask questions.

Through this project my wife has been talking to people online as well, and wrote a guest post for the blog about living with depression. A lot of people feel guilty because they don’t think they’re helping with their partner’s problems. And a lot of the time they just need to recognise when someone needs to be treated normally or given some space. People have spoken about how their partners changed their perspective once they read this.

If nothing else comes of it, that’s enough: I’ve helped someone.”

Setting off from the 4Networking at Leith

The journey itself, after three months of build up, was the straightforward part.

“Day one was 2 000 meters of climbing, which was the most I’ve ever done, and it was 135 miles, so those hills at the end started to hurt. The second day was flat for the first 90 miles, and it was really monotonous. The roads are flat, the scenery was flat, all I could see were hedges. Then yesterday (Thursday) it was all about the finish, I was really focussed.”

“But the last 20 miles I completely underestimated the traffic in London. I hit the outskirts and suddenly was stop, start, stop, start. I wanted to be at the finish point (the Look Ma No Hands café) by 8pm, and it closed at ten. Then there was a torrential downpour, and it was getting dark, and London drivers are just nuts! So getting there was this huge release. I got there at ten to ten. My pal Gav handed me a beer and I burst into tears.”

This is the first ride Stuart has ever undertaken for charity. “When I’m on my own, the only thing I’m aware of is my own will. But with this, people were watching me on Satnav. My driver Sian was reading me tweets and telling me when people were coming out to meet me. A mental health nurse I’d been chatting to online came out and joined me for 20 miles. Every time he saw me slowing down, he encouraged me. It was like every word he said was from the 1400 Twitter followers I had. That meant so much.”

His pledge of four thousand pounds is nearly reached, as the total on the site doesn’t yet show business pledges that he has received. He also is beginning to think of the future. “This is bigger than I hoped it was gonna be, so I now can’t stop. I’m not doing another challenge this year, but I want to do something next year. If I can help someone attempt something they wouldn’t have had the confidence to do beforehand, that would be fantastic.”

“The money’s important, Mind need it, and it never ceases to amaze me Britain’s capacity to give. But because this is such a hard subject, people are uncomfortable about listening. People are still asking ‘Why are you doing this?’ So what I’m focussed on is talking about it.”

And how does he feel right now? “Physically I feel a lot better than I thought I would: I’m gonna hurt tomorrow! I’m tired, and looking forward to getting back home.”

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In Support of Doctors, Nurses and Carers

I am unsure exactly what I feel about striking action: I am anti-establishment enough to think that it must always be justified, but I have never been employed enough to truly understand the motivations.

However I thought charities that support the work of medical staff (one of the most common occupations on the list of those that cause depression) deserve a mention in light of this.

In particular, this week (18 – 24 June) is Carers Week. Events are still ongoing, so check out their site, register, give back to some of the people with one of the most stressful roles in our society.

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More Owls

So this blog is off to a moderately slow start, but among other things, last week I went to an owl sanctuary. My tiny mind almost exploded.

The World Owl Trust (excellent name) is in the grounds of Muncaster Castle in Western Cumbria, and acts as a breeding sanctuary for species of owl. They have several permanent residents, but mainly the key is to produce more baby owls that can be introduced back into the wild.

In case you aren’t sold on all this already, here is a multitude of pictures:


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Fowl Behaviour

owl, pets, harry potter

It has been noted that owls are awesome

A few publications (I saw it on The Mail, and that’s entirely my own fault) have pointed out that since the recent Harry Potter franchise madness has died down, many children who somehow convinced their parents to give them owls as pets have since abandoned them.

Firstly, charities and owl sanctuaries agree that OWLS ARE NOT PETS. They are far harder to keep and maintain, are wild animals, and are increasingly endangered. Many species that are not native to England are being left to fend for themselves. Besides that many were illegally captured directly from the wild: India faced an endangered owl crisis in 2010 due to the amount of purchases from illegal traders. Anyone caught releasing an owl into the wild faces a fine of up to £5000, or failing that time in jail.

Because of Harry Potter, Barn Owls (pictured) have been the most popular. However they are nocturnal, are used to eating live prey, live for up to 20 years, and can cause a lot of mess. They are highly intelligent and need a lot of space.

The Mail reported that rescue worker Pam Toothill, of the Owlcentre in Corwen, North Wales, has one hundred owls to deal with at her sanctuary. So at the moment we’re saying: spare a thought for an owl! There are many bird sanctuaries across England, and they would all welcome your visits and donations.

Here are a few direct links:

Screech Owl Sanctuary Sponsorship Form – The Screech Owl Santuary in Cornwall is far friendlier than it’s name suggests. They provide a large number of tours, activities and chances to handle tame owls, and also have meerkats, emus and Shetland ponies.

Suffolk Owl Sanctuary: Adopt an Owl – Has an amazing blog called S.O.S and a recent documentary you can watch on YouTube.

Owl Rescue – This site has more links to owl trusts and centers, and a lot of good advice and information about all types of birds of prey. Members also regularly appear at events to speak about all things owl.

Festival Park Owl Sanctuary – In it’s gorgeous setting in Wales, this sanctuary aims to release as many birds as possible back into the wild, but also takes in any unwanted pets and non-native birds, and is open to the public.

Turbary Woods – This sanctuary looks after a number of birds of prey and has regular educational talks and displays. They also recently featured a number of wildlife artists whose work was auctioned to help raise funds for the sanctuarys upkeep.

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