Category: Help For Heroes
A military veteran who successfully battled back from two strokes is preparing for a fundraising effort that will raise money for Help for Heroes and another charity. John Owens who served during the first Gulf War says running helped him deal with his post-traumatic stress disorder which he says he experienced following the death of a friend and former comrade.
One of the youngest soldiers to serve
Mr Owens has been nominated for a Soldiering On Awards. He says after his medical discharge from the army, he developed a passion for running which aided him in his recover. Aged only 17 Mr Owens was one of the youngest soldiers to have served in the first Gulf War. During his twenties Mr Owens suffered a stroke without realising and continued with the Royal Highland Fusiliers. A decade later when Mr Owens suffered a second stroke, he understood his military career was over.
Running is therapy
Despite the devastation wreaked by the strokes, Mr Owens was able to recover. He says the running was very therapeutic following the suicide of his best friend in 2016. As a result Mr Owens will be running 1,000 miles this year in memory of his friend whilst he raises money for Help for Heroes and Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland both of which played a vital role in his recovery. His efforts have not gone unnoticed and as a result he has been nominated for awards.
Mr Owens says the nomination itself speaks volumes especially in terms of his own recovery. Although his journey has been challenging he has overcome it and he has his eye on future goals. After leaving the military Mr Owens said he had to open his eyes and step into what can be a very difficult world without the support of the military. Discharge was the end of everything he had ever known and he had to come to terms with the fact that he had overcome major health issue and find a way to move forward.
Category: National Trust
The puffin population living on the remote islands of Northumberland Farne Islands that are cared for by the National Trust is stable according to the results of a survey conducted once every five years. Last year there was speculation that the low numbers on the outlying islands were because of a long, harsh winter and lack of readily available food and there were fears that this could well be the case across the entire island chain.
Fears were unfounded
It now appears that the low numbers initially reported were the result of a robust seal population that resulted in puffin burrows being crushed on the outer islands. On the inner isles though more birds were nesting in response. The results of the survey suggest that the population of puffins has stabilised across the archipelago at around 44,000 pairs, an increase of nine per cent since the previous count which took place in 2013.
A lot of angst
Over the last quarter century, the population has steadily increased and peaked in 2003 before suddenly crashing in 2008. The population has started to slowly recover. Thomas Hendry of the National Trust says initially there was a lot of anxiety following the count on the group of outer islands, however after further investigation and a count of the population on the inner group of islands, the numbers appeared to be much more positive.
National Trust responsible for robust population
Puffins have been successful on Farnes largely as a consequence of the good work done by National Trust rangers who have increased the level of protection of the marine areas surrounding the islands as well as a lack of predators and availability of suitable nesting areas. The big risk is that climate change will eventually put the squeeze on the population in Farnes forcing the birds to travel further to feed as well as increase the number of storms during winter affecting the population at sea. As a result, surveys will now take place annually.
Possible to tackle the challenges faced
Harriet Reid another National Trust ranger who is one of 11 that reside on the islands between March and December says annual monitoring will allow the team to better track numbers against likely causes of population change. It is important that the UK contributes to the global population picture so that experts can better understand and discover what the key factors that affect these birds are and what more can be done to help. If the root cause behind the decline is what is suspected, it is possible to prevent overfishing, cut down on single use plastics as well as reduce dependence on non-renewable energy.
Police are investigating the disappearance of a rare bird of prey and treating it as suspicious. It is believed that the male hen harrier is dead after its satellite tag ceased transmitting a signal in Wiltshire. The chick which has been named Vulcan was one of five that hatched in Northumberland last year that the RSPB tagged. This is the eleventh sudden disappearance of a satellite-tagged hen harrier since last summer RSPB says.
Disappearance is baffling
RSPB says it tracked the movements of the young bird as it made its way from Northumberland down to the Peak District. However, at the start of the year the tag just stopped transmitting South of Calstone Wellington. What is baffling is that neither the remains of the protected birds or any damaged tags have been found. A spokesperson for RSPB’s Hen Harrier LIFE project said Vulcan’s tag had been working just fine, so for it to suddenly cease transmission makes the charity very suspicious that something untoward has happened to him.
Rare species of bird
The hen harrier is one of the rarest species of birds in the UK and under the Wildlife and Countryside Act of 1981 are protected by law. Unfortunately, they are also the most intensely hunted species of all of UK birds of prey largely because of the threat they pose to free-range fowl and game birds. A spokesperson for the Wiltshire Police said the rural crime team is partnering with the RSPB to try and determine the circumstances.
Hen harrier persecution needs to end
The spokesperson adds that there is no trace of the bird does raise some valid concerns about what happened to it. Gareth Cunningham another spokesperson from the RSPB says the suspicious disappearance of Vulcan is serious cause for concern of the safety of any planned reintroduction of this magnificent species. RSPB says it believes deeply in ending the persecution of hen harriers in order to restore the species population in the UK.
Oxfam says that war, rising food prices and plunging incomes in Yemen is increasingly resulting in people being forced into desperate measures to avoid starvation. The crisis in Yemen has put nearly ten million people on the brink of famine. Since the conflict began to escalate in 2015 food prices have skyrocketed whilst household incomes have plunged making basic food items too expensive for many people in the country. One family even resorted to marrying off their three-year-old daughter just to buy food.
Children’s lives are being devastated
Oxfam’s Country Director in Yemen Mushin Siddiquey says as the conflict has dragged on people have are becoming more desperate as hunger reaches desperate levels. He adds that people are being made to take steps that could devastate the lives of their children for decades to come. All of this is the direct consequence of a man-made humanitarian catastrophe caused by the war. Oxfam says the international community needs to step up and do everything possible to end the conflict and ensure people have access to food water and medicine.
Families unable to feed themselves properly
The conflict has forced many families to seek refuge in isolated areas where there is no basic infrastructure, water or health centres. Many set themselves up in small tents or mud houses which provide very little protection from the environment. They also have little or no income which means many families cannot afford to feed themselves properly and end up having to skip meals or subsist on bread and tea or begging.
Tentative steps towards peace
Families in Yemen can be as large as 15 people and tend to include the aged who require special care and medication which makes already unbearably high living expenses even more costly. Recently the internationally recognised government of Yemen and the Houthi rebels reached an agreement for an initial phase of withdrawal from the critical port city of Hudaydah after peace talks were held in Sweden. The agreement took time to reach and so far, it is not obvious what, if any, impact it will have.
The conflict needs to end
Mr Siddiquey says international donors need to ensure that there is enough money to deliver vital food, water and medicine so that the basic needs of people are met. However, the only thing that can stop the descent down the spiral which is forcing families to take desperate measures is an end to the conflict. Everyone involved in the conflict including those that are backing the participants financially need to make a commitment to a nationwide ceasefire and take the necessary steps towards forging a lasting peace.
Category: National Trust
The National Trust has combined with Your Housing Group in a bid to restore a nature trail on the outskirts of Manchester. The trail was established in 2007 with money from the EU and was maintained by local authorities but over the last few years has been underused and become overgrown. The National Lottery Community Fund issued a grant of £5,000 that has provided funding for work to bring the green space back to life.
Plenty of beautiful nature filled paths
After restoration the trail will once again be accessible for local people to enjoy. Redbrook Trail sits adjacent to the Partington estate owned of which 1,200 properties are either owned and managed by Your Housing Group. The site sits on 5.8 acres with plenty of paths that people can walk along which pass through some beautiful stretches of woodland that are filled with wildflower, birds and mammals.
Work being done by volunteers
Most of the work is being done mainly by a group of volunteers made up members of the community including school children who have cleared out pathways as well as restored information boards, signs and picked up litter. A spokesperson for Your Housing Group says that a couple of years ago the group began to look at ways it could restore the Redbrook Trail and it is a wonderful thing to watch the area undergo a transformation with the help of conservation experience provided by the National Trust.
Breathing new life into a green space
Your Group Housing together with the National Trust are breathing new life in this green space restoring it so that it once again can be a place for nature to flourish. Future generations of locals will now have the ability to enjoy the wonderful trail that Partington is fortunate to have. A spokesperson for the National Trust said the trail is critical for the local community and by restoring it so that it is both open and accessible, it will have a positive impact on the welfare and health of people who reside in the area.
Connecting people to nature
The work being done on the Redbrook Trail is all about connecting people regardless of their background with the nature that sits right on their doorstep. The goal is to create an accessible experience for everyone and to instil a sense of pride in those that contributed. People are being taught new skills and the younger generation are being inspired to take action to conserve nature whilst also gaining valuable work experiences.
Category: Help For Heroes
A veteran of the UK Airforce is about to undertake a gruelling trek across one of the planet’s harshest environment’s as she seeks to raise money for ex-servicemen and women. Diane McLeish who had a 32-year career treating service people and evacuating them from conflict zones in Afghanistan, Bosnia and the Gulf serving as a medic with the RAF is set to join a group of fundraisers who will be hiking for more than 24 miles in the torrid heat of the Sahara.
The fundraising group will begin their journey in the Jebel Sarho mountains and their trek will take them past oases and vast open desert filled with hundreds of sand dunes until they reach the finish line in the small community of Taghbalt in Morocco. The group is seeking to raise money for Help for Heroes and Ms McLeish who is from Clermiston has already raised an astonishing £300,000. She will be joined on the trek by her god daughter Zoe Foster who together will form the Scottish contingent of the group and have been dubbed the “Haggis Hunters”.
The two will be part of a group of 40 trekkers participating in the challenge which is expected to take them about three days to complete. Ms McLeish says her experience with the RAF inspired her to go out there and raise money herself. She says she saw first hand what Help for Heroes does whilst she was serving in Afghanistan and how they assisted sick and wounded veterans. She adds that she believes the money raised by volunteers will be well spent by the charity, in particular delivering support to individuals who require assistance at home, or those who suffer from mental health issues and helping them to return to work or recover through sport.
After retiring from the RAF in 2009 Ms McLeish started volunteering for Help for Heroes and undertook a number of fundraising exercises. Her god daughter Zoe who works as a pastry chef also has a military background having served for more than two decades with the Air Cadets in Portobello. Zoe says her decision to take part in the challenge was because she and her god mother always said they would do a Help for Heroes challenge together and as a result has been rigorously preparing for the challenge.
Businesses and homeowners are being recruited to try and save one of the UK’s most iconic species of birds, the swift. Swifts migrate thousands of miles every year to the UK and Europe from Africa, nesting in the country for about three months beginning in May. However, over the last two decades, their numbers have declined by nearly half says the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB).
Lack of nesting spots
The wildlife conservation charity says there are probably multiple reasons behind the decline, but perhaps the most important is the lack of suitable nesting places as a result of modern housing developments. Jamie Wyver a spokesperson for RSPB says typically swifts would have found nesting spots in the spaces between the eaves, as well as small nooks and crannies in buildings. Unfortunately, modern buildings and their developments have done away with them.
Need to create spaces
Another issue swifts in the UK face is that the buildings they have used in the past to nest are now starting to be tidied up, with their nooks and crannies being blocked which means they can no longer be used. As a result, RSPB is asking the general public to create spaces that swifts can use for nesting. They can either install a traditional bird box, or if they live in a new development, owners can install purpose-designed “swift bricks”.
No need for huge investment
These boxes can be placed within the wall cavity with out outward facing small hole which is tiny enough for the birds to exit and enter but also keep the predators out. According to RSPB, as few as 1,000 new boxes or bricks are enough to make a real difference and their installation need not be at odds with the requirement to construct new housing developments in the UK.
Swifts are remarkable
Prince Charles’ Duchy of Cornwall has embarked on a new policy of installing a swift box for every new home that it constructs. Ben Murphy who is the estate’s director says there have already been signs that birds are starting to nest in the boxes. It is still too early to say whether the policy has been a success, but so far blue tits have begun nesting which is good news because swifts usually arrive after them, kick them out and begin nesting themselves. Swifts are a remarkable species, flying continuously without landing for nine months of the year. They eat and sleep in flight and if they cannot find places to nest the species is at risk.
Three leading NGO’s have declared that the most important priorities for the almost 1 million Rohingya refugees still holed up at the largest refugee camp in the world for almost a year-and-a-half needs to be education and income generating opportunities. Oxfam, Save the Children and World Vision joined forces to urge donors to focus on these efforts as the United Nations announced a new funding plan to deal with the crisis.
International community needs to be generous
In their statement the NGO’s urged the international community to be generous in financing the 2019 Joint Response Plan (JRP) for the Rohingya Humanitarian Crisis. The three agencies were united in their support for the almost $1 billion the UN is trying to raise for almost 1.25 million people affected by the crisis including refugees and host community members. The NGO’s want both donors and the Bangladeshi government to ensure that aid is focused on helping host communities and refugees to live more safely whilst delivering food, clean water and shelter.
Education is a human right
What this means in practice is investments must be made in educating children and young people so they learn the skills necessary to build a prosperous future in Myanmar when they are able to safely return. A World Vision spokesperson says education should not be considered a luxury but should be seen as a human right. She adds that refugee parents and their children say their top priority is education but unfortunately there is a massive gap for children and adolescents.
Children should not be denied their right to an education
The camps serve as home to an estimated 700,000 young people aged between 3 to 24 with almost a quarter million from the host community that lack access to education. Refugee children are the worst affected with only 4 per cent having access to any sort of education of vocational training. Aid workers say that Rohingya refugee children have already had their rights abused after being forced to flee Myanmar for Bangladesh under horrific conditions. These children should not also be denied their right to receive an education and the least the rest of the world can do is make sure they do not face further disadvantages.
Creating opportunities to learn and earn
Not having access to education or the ability to earn an income makes Rohingya refugees entirely dependent on aid which means they are extremely vulnerable to being exploited with children being the worst affected. An Oxfam’s Bangladesh Country Director Dipankar Datta says female refugee children as they hit puberty face immense problems getting an education. Rohingya women are also unable to find employment making it difficult for single mothers to support their children. Mr Datta adds that donors and the Bangladeshi government must focus on creating opportunities for women and girls to learn and earn as well as protect them from abuse and exploitation so that they have a better future.
The world’s wealth is growing increasingly concentrated according to the latest Oxfam report which shows that world’s 26 wealthiest individuals control the same assets as 3.8 billion people who form the poorest half of the Earth’s population. Oxfam releases its annual wealth check every year to coincide with the Davos and according to the charity last year was yet another one where the rich grew richer whilst the poor became poorer.
Problems in the fight against poverty
The NGO says growing inequality is posing problems in the fight against poverty. Oxfam claims that a 1 per cent wealth tax levied on the super-rich would raise £325 billion every year. To put that into context, that is enough money to provide education for every child currently not in school and deliver healthcare that would prevent as many as 3 million deaths. The report claims that the wealth of the world’s 2,2200 billionaires grew by a combined $900 billion last year or by $2.5 billion per day.
The rich getting richer whilst the poor get poorer
Oxfam reckons that whilst the poorest half of the world saw their wealth fall by 11 per cent last year, the richest saw their wealth increase by 12 per cent. In 2017 43 billionaires had the same wealth as the world’s poorest half, and that number fell to 26 last year. In the 10 years since the global financial crisis, the number of billionaires has doubled and a new billionaire emerged once every two days between 2017 and 2018. 1 per cent of Jeff Bezos $112 billion fortune is equal to the entire Ethiopian health budget, a country with a population of 105 million. After accounting for VAT the poorest 10 per cent of Britons have a higher effective tax rate compared to the richest (49 per cent compared with 34%).
Everyone should get a fair shot
Matthew Spencer a spokesperson for Oxfam says whilst the greatest achievement of the last few decades has been the dramatic fall in the number of people living in extreme poverty, growing inequality jeopardises any future progress. Wealth is increasingly becoming concentrated amongst an elite whilst millions are struggling to get by. Mr Spencer says it does not have to be this way because there is more than enough wealth to give every one a fair shot at life.
Fairer tax policy and better public services
Oxfam thinks that Governments need to raise taxes from wealthy individuals and companies and make sure that the money is spent on providing high quality public services that have the effect of transforming and saving people’s lives. According to the report by failing to invest enough in public services, governments were in effect making inequality worse. The NGO says that governments need to provide universal public services and fund it by dealing with tax avoidance and making sure tax policy is fair.
Category: Help For Heroes
A new study by Help for Heroes has found that British military veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorders (PTSD) on average wait up to 4 years before asking for help. According to the results of the study, many chose not to seek out support simply because they did not believe that civilian services would either understand them or support them. Others worried they would be treated differently by friends and family.
Veterans don’t ask for help
The study also found an astonishing 30 per cent of veterans suffering from mental health issues that are the result of war have not sought out any help whatsoever. Rather unsurprisingly Help for Heroes wants to change this behaviour and is doing so by showing veterans that not only is mental health support available but is actively encouraged through a campaign the charity calls ‘Cut The Clock’.
It is okay to seek support
Karen Mead who runs psychological wellbeing for Help for Heroes says the organisation deeply believes that this behaviour of veterans not accessing mental health support when they need is has to change. The campaign is urging the country to put an end to the stigma and allow those that have served in the military know that it is okay to ask for help.
Veterans should not suffer in silence
England Rugby World Cup winner Matt Dawson is launching the campaign for Help for Heroes with buildings throughout London serving as host to a projected “Stigma Clock” being used to encourage people to lend their support and encourage donations. Mark Beckham a veteran who served in Kosovo says he went 16 years without seeking help for mental health issues and doesn’t want anyone to suffer as long as he did.
Pride should not get in the way
Mr Beckham says it is common for service men and women to have a sense of pride and not to be seen as a weak person. That is why many simply do no not ask for help because they don’t want to be considered the weak link in the chain. Andrew Taylor who served in the Royal Army Medical Corps says he waited four years before finally asking for help after his medical discharge in 2013.
Be open because there is no stigma
Mr Taylor says he lost his sense of identity, his career and friendships after suffering serious injuries from a suicide bomb blast in Afghanistan. He says after he decided to seek out help, he is now in a much better place and advises other veterans struggling with mental health issues to come out in the open and ask for help. A study by King’s College London found that nearly one third of all veterans who saw combat in Iraq and Afghanistan suffer from mental health issues.