This is just the beginning.

I woke up at my usual time this morning, a little after 6:30am, and my daily routine picked up where I last left it on Tuesday. I poured myself a steaming mug of coffee, opened a sachet of wet food for the cat and settled down in front of the TV whilst scrolling through my tweets. But today didn’t feel quite the same as it usually does.

I felt guilty.

You see, on Wednesday 14 June my routine took a slight deviation. I, like many others, took part in #ukhousingfast. We forfeited our meals for the day and made a pledge to donate money, raise awareness and gather items for our local food banks, a service which so many families (too many), rely upon.

HF tweet

 

We stood united. An army of housing people posting messages of support and sentiment throughout the day.

We achieved some amazing things that day; our tweets reached over 178,000 people; we smashed our £1000 fundraising total, and; hundreds of items made their way to local food banks, specifically those run by the amazing Trussell Trust.

UKhousingfast analytics cropped

Huge thanks to Asif Choudry for providing the stats

 

But my guilt remained. It was far too easy for me to get up at 4am and scoff some porridge and banana to help get me through the day. Far too easy to call at my local chippy to feast when the clock struck 10pm and the sun settled down for the day. To go to bed that evening, get a good night’s sleep then wake up the next day smoothly easing myself back into my normal routine just felt wrong.

What I’d experienced for one day is sadly the norm for so many, day in, day out. Food poverty doesn’t just affect those who find themselves homeless, some of them are fortunate enough to have a roof over their heads, they may even have work to go to, but they come home, they’ve paid their bills and they then search the cupboards with nothing but a void space staring back at them. These people are our customers, our tenants, our neighbours, our friends, our family.

I spent 14 June trying not to think about food. 1000s of people in the UK cannot think of nothing else but food.

Food banks are an essential service which is relied upon too often and this has got to stop. Evie Copland nailed it with this tweet:

EC tweet

 

My guilt is slowly easing knowing the good work we have all done; seeing the coming together of people who have shown endless generosity and kindness for others in need has been wonderful.

Donations

Donations made by my awesome Bromford colleagues

 

We have made a difference, so thank you, each and every one of you, but don’t be fooled into thinking this is the end.

Let’s make a stand, let’s make a change, for this is just the begninning.

 

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Our simple choice, one big problem

Hungry child

Photo credit: jrmiller482

“C’mon Jess, you’re going to be late for school if you don’t have your breakfast soon! What’s it going to be today? We’ve got:

Hoops

Rice Crispies

Weetabix

Porridge

Toast.”

This is a typical weekday morning for us in the Johnson household. Stress levels can go through the roof trying to get our little one ready for the day ahead, but when I step back and really think about it, it’s not that big a deal, is it?!

If Jess decides she really doesn’t want her breakfast that day she’ll be OK. There’ll be some warm buttered toast waiting for her when she gets into class, then there’s school dinners to look forward to, and not forgetting the selection of scrummy puddings on offer; jelly and ice-cream, cake and custard, fresh fruit and pancakes, chocolate crispy cake – the list goes on!

For too many people, they will not have this luxury or choice.

The Trussell Trust, the UK’s largest food bank, says it handed out 1.2 million food packs in 2016/17. Compare that to the 41,000 food packs in 2009/10, that’s a 2927% increase!

Some people will use services like this more than once. It’s said that the average person will use a food bank twice a year, this means around 590,000 different people relied on the services of the Trussell Trust in 2016/17.

These figures are heart-breaking.

So, on 14 June 2017 I’ll be joining an army of UK Housing professionals like Amy Nettleton and Neil Goodrich (who convinced me to sign up), to take part in #UKHousingFast. We’ll be giving up our meals, putting together food packs and raising funds, all in support of, and to raise awareness for, the amazing Trussell Trust.

Plate pledge

My #PlatePledge for #UKHousingFast 2017

If you’d like to know more, or fancy getting involved yourself, visit the #UKHousingFast blog.

Thank you.

Are you ready to Mo?

Today is the 1st of a new month, but not just any month – it marks the beginning of a month formerly known as November. Once again I’ll be sporting the fur across my upper lip in the name of Movember, here’s why I do what I do:

On average, men die at a significantly younger age than women – the average life expectancy for man in the UK at birth and at age 65 is lower for men than women however there is no biological reason for this. The reasons for the poor state of men’s health in the UK and around the world are numerous and complex.

From Movember’s perspective the reasons for the poor state of men’s health include:
• Lack of awareness and understanding of the health issues men face
• Men not openly discussing their health and how they’re feeling
• Reluctance to take action when men don’t feel physically or mentally well
• Men engaging in risky activities that threaten their health
• Stigmas surrounding mental health

Movember aims to change the face of men’s health and reverse this way of thinking by putting a fun twist on this serious issue. Using the moustache as a catalyst, we want to bring about change and give men the opportunity and confidence to learn and talk about their health more openly and take action.

Using scary stats to motivate people is not how we roll at Movember, but the facts below are too startling to ignore…
• Men have a 14% higher risk of developing cancer than women and a 37% higher risk of dying from it
• Around 2,300 men in the UK were diagnosed with testicular cancer in 2010
• More than 100 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer every day in the UK
• 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience some kind of mental health problem in the course of a year
• Suicide is the single most common cause of death in men under 35
• 25% of men in the UK were categorised as obese in 2011 compared to 13% of men in 1993
• Since 1996 the number of people in the UK diagnosed with diabetes has increased from 1.4 million to 2.9 million
• In England more men than women have been diagnosed with diabetes. 6.3% of men reported that they had diabetes and 5.3 % of women
• Smoking causes around 87% of lung cancer deaths in men in the UK compared to 83% in women
• A study published in December 2011 estimated that smoking causes nearly a fifth of all cancer cases in the UK
• Men are twice as likely as women to abuse or become dependent on alcohol
• A quarter of deaths of men under 34 can be attributed to alcohol
• 6% of men in the UK are “at risk” drinkers – someone who drinks more than 51 units a week

The above information is taken directly from the Movember UK website. You can read more here.

So, please help me and my team to make a difference to men’s health – and do your part in helping us to spread the word.

Andy x

The Mo' crew of 2012

The Mo’ crew of 2012

Pay it Forward

I remember watching a film some 10 years ago called Pay it Forward. It wasn’t the greatest movie I’ve ever seen but its message has stuck with me to this day. The movie is based on a novel of the same name which tells the story of a young boy who does three good deeds for others in need. All the child asks in return is that they pass on the good deed to three other people and keep the cycle going. It made me think that I should be doing more for others.

Over the past few days I’ve been badgering my family, friends and colleagues to help me on my personal journey to promote awareness and raise much needed funds for men’s health including prostate and testicular cancer. And over the coming weeks I’ll continue to give them all a gentle nudge to dip into their pockets, tell people about the charity and tweet where and when they can to get the message even further widespread. For me the 11th month of the calendar will now take on a new name, no longer November but instead Movember!

I’ve always been keen to support fundraising of good causes. I find it difficult to walk past somebody collecting in the high street without putting in some loose change and just as hard to pass up the opportunity of re-tweeting for somebody who’s asking for their message to get further into the digital domain, so it seemed only right that I now try and make a difference to peoples’ lives using some of my own initiative.

In the workplace we are always conjuring up fantastic ways of raising funds for charity. A number of colleagues are keen runners and one in particular raises huge amounts of money each year for Children with Cancer UK, a leading national charity dedicated to the fight against all childhood cancers. Another colleague runs the brilliant Link Romania Shoebox Appeal where boxes filled with gifts are passed onto families at Christmas time who live in some pretty appalling living conditions. These are just a couple examples of some amazing fund-raising people I know do; year in, year out – and I’ve supported both. But now it’s my turn to help raise the coffers!

Sadly I lost my father-in-law to cancer this month. Dave was more than just my wife’s Dad; he was like a friend to me. We’d quite often speak on the phone or text each other, we’d shared many family holidays, played snooker together, even shared a similar taste in music and often went to concerts together to see the likes of Kasabian and Kings of Leon. Dave had, in my opinion, three of the finest characteristics any human being can possess; a huge amount of patience, heaps of kindness and a seemingly endless amount of time to listen to what you had to say. Having spoken to friends and family who knew Dave, they all said the same.

I’m hoping that these three gifts from Dave will be passed onto at least three others whose lives he touched and they in turn do the same to three or more others that they know. This is why my post this time is more of a personal one. Movember is in Dave’s memory and I’m proud to be able to do something in his name and hoping that this post touches at least three people who, like me, can help make a difference.

Movember isn’t for everyone so you may choose to do something different; bake a cake for a colleague who needs cheering up, do some voluntary work for a charity close to you or take the rubbish out for your elderly neighbour who finds it difficult. No matter how big or small, if you did just three random acts of kindness and the good deeds were reciprocated – how amazing would that be?!

So, it’s nearly time for me to step up to the mark and set deed number one in motion. For one month I’m throwing away the razor blades and donning the coveted nostril tickler known as the moustache. If you’d like to support me and my team you can do so by clicking on my link below.

Thanks!

Donate to me