The White Helmets

The White Helmets

‘I’d much rather save a life than take a life…’

This is a quote from one of the volunteers from Syria Civil Defence, a volunteer organisation which operates in rebel-controlled Turkey and Syria. Unofficially, they call themselves ‘The White Helmets’, and a short documentary film of the same name was produced about them last year.

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The White Helmets film poster: Website

‘I’d much rather save a life than take a life…’

Imagine, even just for a minute, that one day you feel safe – inside your home with your nearest and dearest – and the next, that feeling of warmth and security has been snatched so barbarically from you. What do you do? How do you feel? How is anyone meant to cope in such unwelcome, UNEXPECTED, situations? This is where The White Helmets enter.

In aid of Refugee Week 2017 Books for Amnesty in Hammersmith joined forces with Hammersmith and Fulham Refugees Welcome  to organise the film screening of ‘The White Helmets’, which creates a visual representation of the true reality facing civilians within Syria and Turkey.

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Books for Amnesty, Hammersmith – the film screening venue

A White Helmet is no superhuman, although one could easily argue otherwise. They have backgrounds in various avenues of life: some previously working as pharmacists, bakers, tailors, some even students (like myself). All 3,200 of these like-minded individuals unite under one shared motto: ‘to save one life, is to save all of humanity’. Despite the many risks they may face in the aftermaths of bombed areas and airstrikes, these volunteers seek to save lives, having already saved close to 100,000 en-counting.

‘to save one life, is to save all of humanity’.

With reference to the screening, and as their website states:

“When the bombs rain down, the Syrian Civil Defence rushes in. In a place where public services no longer function these unarmed volunteers risk their lives to help anyone in need – regardless of their religion or politics. Known as the White Helmets these volunteer rescue workers operate in the most dangerous place on earth.”

As is probably evident, my thoughts are still processing themselves. Sitting in the centre of a bookshop, which fundraises and advocates for the rights and freedoms of every single human being, it’s almost difficult to believe that these brutal conditions are what many people are still facing as a result of a civil war.

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Inside the bookshop

It’s touching. It’s human. And it’s happening right now.

The film, which runs for approximately 40 minutes, can be found on Netflix. While I was aware of this, I still wanted to attend the screening to be in the presence of those who also feel strongly about advocating for the rights of vulnerable people who have to leave their home countries to seek refuge. And any Amnesty International location has such an inspiring atmosphere. Attending the Refugee Week Conference earlier this year made me even more determined to fight for what I believe in and pursue my interests. And the bookshop also seeps a similar feeling.

I would highly recommend watching ‘The White Helmets’ to get a visual understanding of those who are in danger, and those who risk their lives to save others.

It’s touching. It’s human. And it’s happening right now.

Fundraising, FUND-raising, FUN-draising: The Story Shop

Fundraising, FUND-raising, FUN-draising: The Story Shop

In the middle of a busy shopping centre in White City, West London, it was once possible to step into a cosy pop up stall, enclosed by elegant furniture and chests of drawers and sit and chat with a lady for a few minutes or so about…well…children. Sounds slightly odd, and for a number of reasons too, but let me clear this up. WorldVision came up with a creative, innovative and, dare I say, immersive idea with the aim of taking away passing members of the public from their intense shopping endeavours and talk to them, albeit for a few minutes, about how they can donate to WorldVision and make a difference to the lives of vulnerable children around the world, all within a domesticated setting. This creative, innovative and immersive idea became known as The Story Shop.

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The Story Shop’s pop up stall in Westfield, White City

According to their website, WorldVision is the world’s largest international children’s charity, which aims to bring hope to this vulnerable demographic in disaster-stricken areas for immediate relief, or long-term, ongoing issues. You can donate, which contributes towards providing commodities, including food, water, and access to medical care, or even sponsor a child. And The Story Shop is a so-called campaign of WorldVision to help with these aims. Their byline is: CONNECTING TWO WORLDS – indeed, implying that of the first and the third, I presume? Watch this video for a more visual representation of what The Story Shop is:

Indeed, when traipsing around Westfield with my mum, we took a few moments to stop and appreciate the work that had gone into creating such as immersive, technological form of fundraising.

“CONNECTING TWO WORLDS”

The pop up included frames of children’s stories, a chest of drawers which opens up to find out more information about them and the immersive mirror-like screen, which seemed quite a hit for passers-by. A child stands at the foreground of the screen, with their hand outstretched to touch yours. How can this be ignored? When my mum approached, the child’s story read: ‘We have no healthcare and my brothers and sisters are sick from diseases that can be easily treated.’

“We have no healthcare and my brothers and sisters are sick from diseases that can be easily treated.”

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Mirror-like screen attached to chest of drawers for the public to interact with

Despite the fact that this was approximately two months ago, and the stall is no longer there, it is a concept that had embedded itself in my mind up until now,  due to its unique quality, hence why I felt compelled to talk about it here.

I believe that the way forward in fundraising is through immersive and interactive forms of communication and technology, which can help generate interest in the general public,  and to truly ‘connect two worlds’. It starts with sharing compelling, real-life and factual stories, and taking a step back from previous techniques of enforcing guilt upon publics, which has often resulted in compassion/media fatigue, which Chouliaraki (2012) and other academic thinkers have noticed within the area of fundraising and media and development. Instead, a FUN and guilt-free approach should be advocated.

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Framed children’s stories and the East Africa Crisis Appeal

As I have probably mentioned a fair amount of times within my blog, Communication for Development (C4D) is what I want to do (as a career, as a life goal). I believe that this particular branch of fundraising is interesting, and should be talked about more widely as a form of communications and fundraising technique, which have the potential of raising awareness of the issues facing children in some of the most vulnerable and deprived areas of the world.

We can all make a change, and it starts by not looking on and walking away, but stepping up the challenge, listening to the stories of some people perhaps less fortunate than ourselves, and remembering that we are all human, and no amount of borders should separate that fact.

 

On a side note, if any of you have ever done any street fundraising with charities, please do share with me your experiences as I am interested in doing this over the Summer.

Click on the link below also to check out some of the interesting blog posts I have been reading over on the BBC Media Action page: http://view.e.bbcmail.co.uk/?qs=20f64e5646817f3a62dea5474aacc1cf8312ac90407f5d82f63b7e0d89aefbe48b1ea27bf0189b02b5c54b9806c4eef3318e893a2c27cacbd55e5dbc1d4fa244 

FIRST YEAR IS OVER…?

FIRST YEAR IS OVER…?

Without doubt I can imagine that many bloggers in a similar situation will be writing almost identical posts as you read this. For the past month (and more, admittedly), I have felt a little snowed over by coursework deadlines and exams (I say exams, I’ve only had one!). And my exam yesterday marked the end of my first year – officially! And I know I am “just a fresher” and the marks I get won’t really contribute towards my final degree, but I still came to university with the mindset of working as hard as I can – let’s just hope it pays off! Anyway, it is now fair to say that I am out of the woods, and have come out the other end, knowing that a) I have adapted to so-called university life b) I LOVE my university and c) I LOVE my degree.

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If you haven’t seen the Zigs, have you even seen UEA?

There are many things I have enjoyed about my first year at university. From exploring the sweet cobbled streets of Norwich, to meeting amazing new people through my course, societies I have joined, my flatmates, and generally putting myself out there.

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A handful of us athletics gals (when I used to go before I got lazy)

One aspect of my first year, which I have thoroughly enjoyed, is being a member of the Media Collective – something which I knew would appeal to me. I got quite involved in UEA:TV, taking part in filming projects with like-minded, creative individuals. Next year, I’m also on the committee, and words cannot express how excited I am about that! But if I were to give any advice to anyone going to university after the summer, or have plans to do so in the future, it would simply be to say YES to as many things as you can. I’m definitely not the first student to ever give advice of this nature, and naturally will not be the last, because university can absolutely make you grow as a person, widen your perspective on life – and that’s my impression after just one year. And boy has this year gone by far too quickly!

Say YES to as many things as you can

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The new and, dare I say, SEXY UEA:TV Committee

As for my course, I won’t lie. There are have certainly been times – and I’m referring mainly to coursework and exam season – when I have idly questioned whether the life of academia is the right path for me.  It’s not so unknown that British universities tend to focus more on a theoretical system of thought in their approach to teaching and directing courses. Of course this does depend on what you study. But for me, studying Media and International Development, I did question whether I would want to be doing tedious readings for the next two years. But it’s a challenge. It’s not meant to be easy, but it’s designed to make you think outside of the box, to get out of your comfort zone. I think back to how interesting I find my course, and the multiple, MULTIPLE things I am interested in, and I realise that yes – this is the path I would like to take. I love learning. And did I mention I LOVE my course?

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The infamous DEV’s finest – DEV Christmas ball

If anyone is particularly interested in finding out more about some of the modules I have taken this year, some of which include: Humanitarian Communication, Social Anthropology, An Introduction to Development Studies, Political Communication, and other media-related modules, I would be more than happy to speak more widely on these. For now, however, my focus for this blog post  is to give a brief overview of my thoughts of my first year, how it continues to invigorate my passions and interests to do development journalism, particularly reporting on gender and development, as well as global health, and cover stories and VOICES which are either misrepresented or underrepresented within our media, and to say, quite simply, that I apologise for the short hiatus. I imagined that this would tend to happen at certain periods whilst having to prioritise university work, hence why I didn’t want to put any pressure on myself to set deadlines for blog posts to be out consistently. I much prefer to read and write well-thought through, well-written pieces, than a rushed one which hasn’t had much thought put into it. It is in this way, nevertheless, that I just want to say that I’M BACK, and hope to be sharing more thoughts and ideas with you.

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And my partner in crime as per – WE WON AN AWARD FOR OUR FRIENDSHIP (and talent, obvs)

There are so many dev-related (and non dev-related) books and articles which I am super excited to be reading and sharing over the Summer, many of which are related to gender, politics and anthropology in development – as well as Steinbeck, and perhaps some dystopian fiction? Any recommendations are warmly welcomed! And while I’m acclimatising to not actually having any academic reading to do for essays, or revising, I will at the very least link below some articles I have come across recently, which may be of some interest to you, in the hope to speak more widely on such issues.

Sending warm early Summer wishes to anyone who reads this!

 

20 Million Muslims March Against ISIS And The Mainstream Media Completely Ignores It

http://avaninews.com/article.php?page=1112

The Third World Girl

https://tribune.com.pk/story/1422424/third-world-girl/

WHY IS COMMUNICATING IN LOCAL LANGUAGES IMPORTANT?

http://www.lidc.org.uk/blog/2017/05/26/why-communicating-local-languages-important

The female journalists defying taboos and braving death threats in Afghanistan

https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2017/may/31/female-journalists-defy-taboos-braving-death-threats-afghanistan?CMP=Share_AndroidApp_Facebook

Tampons that care: helping girls across the world to end ‘shame of periods’

https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2017/may/27/one-for-one-firms-target-stigma-menstruation?CMP=Share_AndroidApp_Facebook

Girls challenge the stigma surrounding periods in Nepal – video

https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/video/2017/may/27/girls-challenge-the-stigma-surrounding-periods-in-nepal-video?CMP=Share_AndroidApp_Facebook

‘We decided to take a stand’: why some Indian families are returning dowries

https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2017/jun/05/take-a-stand-indian-families-returning-dowries-dahez-roko-abhiyan-campaign