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June 3, 2016 / kathrynllewellyn

I am not asking you to sponsorship me to run a 5k in New York. Well technically I am, but please read on.

Sponsor me has become that email subject heading that we all dread. “Not another one of my friends wanting some money for a jog around a park” “I’m not paying for her to walk up a hill” I hear you cry, because I cry it too. Sponsorship has lost its meaning. We have become disconnected as participants and donors to the causes we undertake challenges for and sponsor.

I am writing this sat on a flight, with a grumpy boyfriend and a tired toddler, with two hours of a 7 hour journey left. I’ve actually quite enjoyed it. It’s given me quality time with my family and is creating memories for Hope, my little girl. We will spend a few days in New York and on Saturday I will join a crowd of people for the last 5k of what will be the biggest ever coast to coast relay across the USA. It will be a hard 5k for me as it is the first bit of exercise of properly undertaken in about 3 years. I am lucky to have had this as the motivation of this to get out and train.

So, I want to be clear, I am not asking you to give up your hard earned cash to reward me in some way. Far from it. I am lucky I have this opportunity. I am however asking you to give up a small amount of your hard earned cash for some people around the world who have very few opportunities.

I lead an organisation that is not easy to talk about: We do not have a snazzy name (although this is soon to change), we cannot profess in a quick sentence to save Africans children or give everyone clean water. I have learned over the years that this approach does not work the way we all want to believe it does, I wish it did.

Development does work, if it is done in the right way. We do the thing that is hardest to do – we listen to the people that are surviving and beating extreme poverty or situations of great inequality. We do this through being respectful of peoples’ situations and challenges and supporting them in a way that is right for them. This is the way we all want to and should be treated and the beauty of it is, that it actually works. It creates lasting and meaningful and empowering changes.

So no soundbite, but for change that sticks please give £5, £10 or more if you can, to help us to keep doing the right thing for people all around the world.

https://unitedrelay.org/u/KathrynLlewellyn/sponsor

Thank you
Kathryn x

September 16, 2015 / kathrynllewellyn

Give it up!

When the brilliant fundraising team at Concern Universal asked if I would take up a challenge for our campaign, ‘Survive 5’, the question they asked is “what will be really hard for you to give up and survive without for 5 days or 5 weeks?”

The answer to this came pretty quickly as my little girl has just turned one and has now learned to walk and talk, but does not like to sleep! The three things I am living off are: Coffee, Chocolate and fizzy drinks – Caffeine and sugar!

Giving up caffeine and sugar is not something I want to do for 5 minutes let alone 5 days or weeks and so I thought about some other things I could give up that wouldn’t be so difficult, but I really want to respect this challenge and let’s face it, these are things that I can survive without .

In a bid for solidarity, my other half has agreed to give up fizzy drinks (he drinks way too much of the stuff) and poor old Walter the dog is going to give up being a chubby Chihuahua. This will involve limited treats and a lot more running around (the dog that is!).

The question “what can you survive without” is a bit of fun for this campaign, a chance for us to challenge ourselves while raising some awareness and money. Yet when I think about our campaign, it is an opportunity to change the lives of thousands of children, who, without this help, will not survive to reach their fifth birthday.

So, what can I survive without? Pretty much anything if it means that my #giveitup efforts ensure that a child can survive 5.

Please join me and hundreds of other people who will be surviving without between now and December.

To survive without and #giveitup please sign up here: http://campaign.justgiving.com/charity/concernuniversal/survivefive

Or to sponsor me go here: https://www.justgiving.com/Kathryn-Llewellyn

Thank you for your support

Kathryn (Ben & Walter the dog)

February 10, 2015 / kathrynllewellyn

Let’s show the warm heart of Africa, that we have warm hearts too

Malawi has suffered its greatest disaster for over 50 years. Over a million people have lost their homes, or livelihoods or both. Only a third of the aid needed to stop children dying, people starving and disease taking hold has reached the country.

Why is their plight not worthy of the headlines? The global charity I lead does not really engage in media or emergency relief work, so I’ve been sat back waiting to see the headlines and money roll in for the Malawian people. Neither have come and so we have adapted and are now providing emergency relief and here I am trying to get Malawi in the headlines.

I know that we have all been inundated by asks over the past year, with horrific scenes in Syria and the devastating Ebola rightly taking the headlines, but we cannot turn away now because we feel we have done our bit. We cannot say we’ve had enough of seeing scenes like this, when women and children in Malawi are living a nightmare. They can’t just turn away and neither should we.

At the beginning of this year, women in Malawi struggled to protect their children from the torrents of water that crashed through their villages. As they escaped with just the clothes they wore, dragging sleepy children behind them, their entire lives were washed away. Imagine losing everything and having no one there to help. Most of us can’t imagine it, as it would never be our reality. When there are floods, the Army and emergency services move in to help. Food parcels would be deployed, rescue boats would deliver supplies. No one would die of hunger, malaria or cholera, from dirty water, in the UK.

I have recently had a daughter who is now 6 months old. I don’t leave the house without a suitcase full of kit. I see these women with small babies and young children, with nothing. No food, no water, no nappies and no protection. They are powerless to change their situation: well I’m not powerless and neither are you.

I am unashamedly asking you for you to help, because no one else is. Please, give what you can and share this and our news pages with your friends and relatives. Don’t turn away. Share this post and please give what you can to the warm heart of Africa. To donate £5 text CONCERN to 70500 (UK only) or visit concern-universal.org

April 18, 2013 / kathrynllewellyn

I think a change will do us all good

It’s year three of Positive Women being part of the Live Below the Line Campaign and it is proving the hardest year yet to get people to sign up.

This will be my 3rd year of taking the challenge and don’t get me wrong I’m not looking forward to spending 5 days with limited food choices and no coffee! But this campaign is about looking beyond the challenge and seeing the good that will come out the other end.

We far too often drift through life putting off taking challenges that make us uncomfortable and trying not to think about the problems of the world. Or the problems we care about shift from one day to the next and one week to the next and leave us all feeling a bit powerless and that even if do something to change one thing, something else will come along next week.

I’m the same, I spend one week furious about the war in Syria and the next about the tragedy at the Boston Marathon. We are human and we care and we get angry – that’s all normal and right. But what we are not is powerless. We do have the power to make a change in the world.

Many times people have belittled the work we do in Swaziland as not making a big enough difference on a big enough scale. Sometimes this really gets to me and I want to do more and I want to help everyone all of the time.

I don’t want to go to Swaziland and see children as young as 3 or 4 suffering from malnutrition and without any adults to look after them. I don’t want to go to Swaziland and see girls as young as 11 being a parent to their three younger siblings. But the reality is that things take time to change and we can’t all help everyone all of the time. But we can all help somebody some of the time.

That is what this challenge is. Its you taking 5 days to help raise money and awareness about the lives of women and children who live in one of the poorest countries in the world and who have no-one else to speak for them or to help them thrive.

If you raise £100 – we can feed a child for 5 months. So you give up 5 days and you help one child for 5 months. Lucky you, lucky us that we can have that impact on the world and on someone else’s life in such a short space of time.

I am choosing to Living Below the Line from the 29th April – 3rd May, because women and children in Swaziland have no choice but to live there every day and I just don’t think that’s acceptable and I am damn well going to change it.

Join me and sign up to Live Below the Line for Positive Women https://www.livebelowtheline.com/uk-positivewomen

or support me by donating: https://www.livebelowtheline.com/me/katllewellyn

May 30, 2012 / kathrynllewellyn

Lose your way – We won’t follow!

Many of you may have seen the reports today about Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe being asked by the UN to become an ambassador for tourism. It verges on comical that a man who is banned from travelling to Europe because of his human rights abuse record is now being asked to promote tourism by the UN.

I’ve found myself consumed with rage today about this – hence this very ranty blog you are about to read.

A dear friend of mine Lovemore Matombo, was the leader of the Zimbabwe trade union movement and a man who truly lives by the saying “be the change you want to see in the world”. He has spent his life fighting for what is right. He has defended the rights of the voiceless in Zimbabwe and ensured that Mugabe has been challenged at every level. This has of course come at a dear price for him and his family. He has stood at the front of more demonstrations than most of us will have even seen. He has been arrested, tortured and victimised for doing the right thing. He is honest, just, brave and all that is good and right with the world.

Over the past few weeks Lovemore has been in hospital with pneumonia. He has been in a critical condition and in need of intensive care.  His health is so poor because of the amount of physical trauma it’s been put under – a result the beatings and torture he received. Medical care in Zimbabwe is not free and so his family have struggled financially, but have managed to pay for some of the hospital fees. Their money has now run out – yet Lovemore still needs care if he’s to survive this illness.

I’ve spent the last week trying to raise this money and I’ve not been successful to date – I’m still trying. This morning, reading about the UN’s latest move and Mugabe’s smug and disgusting twisting of the story back in Zimbabwe, has made me more angry than I’ve been in a very long time.

 

Human rights abuses still happen every day in Zimbabwe. Mugabe turned a beautiful and prosperous country into ashes. The blood has moved far beyond his hands and he is soaked in it.  He is all that is wrong with the world – greed, self interest, power and hate. He symbolises why we – as a global society – have such heartache and pain. Yet an international institution that was set up to facilitate cooperation in human rights, social progress and world peace, is providing a platform for a man who stands for the exact opposite.

There will be very few people who disagree with what I’ve said in this blog (rant), but how many of you will act?  To make change happen we have to take action. I’ve written to William Hague to let him know just how I feel and just how disappointed I am that an organisation that Britain is a member of is acting in a way that totally violates the values on which it was founded.

I’m offended to my core and you should be too. My ask to you is to act by emailing Mr Hague to let him know that we want a UN system that champions people like Lovemore Matombo and not the man who’s covered in blood. E-mail:  haguew@parliament.uk

December 14, 2011 / kathrynllewellyn

Murder by any other name is still murder

After 10 years of fighting for change, of fighting to ensure that people don’t needlessly die from HIV/AIDS, the woman that inspired me to make a difference in the world is now frightened that it’s all been for nothing. That all she has sacrificed and fought for is going to disappear before her eyes.

Can you imagine how hard it was convincing rural communities in Swaziland to believe in you enough to get tested for a disease that they knew could lead to their family disowning them and having to face the reality of living with such life altering disease.

Siphiwe, managed to do this. She managed to get over 5000 women, to believe enough to transform their lives. They believed in her and trusted her and now because of the fast and painful halt of funds to Swaziland by the Global Fund, she faces the devastating reality of watching all she has built up crumble before her eyes. Watching the women and children whose lives she saved, needlessly die.

How you would feel having to go back to just one person that you had convinced to get tested for HIV and onto treatment and tell them that you are no longer able to be there to support them and help them access the life saving treatment, you, had convinced them to start taking. Now imagine telling 5000 people.

Siphiwe has also been proving daily food for over 600 Orphans. Children as young as 1 and children who are heading households depend on this meal. Because of the immoral and I’d argue illegal withdrawal of money from the global fund, these children will turn up to the feeding centers and there will be no one there to help or feed them. Imagine having to tell a 6-year-old child that they have to go and fend for themselves now. I sure as hell wouldn’t want to and neither does Siphiwe.

We cannot let this happen. We cannot let all of the blood, sweat and tears that have gone into transforming the lives of these women and children be for nothing. We cannot let the hundreds of thousands of people who are dependant on Antiretroviral drugs and support from organizations like Siphiwe’s needlessly die.

If this is going to happen, then it cannot happen in silence. If these women and children are going to suffer and die, it will not be in silence. We need to make sure that those making the decision, that those who are withdrawing the money, hear the loud screams that Siphiwe will hear when she tells her communities that they are now alone.

We have to be their voice, we have to fight on their behalf. I know it is Christmas and we are all busy and winding down. The politicians are too. Christmas or no Christmas, this is happening to those women and children and it’s happening right now, their lives are in the balance and we have to tip the balance back in their favour.

An incredible man called Stephen Lewis refers to this situation as murder and I completely agree.  His full and amazing account of why this is the mass murder of women in Africa is here: http://www.actsa.org/newsroom/2011/12/stephen-lewis-“reduced-support-to-global-fund-tantamount-to-murder”/

Please take action with me. Send an e-mail demanding that the Global Fund lives up to it’s promises. Or just send them this blog, or Stephen Lewis’s speech. Please do something.  If you are in the UK the send an e-mail to: andrew.mitchell.mp@parliament.uk

If you are somewhere else in the world, then send an e-mail to your Minister for internal affairs, of international development.

These women and children need us to act.  They need us right this wrong. Their lives really do depend on it.

 

 

October 24, 2011 / kathrynllewellyn

Imagine

I spent this evening crying. I rarely admit to crying over articles I read, no matter how gruesome the tale. But today I read about a 61 year old woman, who had been gang raped in the DRC in Africa. I will quote her, so you can hear the effect this had on her, from her mouth, her words:

“…Every time I hear a noise, I jump. Every night, I am hiding in the bushes because I’m scared they will come back… It’s a miserable life. I would prefer to die,”

I think there are a number of reasons I ended up in tears. One was because my mother is this lady’s age and I can’t believe that a woman, a mother a person who could be my mother, had to go through and continue to go through such horror.

I think the reason I cried was because I can’t seem to galvanise the support I need to demand a voice for these women, quick enough. It horrifies me that more women will have to experience this. It horrifies me that they have no escape from this unacceptable abuse.

So I cried. For quite a while I cried and now I’m filled with renewed determination and strength to do something – to act.

I refuse to live in a world where we continue to let this happen. I refuse to live in a world where we don’t at least try and stop the gruesome violation and abuse of women and girls around the world.

Imagine your wife, daughter, mother, sister, niece or friend. Imagine they are faced with this reality, a reality where their ability to choose who and where to have sex is eroded. Imagine a world where, if she was raped and attacked, you could do nothing about it; the law doesn’t support them to bring the perpetrator to justice. That world exists; it’s our world today. But it doesn’t have to be. We have the power to change it.

Every time I read one of these stories of gang rape and violence, every time I meet a woman who has been raped, every time I speak to a girl who is being regularly raped and has no one to protect her – it makes my resolve stronger. If these amazing people can survive horrors that none of us would ever want to imagine, then I can continue to fight for them and with them. You can continue to fight for them and with them.

I want you to do something, act today. Join me today by doing something. Sign up to support Positive Women, or ask your company to, your school or your community group. Or write to your MP and demand that they prioritise women when they give aid. Demand that they do more, care more and act more.

It may feel like a hard battle to win but as a good friend of mine told me, “ You don’t get freedom without fighters” and so I’m going to keep fighting and hope you will too.

Imagine a world where no rape is ever condoned, where girls are safe and where we all have an equal chance in life. I set up Positive Women because I want that world. Please join me, make a change.