As a relative newcomer to the world of blogging and Twitter, I’d like to use this week’s post to propose a toast to social media – cheers! We hear a lot of bad publicity about internet trolls, Facebook bullying and other drawbacks, but maybe not enough about the amazing power of the web to connect people across the world, highlight important issues, and raise money for charities.
One of the blogs I’ve enjoyed recently is NeverSeconds. If you’re one of the few people who haven’t come across this yet, let me fill you in. It was set up a couple of months ago by nine-year-old Scottish schoolgirl Martha Payne, who commented on and photographed the school lunches she received each day. Now, they say a picture tells a thousand words and pretty soon a heck of a lot of people, including TV chef and school dinner champion Jamie Oliver, were visiting Martha’s site and expressing concern about the often inadequate quality and quantity of food in the photos. Children from all over the world joined the discussion and sent Martha snapshots of their own lunches, and it was fantastic to see youngsters taking such a lively interest in food and nutrition.
Martha also included a link to a good cause which she and her friends support, called Mary’s Meals. This charity raises money to build kitchens in schools and provide food for children in countries where poverty and hunger would otherwise prevent them from gaining an education.
Last Friday, Argyll and Bute Council attempted to quash the debate by banning any more photos from being taken in the dining hall. Like thousands of other supporters, I took to Twitter to protest against this censorship and remind the authorities that encouraging our children to think for themselves, have a voice and express their opinions is a fundamental right and should be at the heart of educational policy. Thanks to the power of the little blue bird there was a hasty climb-down and a live announcement on the midday news from a council official that they’d shot themselves in the foot (or words to that effect . . .) Victory for common-sense and a massive surge of new donations to Mary’s Meals as yet more people visited Martha’s blogsite – what a great result. I look forward to a time when local authorities will be proud to show photographs of the delicious and nutritious food they serve in school, and I’ll also follow Martha’s career as an investigative journalist with interest.
A round of applause to Cumbrian sisters Alice and Milly Pyne, aged 16 and 13, who have both received the British Empire Medal in the Queen’s birthday honours list. Alice has been fighting cancer for five years and her blog – Alice’s Bucket List – shares her hopes and dreams for all the things she wants to achieve in the time that’s left to her, and documents her progress towards ticking them off her wish list. Her motto is ‘One life . . . live it!’ Alice and her family have set up a charity, Alice’s Escapes, to provide free holidays in the Lake District for families with a seriously ill child, and together have raised tens of thousands of pounds. Alice has also met with the Prime Minister to raise the profile of her campaign to get everyone in Britain to sign up to the Bone Marrow Donor Register. Her can-do attitude and determination to make the most of every moment is awe-inspiring and humbling. Congratulations too to sister Milly, who will be carrying the Olympic torch through Keswick this week.
So thanks to the new media which have allowed me to connect with these inspirational young people – and an extra cheer for the loving and supportive families who have encouraged them every step of the way.
Have you been inspired by reading a blog or hearing a young person’s story? Leave a comment and share your favourites here.
Poem of the week
Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.
Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow.