25.25.25

My friend Amy is a chatterbox. That is why it is a huge deal that she is being silent for 25 hours on the 25th of April. The reason she’s doing it? To take a stand against the 25 year war the LRA has waged against various African countries by supporting the work of Invisible Children, who work with war-affected children in these terrorised areas.

Find out more about the war, the silence, and the part you can play here.

Confessions of a Shopaholic, part 2.

90 million chocolate Easter bunnies are produced each year. The time for these small mammals and their feathered friends, in their embryonic and fully-developped stages (read: Easter eggs and wee chicks…I’m just trying to sound scientific), as well as many other innovative shapes (Easter chocolate mini-pizza anyone?!) to be bought and eaten is fast approaching.

As you buy eggs and bunnies and whatever else for friends and family members, as you pass the shelves saturated with every kind of chocolate’s Easter range in your grocery store, and as you ponder which part to eat first (ears or feet?!), I’d like to throw something into the mix for you to think about:

Is your Easter bunny a product of slavery?

The sad reality is that some of the companies who will provide our chocolate bunnies this Easter are still using child labour, forced labour and trafficking in their cocoa supply chains. 90 million bunnies. 27 million slaves.

How much does your Easter chocolate really cost? Who is paying?

Slaves are often sent to places like the Ivory Coast, a leading cocoa-producing country, to work in absolutely abysmal conditions. An IHS article in 2006 wrote of the atrocity: ”…children, usually 12-to-14-years-old but sometimes younger, are forced to do hard manual labor 80 to 100 hours a week. They are paid nothing, are barely fed, are beaten regularly, and are often viciously beaten if they try to escape. Most will never see their families again.”

“The beatings were a part of my life,” Aly Diabate, a freed slave, told reporters. “Anytime they loaded you with bags (of cocoa beans) and you fell while carrying them, nobody helped you. Instead they beat you and beat you until you picked it up again.” (http://ihscslnews.org/view_article.php?id=173)

Note: after this post had been published, a source informed us that since the civil war in the Ivory Coast, the cocoa trade there has dried up, therefore actions concerning unethical cocoa farming should be related mainly to other locations.

This is NOT the story I want behind my Easter bunny. You?

We, as the consumers, have power. Let’s use it.

*Be informed. There are, unfortunately, still companies who have not yet committed to ensuring that all their cocoa products are ethically sourced. Check out this website that allows to search for your favourite food companies and gives you an ‘ethical rating’ to consider as you decide who to buy from: http://www.free2work.org/products?cat=26

Are you an iPhone user? Get the ‘Fairly Local’ app – “a socially-responsible app that helps you track down Fairtrade products in local cafes and stores in your area.”

*Buy from companies who promise ethical sourcing following the information you find. Divine Easter eggs are Fair Trade labelled and offer a lovely range of chocolate. Cadbury’s range is also now Fair Trade. Thornton’s offers a Fair Trade range. Tesco, Sainsbury’s etc… are also now offering customers their own versions of Fair Trade chocolate.

Check this link for more information on Fair Trade Easter chocolate: http://www.easter-eggs.org.uk/fair-trade-easter-eggs/ When you buy, check for either the Fair Trade label or a written commitment to ethical cocoa sourcing.

*Be vocal. Let’s not simply boycot the companies with low ratings: let’s tell the companies why we will not buy their chocolate until they make a change. Today, people are doing just that…

Nestle is currently under fire with activists peppering their Facebook page with the question: What comes first, the children or the egg? as not all of their products are under ethical sourcing policies. http://www.facebook.com/Nestle?sk=wall&filter=1

Hershey’s currently has no cocoa-tracing or worker-protecting policies in place, and 8,220 people have asked that they change this: http://www.change.org/petitions/hershey-raise-the-bar

These initiatives and petitions do work. Amongst many examples, consider this: when consumer pressure was placed on Kit Kat, it became fully ethically sourced: (http://www.fairtrade.org.uk/press_office/press_releases_and_statements/december_2009/kit_kat_gives_cocoa_farmers_in_cte_divoire_a_break.aspx).)

How wonderful it is to know we are heard when we speak out. How immense the responsibility we have as consumers to use our voices to ensure that we are not buying products that directly encourage modern day slavery. It is upto us.

“Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels” – Kids’ Edition

August 2011 update: following an investigation by ASA, Zazzle have now ‘restricted the design’ so it doesn’t appear on t-shirts for kids anymore. This presumably means they are still open to designs involving the slogan on adult t-shirts; which is still very, very problematic.

In 2009, Kate Moss spoke the words that sparked the attention of many: ”Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels.” Eating disorder experts were up in arms over this suggested mantra, media critics went down heavy on the celebrity/fashion industry’s diet culture whilst “pro-ana” (pro-anorexia) and other such parties used it as something to live by (and still do – search the words on twitter and find plenty of under-eating, over-exercising skinny-chasers).

Today, the words have made their way onto a new stage: that of the world of children. http://www.zazzle.co.uk is selling t-shirts encrypted with the slogan, made and marketed US-based firm Teen Modelling.

Babygrows with another disgusting slogan, ”Don’t feed the model”, are also available.

Due to the secretive and hidden nature of eating disorders, statistics can be but conservative estimates; however, there are thought to be at least 1.1 million people in the UK who are affected by an eating disorder. Roughly 10% of these are men, and this statistic is growing increasingly higher. The Mental Health Foundation suggests that 1 in every 100 women struggles with an eating disorder. Whilst young people in the age-group 14-25 are most at risk of developing an eating-related illness, there is no ‘age limit’ on it and those suffering from these illnesses are getting younger.

This is NOT a healthy-eating slogan. Children and adults should indeed be taught to care for their bodies and make good food choices. But the message of this slogan is something different. It is not referring to making sure children get their 5-a-day or choose brown over white bread, it is not about health – it was spoken by a member of the size-zero world, and no child should feel the pressure to sacrifice their health for its ideal.

Similarly, people who are naturally slim should not feel attacked by this. The ‘skinny’ here is in reference to something that is obtained through not eating -”nothing tastes…”, not a healthy natural body-type.

“Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels” = “Skinny is what to aim for, and your health is the price to pay for it”.

This message is harmful to people of all ages. However, a spokesman for BEAT (Beating Eating Disorders) commented that this message is “clearly a very dangerous message and one that should not be reaching girls at a young and impressionable age.” The girls who are targeted by this clothing are still developing physically and as such are more vulnerable to insecurity relating to their changing bodies; they are also more exposed to bullying; and they are the generation that is severely saturated by images of ‘celebrities’ who model the unrealistic and unhealthy archetype of ‘skinny’, reinforcing their minds the false equation of skinny = beautiful/healthy.

We must stand up to this. We must refuse to let our children be harmed by these messages. We will not allow Kate Moss and Zazzle and Teen Modelling to dictate what is beautiful, nor how we should treat our bodies.

Please stand with us. You have a voice and the power to change the message. A spokesman for the website said the range expressed personal opinions and viewpoints of the designers, but the Advertising Standards Agency has said it would look into the ads if complaints were sent to them. Ask the Advertising Standards Authority to use their new power over online marketing to remove the images from Zazzle’s website and let Teen Modelling know that you are not OK with children being taught that skinny is beautiful and that bodies should be treated unhealthily.

Go to http://www.asa.org.uk/Complaints/How-to-complain/Online-Form/Step1.aspx and complete their easy-access Online Complaint Form. Just a few lines will do. I wrote:

“Children need to be in an environment that promotes healthy eating and healthy body-image, and Kate Moss’ infamous “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels” mantra is damaging to this kind of environment. Please stand up for the protection and well-being of our children by removing Teen Modelling’s harmful slogan t-shirts. We refuse to bring up our sons and daughters in this way. I look forward to your response. Thank you for your time and attention.”

UNI

Yesterday I had the rather daunting privilege of going along to chat to a group of school-leavers about the impending doom of their University careers (JOKE! I PROMISE!). I knew they had questions to ask someone who was not an expert, but someone a little further along the path who survived and loved Uni, and I also wanted to draw on the experience and infinite wisdom of some of my friends who had been through Uni as well. This all made for great conversation and I ended up learning things, too. Some of the friends’ advice was just too good to go unpublished, so I thought I’d share the top 7 golden nuggets with you:

1. University is a great challenge AND a great opportunity.

2. These are some of the most formative years of your life which will set patterns and lay foundations which last a lifetime.

3. A year (or 3, 4) is a blink of an eye and such an opportunity to broaden horizons if one is not certain of their course (also – is anyone ever certain about their course choice?!). (NB: controversial advice? I think he means that it is OK if you don’t decide to go into a career directly linked with your degree course – enjoy broadening your horizons and trying out new things anyway!)

4. You may never have more free time in your life so invest it well!

5. If you are still deciding on a course, make sure you choose something you enjoy to lead to a career that you will love.

6. Connect with people on Facebook before going.

7. Embrace uni to the full – join clubs, engage with other students.

My 2 cents are:

You may feel like this is a preparatory stage, but actually – you are changing the world through how you live NOW. Yes, you are learning a trade or deepening your knowledge of a particular subject, but you are not living in an incubator. Life does NOT begin after these 3 or 4 years at uni. It has already begun, and you are living it. You have choices to make and the person you want to be needs to be the person you are BEING now.

Remember that you are privileged – every country has a different percentage of people who attend university, but in the UK, you are amongst 36% of young people. Make the most of that. Get out of bed. Go to your lectures. Study hard. Do well on your assignments. Honour the privilege.

And lastly, one that makes people laugh: relationships at uni! When you get to uni, you realise that there are, indeed, many fish in the sea. You don’t need to date/”go for coffee” with every good-looking, similarly-interested, quite bright, fairly humorous fish you encounter on your swim. Set standards and stick to them. It’ll make for less bubbles (which aren’t great for fish, or you).

Confessions of a Shopaholic, Part 1

I’ve just begun a new series of posts on the Modern Day Slavery blog (http://moderndayslaveryblog.wordpress.com/2011/03/30/confessions-of-a-shopaholic-part-1/) about changing my shopping habits in the face of slavery and human trafficking.

I’m a self-confessed “girly girl”. Make up, shoes, handbags, pretty dresses, the latest nail colours – I like them. And with the girly girl territory seems to come an avid enjoyment of shopping. Shopping has tended to become, in the lives of a lot of us girly girls (and others), a hobby. Something during which we socialise. Something we do when we’re stressed out. Something we do when we’re not feeling great. I used to enjoy being a girly girl shopper. Until I realised the cost of it.

This past summer was the time when I became very aware of human trafficking and as my heart was broken over it, 2 things struck me in relation to me being such a consumer:

1. It isn’t fair for me to have so much when others have so little. Why do I have 50+ pairs of shoes when little girls have none? Why do I have the money to spend on clothes I rarely wear when others don’t have a spare change? Or worse, don’t have enough money to buy, making them desperate and vulnerable to organised crime? Why do I have the choice of clothes I have when other women are forced to wear clothes they see as inappropriate in order to make their bodies attractive to men who violate them?

2. My shopping habits contribute to the demand for slavery. No, I don’t visit brothels or have a slave in my house. But some of the clothes shops I shop in use forced labour as a means of providing me with low prices. My sparkly purple Blackberry contains materials sourced by slaves. The chocolate I would like to enjoy at Easter time may contain cocoa harvested by slaves. The magazines I buy are littered with pages encouraging the sexualisation and objectification women which encourages the demand for sexual exploitation; encouraging the consumer in me to put my instant gratification above my social conscience.

Above my social conscience? That’s a clumsy phrase. Above the knowledge that the 27 million people who are enslaved in the world today are my brothers and sisters. If my beautiful younger sister was caught in slavery and I could send her money to help her instead of spending it on another handbag, I would. If she was caught in slavery, and I could help by not buying the product she was enslaved to produce, I would stop buying it.

Where does this leave me? On a journey, involving fighting consumerism, fighting the elements of our society which encourage slavery, and being a responsible shopper. Should I boycott certain shops, or write them letters instead? Which petitions do I sign? Can I use unknown sources on ebay and in markets? What should I do with the clothes and shoes I have but don’t wear? I don’t have all the answers. But thus begins a series of blog posts documenting my search for some of them.

How broken can a broken heart get?

The past weeks, and especially the past few days, have shown us very closely how broken our world is, and how fragile our life within it is. Whether it be in relation to the unrest and brutality occurring in the Mid East, the horror and tragedy Japan is going through, more local news that has saddened or angered us, or a situation in our own lives that is causing hurt and pain – or, indeed, the tragic reality that modern day slavery is ongoing in this world – and in dealing with these things, I think it is important that we allow ourselves to face the pain and what it means…these things leave us very, very broken-hearted.

I had a conversation with a friend this week about how much brokenness one heart can bear – is there a limit? I’m a stage in my life at the minute where I feel very, very heart-broken over many things…And sometimes it feels like I can’t take anymore. As a Christian, I have asked God to ”break my heart for what breaks His”. Sometimes though, I almost wish I never had. I’d rather have a heart made of stone that just went through life without being affected by tragedy or horror and without feeling sadness or pain.

The thing I have found to be such a comforting thought to cling to is that of knowing that Jesus understands my broken heart and that he is more broken-hearted over the things my heart is broken for than I can comprehend.

I don’t think it can stop at us being broken-hearted: I’m learning that what so often and so strongly breaks our hearts is what we are called to bring change to; we cannot stop at being broken-hearted over it. There has to be a reason. I’m not ok with being uselessly broken-hearted and I don’t think God would want for us to have broken hearts for no reason. There has to be purpose to this. What use can my broken heart have? I think often these things only make sense in looking back. But I want it to have some kind of use.

Sometimes, I think a broken heart is a way of getting our attention and moving us to some kind of action…

Whether it is praying for Libya, sending donations to Japan, raising awareness of trafficking…there has to be a purpose for my broken heart.

Baby, I Was Born This Way

Self-esteem: confidence in one’s own worth or abilities. (Oxford English Dictionary 2008)

I’ve been struck recently by the pursuit of self-esteem that seems to be at the forefront of our society’s agenda. TIME ran an article last month on research carried by Ohio State University that found college/university students to choose a boost in self-esteem over sex or money. The authors wrote:

“When people ‘want’ self-esteem more than they ‘like’ it, they pursue behavioral strategies to obtain it. Both men and women valued self-esteem more than sex and food. Men also valued self-esteem more than money, friends, and alcohol, whereas women only valued self-esteem more than alcohol. Collectively, these findings lend new credence to the view of self-esteem as an essential need.”

Thus the studies highlighted the value placed on self-esteem and the recognition that it is more valuable to us than many of the perceived desires of our generation (and others) are accredited with.

Where better to look for answers than to the thing we most look to for everything else – popular culture. The current UK Top 40 echoes the longing for this confidence in our own worth, and suggests some answers. Some artists offer anthems declaring that who they are is ok, suggesting self-esteem will come from self-acceptance. In a song which she told Good Morning America today she knew was ‘destined to reach so many people’, Lady Gaga sings:

“I’m beautiful in my way,
‘Cause God makes no mistakes
I’m on the right track, baby
I was born this way”

Ke$ha joins the self-acclamation party so aptly illustrated in the cartoon below by declaring that she and her friends are ”superstars, we are who we are” not to messed with.

Other artists take on the role of boosting others’ self-esteem. Katy Perry likens her listener to a firework who should “let their colours burst, make them go ‘oh, oh, oh!’“. Pink offers a boost to her partner by asking them to not “ever feel like you’re less than perfect…because baby you’re f***ing perfect to me”. Bruno Mars joins in on being a self-esteem giver in singing to his girlfriend, praising her for being “amazing, just the way you are“.

Will listening to these songs really help in the search for self-esteem? Do we repeat after the artists in the hope that our self-esteem will increase?


Does shouting from the rooftops that you are who you are, or having a partner love your smile really give you what this search for self-esteem is asking for? And whilst we’re in the realm of popular culture, do the very same artists who give us permission to be ‘born this way’ or act like a ‘firework’ not also dictate to us what to look at, how to behave sexually, what to value; putting at risk this sought-after self-esteem? Or do the ‘sense of social belonging’ and ‘good grades’ associated with self-esteem in the OSU studies REALLY give us what we are looking for?

Carol Landau, in her critique of the methodology of the OSU studies, suggested that self-esteem boosters were not within the students’ control. Self-esteem therefore becomes something which we chase after without really being sure we’ll get it.

So is self-esteem, the confirmation that it was ok for us to be ‘born this way’, really what to look for? And if so, how will we get it if it isn’t actually within our control? Is the quest for self-esteem then symptomatic of something more…a desire for freedom, for knowing and being known, loving and being loved, fully and passionately…a desire for something much more than these songs or singers or grades or social encounters could ever bring?

Read the TIME article here: http://healthland.time.com/2011/01/12/young-adults-choose-self-esteem-boost-over-sex-and-money/#ixzz1EECDpGSq

“I never had decent shoes before.”

I was reading last night about the invisible soldiers, children used in armies all over the world. The issue is one that is so atrocious, and so hidden. In becoming interested and involved in the fight against human trafficking, this is one area that I haven’t paid much attention to but is now tugging at the threads of my heart and one that, despite its painful and disgusting nature, I hope to become more familiar with.

Some figures I have come across are:

There are 300,000 children fighting in armed conflicts at any one time.

The children are often sent to the front lines of battles to take the worst of the fighting. They are also used as human mine detectors and spies, and the girls are used as sex slaves.

They are often made to kill each other so as to ”not fear death” and not want to escape.

Almost half of Bolivia’s armed forces are under 18.

Some parents take pride in their children wearing a uniform and sell their children to the armies.

Sudan is recorded as having one of the world’s worst child soldiers records.

Uganda’s ‘Lord’s Resistance Army’ has abducted 20,000 children over the last 17 years.

Child soldiers experience trauma that leave them with long-term guilt, shame, low self-esteem, nightmares and depression. They are robbed of their childhood.

One little girl in Sierra Leone, a member of the rebel army explained that she was drawn into the army through the offer of being fed and clothed – ”They offered me a choice of shoes and dresses. I never had decent shoes before.

That line haunted my dreams last night…she never had decent shoes before, and that’s why she enrolled in the rebel army that no doubt raped her, asked her to hurt others, robbed her of her innocence.

If my sister told me she was enrolling in something so horrible because she didn’t have decent shoes, I would run out and buy her all the shoes she wanted, or give her all of mine, or sell mine and give her whatever she needed.

That little girl IS my sister. Not to sound cliché, but the human race is one family. And my sister in Sierra Leone joined a rebel army because she wanted shoes. I have more shoes than I will need throughout my whole life…

Why?

”I crossed the line”…Kanye, you certainly did.

08.06.2011 update: The official version of the video is here: http://www.twitvid.com/BBBAX (WARNING: the video is extremely offensive and graphic. I do NOT recommend watching it.) They have taken out the young girls from Jay-Z’s scene, but the video remains absolutely sick. The written message at the beginning of the video states that its content is “in no way to be interpreted as misogynistic or negative towards any groups of people. It is an art piece and it shall be taken as such.” The video’s message is strongly misogynistic and negative towards women, and is in no way to be considered ‘art’. Our petition now stands at 15k+ signatures and when read by Universal, they agreed to not broadcast the video in its current form (ie: the leaked video version). This is an ongoing battle. Please sign if you haven’t already done so.

From 12.01.2011: Hip hop fans were thrilled when Kanye West and Jay-Z announced the release of a joint album which, following the musical track record enjoyed by both of the artists, promised to be a fresh and exciting offering.

But the track that is now destined to be the most talked about is Monster, which the two involve Rick Ross and newbie Nicki Minaj in. Because of its catchy riffs? Intricate raps? Pumping beat? No. The video for the song – which I won’t comment on until the final cut has been released – was leaked on Dec 30th; a preview of which has been making the rounds, catching the attention of many over its disgusting material.

I held off from blogging immediately after viewing the video because I wanted to avoid a solely emotional response at the material Kanye and his friends promote. Also, as an important aside – please do NOT go and watch the video after reading this. The last thing we need is to make it more popular than it is.

The ‘hookline’ of the song is ”everybody knows I’m a m-f-ing monster”, a line repeated by the artists throughout the length of the track. Appropriate. The way they act in the video and the people they show themselves to be in through being involved in the video is monstrous.

“- Dead women, clad in lingerie, hang by chains around their necks.

– West makes sexual moves toward dead or drugged women propped up in a bed.

– A naked dead or drugged woman lays sprawled on a sofa.

If that’s not enough, a behind-the-scenes clip of the video includes a semi-naked dead woman laying spread eagled on a table in front of Rick Ross as he eats a plate of raw meat. It is likely we can expect more brutal images in the full-length video.” (From Sharon Haywood).

The dangers of this video are numerous and great. For women, for men, for children, for victims of prostitution, trafficking, and violence, for our society and all those who are exposed to such influences. One critic suggested that all involved in this video do indeed have ‘blood on their hands‘. That’s not ‘art’.

I have been privileged to be involved with Mel Tankard Reist and Sharon Haywood & Pia Guerrero as they have put together a petition asking the CEO/Chairman of Universal Music Group (Doug Morris) and CEO of MTV (Judy McGrath) to stand against the release of the video. Excitingly, Coalition Against Trafficking in Women Australia, Collective Shout and Adios Barbie are sponsoring this initiative.

The letter is as follows:

Dear Mr. Morris and Ms. McGrath,

We the undersigned write in response to the leaked video teaser of Kanye West’s video “Monster,” released by HipHipConnection.com. The shocking and demeaning images of slain women, fetishized and eroticized in the video clip, suggest that violence against women is sexy. The 30-second clip sends the message that women as lifeless and passive objects are sexually appealing.

As one critic has written, “Women are slaves and bitches who can service a man’s sexual needs, even in death. Men are brutal and dominant, and have no empathy for women. Men enjoy dead women as sex and entertainment. The female body is to be devoured, reduced to the same status as meat. Female bodies should be displayed before men as a great feast for their consumption.”

The mainstreaming of videos of this nature, combined with accessible and repeated exposure contributes to desensitized and callous attitudes toward violence against women, which is a scourge around the world. Becoming numb to violent images makes violent acts easier to commit and condone.

We ask you to consider the fact that much of West’s fan base is comprised of young people in the formative stages of their development. Possibly millions of them globally will absorb and potentially internalize the unhealthy and harmful messages that women are playthings and objects of male pleasure – even if dead or drugged – and that they do not deserve basic human rights.

We hope you will agree with us that the music industry portrayals of women’s pain, suffering, abuse, objectification, and victimization as valid forms of entertainment are not acceptable.

An official release date of the full-length video has yet to be announced. We respectfully request that you take a stand against the official release of “Monster” by refusing to promote, support, and/or give it airtime.

We await your response.

I’ve signed. Have you? http://www.thepetitionsite.com/1/prevent-official-release-of-kanye-wests-women-hating-monster-video/

I am a spoiled brat

My 4-month fast from Diet Coke and clothes shopping to raise awareness and funds for http://www.love146.org ended a few days ago. Now that I have enjoyed both of these things, many thoughts are swirling around my mind. Here are some things people asked throughout and at the end of it:

Did I miss Diet Coke and clothes shopping as much as I might have thought? Not nearly as much. I surprisingly missed the drink more than the shopping, I had got into the habit of grabbing a DC as I ran from uni to work or when I needed a ‘lift’, and this psychological craving did indeed last the 4 months. I sometimes saw clothes that I would have liked to own, but overall, once I got out of the habit of clothes shopping, I didn’t miss it.

What did I do instead (if anything)?
I found carrying fresh fruit and a water bottle in my bag gave me the same kind of lift as DC and broke bad habits related to it. I was lucky in the sense that the fast began just as my new life in Canterbury began, so patterns that I had established during my undergrad years did not automatically come with me; this made it easier then to start afresh without these things.

What did this experience teach me?

Not buying clothes was a massive lesson: I rarely shopped out of true necessity (no matter what I told myself), rather I shopped out of habit. Others who fasted from it have said similar things, we had simply got used to spending Saturday afternoon/Thursday night/whenever shopping, shopping when we felt ’emotional’, shopping when an event was coming up (when we still had unworn things in our wardrobes). It was a great lesson to ‘make do’ with the vast amount of clothes I have, finding things I hadn’t worn in months or years, re-working old outfits, etc…

I realise that making the act of giving up these things into a blog post is almost paradoxical to the nature of the fast – that is, to fight human trafficking – as these things are luxuries that I do not need or deserve and did not suffer from giving up. This very thought was constantly in my mind…if I wanted a DC, or took a fancy for a new dress, I was reminded of those who do not have these things, and so much more. What right did I have to ‘drug’ myself and be ‘hooked’ on DC when women are drugged into submission to violating acts? Or how could I have come to expect and accept that it was ok for me to have far too many clothes, that I have chosen, when little girls are given one pair of heels and a skimpy dress that they should never wear and sent out into darkness…

Shamefully, what I enjoyed most when our fasting time was up was the knowledge that I had the ‘freedom’ to enjoy a cold glass of DC or hit the sales after Christmas. Wait…the freedom?! I am a spoiled brat. What about the freedom I take for granted every day…that of waking and living where I like, that of being able to walk around freely and indulge in going for coffee, going shopping, going for a walk, going to a gig, going to see a movie…that of choosing the people I spend time with, that of choosing what to study and which career path to go down, that of sitting here typing in a warm living room with the Christmas lights on and my sister reading a book next to me, of having plans to see family and friends tonight…the list could go for so, so long. Perhaps as you read this, you might take a moment to ponder how different your life could look, so easily. Anyone can become a slave. A frighteningly increasing number of people are becoming enslaved in our neighbourhoods, offering services that have become the furniture of our society.

I am not one of them. You are not either.

It has been an honour to have had a little glimpse, through this fast, of how blessed I am. It is my hope that the money we have raised will serve as a drop of water in the ocean of the fight against slavery. There is so, so much more to do. But this is a start.