#MoveMoreInMarch 2017 – a pledge fulfilled, a life transformed.

Readers of my blog may recall that last year I was inspired by Mark Pattenden, a lower leg amputee, to #MoveMoreInMarch.  At the time Mark was RUNNING 10k a DAY, every day, to help fund a running blade for fellow amputee Hannah Moore, in an incredible ‘pay it forward’ initiative. I was reading Mark’s Facebook posts about his progress, from the comfort of my sofa whilst feeling ashamed of the fact that I was able-bodied and yet made no effort at all to exercise.  I set myself a goal to walk 100 miles in March (which was a lot for someone who had a very sedentary lifestyle; I typically walked, on average, 1.6 miles a day) and I pledged to donate £31 (£1 a day) to Mark’s initiative at the end of March if I achieved my goal… or £62 if I failed!

I then shared with you in April that I had achieved my goal and what I had discovered along the way.

In September 17 my blog was about ‘Walking Mindfully’and the importance of doing something which makes your heart sing

And then winter came, bringing bitterly cold winds, rain, mud, snow, ice… did it stop us walking? Surprisingly it didn’t. After spending the previous six months mindfully walking together, I was delighted when Pauline – my walking buddy (and one of my besties) – said she had no intention of giving up our weekend walks for winter! We both bought waterproof clothing – Pauline treated us both to balaclavas and some  fabulous sheep hats and we continued walking. 

For blog

We have walked in sunshine, drizzle, fog, high winds, heavy rain, snow, on icy ground and in waterlogged fields.  We have seen a plethora of wildlife, including hares, stags, deer and wild boar. 

Wild Boar

We have photographed the most incredible tree characters.


We have witnessed the changing seasons and noted the beauty of each as it starts and finishes. We have filled our lungs with fresh forest air and engaged in forest bathing. I can honestly say that I have had the most edifying year and have seen sights which I will remember forever. We invariably get lost and every time we walk, we laugh until out sides hurt! I feel fitter and healthier than I have felt for many, many years.

For the record, from the 1st March 2017 until the 28th February 2018 I walked 1091.09 miles. On one of our most recent outings we walked 10.5 miles and climbed the equivalent of 100 flights of stairs.  We followed that two days later with a 9.5 mile walk (we both booked a day off work for that one) and the day after that I went to London to see my son and walked another 9.5 miles.  Not bad for someone who a year ago only managed an average of 1.6 miles a day! If I can do it, you can do it!

I will be forever grateful to Mark for his inspirational posts on Facebook and in awe of all he has achieved.

Mark’s ‘Pay it Forward’ initiative is still going strong.  Kelly Jackson was the recipient of the first running blade and she and Mark worked hard to fund a running blade for Hannah Moore. This tremendous trio are now fundraising to enable a fourth amputee to receive a running blade. How amazing is that?

Mark’s 18 years of being a volunteer fundraiser have finally been recognised – I nominated him for (and he received) a ‘Points of Light Award‘ (he was the 754th recipient) and he was a London finalist in the Pride of Britain Awards.  Last year Mark took-up archery. As I type, he is representing GB in the 4th Fazza International Para-Archery Competition in Dubai. He is competing with, and against, other para-athletes with years of experience and holding his own.  He has earned a place on the Paralympic Conversion Academy with Archery GB and his aim is to represent GB at the 2020 Paralympics in Tokyo.  

Mark is trying to raise funds to assist with his training – for example, he mentions on his blog that in six months he has driven 12,600 miles to and from training, so his fuel bill alone must be massive, without the cost of coaching sessions, competitions, travel, accommodation, etc plus the fact that he needs to be self-funded for 12 months.  If I was rich, I would not hesitate to fund all of Mark’s training as a ‘thank you’ for inspiring me to #MoveMoreInMarch which truly changed my life. When I win the lottery, I promise that I will do that.  In the meantime I will make another donation and simply say “Thank you Mark, for inspiring those with and without disabilities, day in and day out.  May your arrows fly straight and true in Dubai and I’ll be cheering the #CarbonArcher on to win a gold in Tokyo, in 2020!”

I would like to end this blog post by mentioning that it is my birthday this month.


If you’re thinking of sending me a card, or buying me a birthday pressie or coffee/lunch… please would you consider donating the cost of it to Mark’s crowdfunding appeal instead? Please write Sali’s Birthday Treat in the message, when you donate, so that I can see it and say ‘thank you’. 





Let’s talk… ‘Contents Insurance’.

Insurance – the one word to make me groan.  There are many different types – contents, buildings, car, health, life (assurance), critical illness, business, to name but a few.  However, from the stories I have heard over the years and from the limited amount of experiences I have had when I have made claims (for example the massive roll of foil paper which literally fell off the side of a lorry and rolled down a hill into my stationary car) claiming is anything but straight forward.  Why is it that we are forced to go into battle to be compensated for something which is covered by an insurance policy?

I am in the midst of a claim and it’s rather like walking in treacle.  Apart from the frustration of having to repeat the same story of how the damage happened, to many different people, the insurance company seems to be unhappy to settle my claim!  My insurance is with Payment Shield,  a company which has been trading for 25 years and which, according to their website, has excellent reviews! I pay a rather high premium (£66.79 per month, building and contents) but would rather pay a higher premium to an organisation which delivers an excellent service.  I have just discovered that I have been paying a high premium for VERY poor service, which is a shame because I have been with Payment Shield for approximately 14 years. So much for loyalty!

This sorry state of affairs started quite a few months ago now, whilst I was showering in the bath.  I was using a massive tub of hair conditioner, which I had bought from Homesense.  (My favourite store.)  It had a pump dispenser which had somehow turned slightly, preventing the pump from working. I picked it up with wet hands and tried to twist the pump, but it slipped through my hands into the bath – thankfully I managed to dodge it as it fell.  I thought no more of this incident until some time later, when I happened to notice water on the ceiling of the downstairs cloakroom.  I called a plumber, who discovered a crack in the bath, where the bottle had fallen.  I rang the insurance company and was asked to obtain 2 quotations and to email them across, together with some photos. So far, so good.  The person I was speaking to added, we will need detailed quotations… including the size of the room, the cost of the bath, labour, materials, flooring under the bath, the ceiling… the cost of each element needed to be listed.  I thought this was a little odd, but perhaps they were being thorough and trying to stop any fraudulent claims.  So I called the plumber and asked him to come and provide a very detailed quotation and then I spent time – lots of time – trying to find a second plumber to do the same.  I discovered that plumbers aren’t overly keen to spend their valuable time providing a second, very detailed quotation for insurance companies.

Finally I was able to email both quotations and some photographs to the home claims team at RSA Group, who were handling the claim.  During a follow-up call, I was informed that the claim was too high-value for the team and that they needed to pass it on to the loss assessors.  I was then contacted by Cunningham Lindsey who made an appointment for a loss assessor to visit.  He came, looked at the damage and submitted his report.  I was then offered 1/3 of the value of the claim as a ‘cash settlement’. Seriously? What the hell was I supposed to do with that? It made no sense at all and it still doesn’t… why would my insurance company who I have been with for 14 years, and to whom I have been paying a massive monthly premium, offer me 1/3 of the amount of the quotation? Needless to say, I declined the offer.  So they passed it on to another department… where it would be looked at by the ‘full loss adjustment team’.  I then received a text message from Cunningham Linsey (not even a phone call) asking me to call ‘Invisio’ and giving the phone number. I did and was told that they needed to send someone else to examine the damage – I think he was a Buildings Claims Inspector. So he came, looked and assessed the damage last Thursday.  I have to say that both of the aforementioned gentlemen were very courteous.

The challenge I have is that my bathroom suite is coloured. It’s a sort of ‘duck egg’ colour which I rather like.  My tiles are patterned. Both are discontinued.  It is possible to get a replacement bath from a specialist for around £500 (if they can identify the exact colour) but not the tiles.  I would be happy to accept white tiles. I’m not a diva.  However, I do have OCD about ‘matching’ things, particularly colour!  I have said that if it proved too difficult/expensive to replace the bath, I would accept a white suite, providing it was of a comparable quality. I received a phone call today stating that they will only put a white suite in if I make a contribution!!!  In addition, of course, to the policy excess of £200. And yet I’m pretty sure a white suite could be sourced for less than the cost of the replacement bath, which would need to be sourced from a specialist dealer.  To replace the bath the toilet will probably need to be removed.  AND, to cap it all, they will only replace ‘some’ of the tiles, which means that the bathroom would have a mix of white and patterned tiles (which have a grey background).  Quite frankly I am appalled!!!  So my response was for them to replace my duck egg bath with another one the exact same shade.  I also stated that I do not find it acceptable to have a mixture of white tiles and grey patterned tiles. It will look hideous! The ‘new’ grout will stand out against the existing grout.  It makes me think I should have got the cheapest insurance on the market, rather than paying over £800 a year! (Which over 14 years is £11,200 – although in fairness the premium 14 years ago would have been less than I’m currently paying).


This whole sorry saga has been going on for months! It took quite some time to get 2 quotes to send off, but I finally emailed them about 4 weeks ago.  I was hoping to be able to have the work done by Christmas, ready for my house guests, but this looks less likely every day.

Before publishing this post, I looked at my Payment Shield policy to ascertain who is covering the contents element of my insurance policy. It is Royal & Sun Alliance  so I made a quick phone call to them to double check that they were still covering it. Having passed the security check, I explained that I was unhappy about the service I was receiving over my claim and that I was writing a blog post about it, which I needed to be factually correct.  She wasn’t happy with the service I had received either and said she would log a complaint on my behalf.  So it could be that the actual insurance companies themselves would handle claims far more efficiently without the middlemen… However, on adding the links to this post I have realised that RSA Group is actually Royal & Sun Alliance, which of course was who I emailed the quotations and photos to in the first place… Confusing, isn’t it? Which makes it really easy to understand how confused.com came up with their name!

If you have had a ‘positive’ experience of a ‘contents insurance claim’ please comment below with the name of your insurer. Because once this situation has been resolved I will be looking to change mine!

Walking Mindfully makes my heart sing. What makes your heart sing?

It has been over 6 months since Mark Pattenden inspired me to #MoveMoreInMarch so I thought it was time to update you.  I pledged to walk 100 miles in March – a goal which I achieved – and I have to say that I haven’t stopped walking since! It has become my favourite Saturday pastime. I walk with my friend Pauline Roberts, who is an amateur photographer, and we walk ‘mindfully’ – often in companionable silence – as we immerse ourselves in the beauty of our surroundings.


Walking the beautiful Cotswold Canals

When I started walking in March, I ensured I ‘made time’ to walk every day, regardless of the weather and I have to confess that I haven’t done that for a while.  I much prefer to walk at the weekend, where we have slowly increased the distance we walk to a maximum of around 10 miles.  As I mentioned before we do walk ‘mindfully’ so we do not walk with the sole intent of reaching our destination in good time, nor do we engage in non-stop conversation which might absorb our consciousness to the point that we ignore our surroundings… instead we take our time, noticing beautiful things around us such as the shy robins who momentarily flash their red-breasts at us, confirming we are on the right path just as we are beginning to doubt ourselves, flirtatious butterflies who tease us with their colourful wings before folding them in as we try to photograph them, preening swans who sometimes pluck out a feather for us to take home, busy bees who play hide and seek amongst scented flowers blissfully unaware of us observing them, darting dragonflies with wondrous neon colours, ancient trees which reveal their hidden faces to us, babbling brooks which gently polish sparkling stones, blue skies brimming with glorious cloud formations…  and so much more.


Pauline and I have both chosen to book time off work – a day here and there – to enable us to walk twice a week and we have been blessed with beautiful weather… at least on most of the days we have walked. There have been occasions when we have walked in rain, wind and hail and as the winter approaches, I am sure we will have many more wet-weather walks.  Will this stop us walking? No… but we might need to invest in some waterproof clothing!


15 minutes after the heavens opened on us, the visibility started to clear

I was curious to find out how many miles I had walked over the last six months.  I felt it would fall far short of the 100 miles which I managed in March.  I am fortunate in that I have a Fit-bit which helpfully produces a weekly summary, so I transferred this information onto a spreadsheet and was surprised and delighted to discover that in 6 months (1st March to 31st August) I had walked 580 miles, which is not far short of 100 miles a month. Whilst that may not sound like much to the ‘more active’ readers of this blog post, it is a huge improvement on the amount of walking I had achieved previously.  My fitness level has definitely improved – I am actually able to walk and talk now, if I choose to – and although I have not lost any weight, my shape has definitely changed.

I have a lot to thank Mark Pattenden for.  We have been friends on social media for some years now and as I mentioned previously, it was Mark’s inspirational Facebook posts which motivated me to move more and I have seen many beautiful things over the last six months which have made my heart sing. 


Spot the angel and the sniper…

In fact, I have started uploading some of the film clips I have taken during my walks to YouTube so that I can replay them and embrace the feel-good factor that they induce.   Mark and I are both volunteer fundraisers and in the past we have both (independently) created fundraising initiatives for several charities. Mark inspires people of all abilities and a few months ago I nominated him for the Prime Minister’s Points of Light Award, for his voluntary work.  I was delighted when he was recently presented with the 754th Points of Light Award by the CEO of Archery GB – oh, have I mentioned that Mark is aiming to represent GB in Archery, at the 2020 Paralympics in Tokyo? As with all volunteer fundraisers, Mark has dedicated a huge chunk of his life to helping charities – now Mark is looking for support himself.  His goal is to raise enough funding to ensure he can continue training 6 days a week to fulfill his Paralympic dream.  I have donated to his crowdfunding page – I hope you might be inspired enough to do the same.

In the meantime I will continue with my weekend walks and brace myself for the colder weather.  I might just have to invest in a waterproof camera, unless someone knows how to take photos/videos with an iPhone in the rain WITHOUT ruining the phone?  Please comment below if you have any top tips.  

I believe it’s really important to do something in life which makes your heart sing.  It’s a key factor in self-care, which has been found to decrease stress, increase energy, improve well-being and evoke feelings of happiness.  

What do you do that makes your heart sing?

No time to exercise? Dispelling the myths

On 1st March, I wrote a blog post about why a man with one leg had inspired me to #MoveMoreInMarch and I pledged to walk 100 miles in March.  I have a fairly sedentary lifestyle – my work involves sitting down all day – so for me, this would involve a big lifestyle change and some careful planning.  Like many people, I work long hours and when I’m not with, or completing work for, clients, I am usually filling my time with things I am passionate about e.g. fundraising initiatives, which also involves sitting down!  I wear a Fitbit and on a ‘normal’ day I usually walk approx 0.5 to 1.5 miles (1192 to 3651 steps) which really isn’t good for my health or well-being, but I’ve always said that I don’t have time in my busy day to exercise.  I’ve also been known to say that if I had a dog, then I would have a reason to walk… and that I wasn’t motivated to go for a walk on my own – that wouldn’t be any fun at all, would it?

Time to dispel the myths! During March, I have discovered:-

  1. It is possible to fit exercise into my life – albeit not every day, but certainly most.
  2. I don’t need a dog to enable me to walk.
  3. Walking on my own IS fun – walking with a friend is fun too.

Other things I have discovered:-

  1. Having started to walk every day, on the days when I literally can’t fit it in I miss it.
  2. The blossom on the trees and bushes smells wonderful.
  3. How much ‘wildlife’ there is to see, even in the suburbs.
  4. Gloucestershire is even more beautiful than I thought it was.
  5. Just how far I am capable of walking.
  6. Meeting a friend for a walk is much more fun than meeting a friend for lunch!

I am delighted to share with you that I walked 112.66 miles in March.  As part of my pledge, I promised to donate £31 (£1 for every day of the month) to Mark Pattenden, Kelly Jackson and Hannah Moore’s #TogetherWeCan fundraising initiative  to fund a running blade for Hannah.  The blade will cost £9,000, so if you’re reading this and you’re in a position to make a donation (small or large) please do.  Mark has pledged to run #10kADay from 1st March to the end of December (or until the £9,000 target has been reached) and whilst I am proud that I have WALKED over 100 miles in March, in comparison to the 310k (192 miles) Mark has RUN in the same period… on one leg and a running blade… well, there is NO comparison!

And there is more… I can’t tell you how lovely it is when friends say “Your #MoveMoreInMarch pledge has encouraged ME to move more too.”  Several have told me that they had been about to get into their car to go to the local shop, thought of me and WALKED instead. 

Finally, I would like to share with you something that happened on the 30th March.  It was my birthday and my friend Pauline (a local amateur photographer) had booked a day off work to help me celebrate.  Pauline has joined me on some of my walks, so I suggested that we drive to Wales to do the Four Falls Trail, in the Brecon Beacons.  We parked in the Gwaun Hepste car-park and set off on the trail in glorious sunshine.  There had been quite a lot of rainfall in March, so the waterfalls were magnificent.  The trail was described as ‘energetic’ which we found quite an amusing term, until about half-way through! Our fitness levels were severely tested, particularly by the ascent after visiting the final fall on the trail ‘Sgwd yr Eira’ which was described as ‘strenuous’, having 170 steps which descended (and of course ‘ascended on the way back up) 330ft (100m).  This wasn’t helped by the fact that I insisted on walking along the track behind the waterfall and got soaked through to the skin by doing so! What an experience! We had also forgotten that the trail from the car-park to the falls was downhill, so walking back up was very challenging. (Understatement of the year.)  But I do believe the amount of walking Pauline and I had achieved in March had really improved our fitness levels, making the day far more pleasurable than it might have been in February!!  I have to say that it was one of the best birthdays I have ever had.

P1340889 (3)

Photo courtesy of Pauline Roberts 

And in case you’re wondering… I intend to continue walking.  It’s part of my life now and I love it.


#MoveMoreInMarch Is this pledge changing my mentality? Already?

Since starting my pledge to #MoveMoreInMarch, I had managed to walk 35.11 miles by the end of Thursday 9th March – an average of 3.9 miles a day – so I was well on track to achieving my pledged 100 miles (an average of 3.23 miles a day).

However, I woke up on Friday feeling overwhelmingly tired. It happens sometimes.  I saw clients in the morning, but by lunchtime my energy hadn’t returned.  I worked through the afternoon, hoping that the exhaustion would pass – it didn’t.  By the time I went to bed, I had managed a paltry 1.12miles or 2,639 steps.  I felt very frustrated, but interestingly – looking at my ‘Step history’ – I walked less than this distance on 10 separate days in February and didn’t feel frustrated about it then. Is this pledge changing my mentality? Already? When I went to bed last night I decided not to set my alarm and to sleep as long as my body needed, which was just over eight and a half hours and I woke far less tired than the previous day.

I texted my friend Pauline (a local amateur photographer) who had planned to go to Gloucester Docks today, to take some photos.  I decided I would walk to meet her and we arranged to walk to the Docks together.  As I left the house, I checked my Fitbit… only to notice the flat-battery symbol! How frustrating.  I grabbed the charger from the car, thinking I could charge it at Pauline’s prior to walking to the Docks.  I was about half-way into my journey when I realised I had picked up the phone charger instead of the Fitbit charger!

Thankfully, my Fitbit didn’t die before I arrived at Pauline’s.  She photographed the ‘miles’ and the ‘steps’ displayed, and from that point we were dependent on her tracker.  After a quick visit to the pharmacy for some blister plasters (I had made the mistake of wearing new trainers and very thin socks) we popped into the closest sports shop for some ‘padded’ socks, which I duly put on, before we continued to the Docks. 


We detoured to Gloucester Quays Shopping Outlet, where we both bought proper ‘walking shoes’ (I confess that my heels were so sore that I wore my new walking shoes out of the shop!) before moving on to the Docks to take photos. 


Arriving back at Pauline’s we noted how far we had walked.  To my surprise, despite the flat battery, my Fitbit was able to display my miles and I already knew how many miles my walk home would be, from walking to Pauline’s from my house in the morning.  To my delight, when I arrived home, my Fitbit managed to display the total miles I had walked today and sync with my iPad!  To say I’m impressed with the performance of my Fitbit is an understatement.


It’s surprising how much you notice when you walk.  I spotted my first honey bee and my first bumble bee, both feasting on fragrant mahonia. In fact, walking through Barnwood Arboretum on the way home, my senses were seduced by the scent of the blossom.  It really is a beautiful time of year and it makes me think just how much I would be missing, if I hadn’t pledged to #MoveMoreInMarch. If you live a sedentary lifestyle, why not try it?



Why a man with one leg has inspired me to #MoveMoreInMarch

People who know me will know I’m passionate about fundraising. I live it, breathe it, do it, coach it and follow others who do it.  This blog post is dedicated to another fundraiser, who has inspired me to do something I really should have started doing a LONG time ago!

Mark Pattenden is an amputee.  Mark and I have been Facebook friends for a few years now.  We are both fundraisers. We ‘like and share’ each other’s posts on social media.  Those of you who follow me on Twitter may have noticed me sharing posts last year, when Mark was the first amputee to #RunTheGreatWallOfChina, thanks to a very special ‘running blade’ which was provided by Dorset Orthopaedic, one of the world’s leading providers of prosthetic and orthotic services, and for whom Mark is an Ambassador.  (For more technical details about the ‘blade’ please read Mark’s blog.)

Mark’s Great Wall charity challenge raised enough money to provide another amputee, Kelly Jackson, with a running blade.  Mark has a dream… his dream is that by helping to fund Kelly’s running blade, that Kelly in turn will run and raise money for a running blade for another amputee.  It’s a brilliant initiative and one that Mark is determined will succeed… so much so, that he has pledged to run 10k a day, EVERY DAY, from 1st March until 31st December, or at least until £9k has been raised to fund the next running blade.  Kelly is on-board with the initiative.  She has set up a VirginMoneyGiving page and has entered herself for the Birmingham 10k later this year.  The recipient of the third running blade will be Hannah Moore, who is also helping with the fundraising and has entered the Supernova 5k walk/run.  Together, this fabulous trio aim to raise the £9k needed for Hannah’s blade, and then… guess what? They will do the same again, for a fourth amputee.  It’s a brilliant #PayItForward initiative, or perhaps I should say #BladeItForward

So what has this all got to do with me and what exactly HAS Mark inspired me to do? Well, I work from home.  I am a Life & Business Coach, Cambridge Weight-Plan Consultant, Talk Therapist, Fundraising Consultant and in my spare time, I love to write.  ALL of my work involves sitting down and I ‘sit’ for most of the day. When I don’t have clients, I work on various charity initiatives, or catch-up with my paperwork. I have a Fitbit and out of curiosity I analysed how much I actually do move.  Over the last 4 months (November to February) I walked a total of 192 miles or 310km.  This equates to an average of 2.58km a day.  By comparison, Mark has pledged to RUN 10k a day for 10 months (unless their £9k target is reached earlier). In March he will run 310km, which is exactly the same amount as I have WALKED – on two rather chunky legs – in 4 MONTHS! He puts me to shame! So things are going to change!

I PLEDGE to #MoveMoreInMarch! No excuses! I might not have much free time in the day, but I will make time! I pledge to walk (briskly) for at least an hour every day. My goal is to walk 100 miles in March! My fitness levels will increase and my weight will decrease! Even as I type this, my pledge sounds slightly pathetic.  It is only two thirds of the recommended 10,000 steps a day (approx 5 miles/8km)  but everyone needs to start somewhere and as they say ‘great oaks from little acorns grow’!  An average of 3.23 miles (5.19km) a day is double my usual average of 1.6 miles (2.58km) a day.  Who knows, I might even be able to convert my #Cankles2Ankles, although that’s quite a big ask! And as a ‘thank you’ to Mark for inspiring me to get off my backside and use the two legs that I have, I will make a donation to his #BladeItForward initiative at the end of March, once I reach my goal.  I will be completely honest about whether or not I have achieved my goal. I will pledge a donation of £31 (which represents £1 a day) and sent Mark weekly screenshots of my Fitbit summary.  If I don’t reach my goal by the end of March, I will double my donation to £62.

I am writing this blog on the evening of St. David’s Day.  St. David urged his followers to ‘Do the little things in life’ (‘Gwnewch y pethau bychain mewn bywyd’) and this has become an established inspirational saying in Wales.  100 miles may not be a huge distance to walk in a month and £31 is certainly not a massive donation, but thanks to a very inspirational man I will be ‘doing a little thing in life’ which will help to make a difference to someone else’s life.  Who’s going to join me?

I have been shortlisted for the Nicest Job In Britain and given a challenge…

On the 4th September, I wrote a blog post titled ‘Why I applied for The Nicest Job in Britain. (NJIB)
I had submitted my 60 second application video and used the blog post as part of my #HireSali Campaign, to encourage people to ‘vote’ for me.

I am delighted to share with you that I have been shortlisted for The Nicest Job, which involves working with 40 charities over 12 months. I, and the other 7 shortlisted candidates, have each been allocated a charity to work (drawn from a ‘hat’ containing the aforementioned 40 charities) and have been challenged – to raise as much money and awareness – as possible, for our allocated charity, by 2nd October. I have been given Winston’s Wish, the charity for bereaved children, which is particularly poignant, as I was a bereaved child myself.

Many years ago, I volunteered at the head office of Winston’s Wish, helping with admin and mail-shots. In addition, I assisted with a few of the charity’s promotions in the Regent Arcade, Cheltenham and took my daughters and one of my friends, carol singing – locally – with Winston’s Wish ‘collection buckets’. My perception at the time was that Winston’s Wish was a very well-known, well-supported charity, so when I was tasked by NJIB to ‘raise as much awareness as possible’ of the charity, I wondered what I could do to further awareness of a charity which was already so well-known.

I have always been taught, and in turn have coached others, never to ‘assume’ so I decided to start my challenge with a straw-pole, asking my Facebook friends whether they were aware of Winston’s Wish or not. They just had to comment with a ‘yes’, or a ‘no’. The results surprised me. There was a very clear 50/50 split, with the friends living in and around Gloucestershire answering ‘yes’ and those living further away (although as close as Wiltshire) answering ‘no’. The exceptions were the friends who had used, or knew someone who had used, the services of the charity. The results gave me a lots of scope to ‘raise awareness’.

Did you know that every day, in the UK, more than 100 children are bereaved of a parent? Winston’s Wish has a vision that every bereaved child has access to support as and when they need it and a mission to ensure the resilience of bereaved children by providing high quality services that meet their needs.

Julie Stokes created the charity in 1992. Julie was a clinical psychologist at the time and it was an interaction with the son of a terminally ill patient, which propelled her into investigating how children with a terminally ill parent and bereaved children could be better served. She travelled to the USA and Canada on a Winston Churchill Travelling Fellowship and was so inspired by what she saw, that she returned to the UK and set up Winston’s Wish, which has since become the leading childhood bereavement charity in the UK.

So what is Winston’s Wish and what does the charity do? Winston’s Wish supports children, their families and the professionals who support them following the death of a parent or sibling – the most fundamental loss a child can face. The charity provides professional therapeutic support via a National Helpline, face-to-face support and a website.
Not only does their website offer a wealth of information and guidance, which is divided into helpful categories, and translated into several different languages (Spanish, Bengali, Swedish, Arabic and Polish) but it also offers a ‘Helpline’, which is available on 08452 03 04 05 and operates Monday – Friday, 9am-5pm.

Death comes in many forms, and the Winston’s Wish website offers a range of information and advice on topics such as ‘dealing with serious illness’, ‘talking about death’, ‘bereavement from suicide’, ‘bereavement from homicide’,’ supporting children of military families’ and much more. There is also a specialist area of the website for young people, for professionals and also an online shop with plenty of expert publications and resources for free and for sale.

Winston’s Wish is a national charity, which is reliant on voluntary donations – they need to raise £2.5million every year to continue their support for bereaved children and their families. In 2014/15 these donations equated to 93% of their income. For every £1 they spend, 74p goes on direct delivery. Charities are being scrutinised regarding the cost of fundraising campaigns, but I am pleased to report that for every £1 Winston’s Wish spends on fundraising, they raise £4.47 which is an incredibly impressive return on investment.

I have embraced the challenge to raise funds for this wonderful charity and have set up a Facebook page called A Penny 4 Your Memory, where I am encouraging people to leave a happy or funny memory, which not only makes them smile or laugh, but will do the same for others reading the post. When they leave a memory, they also make a donation to Winston’s Wish via www.givepenny.com/apenny4yourmemory Within 49 hours of being created, the Givepenny page reached the £500 target I had set, so I have amended the target to £750. Please do visit the Facebook page, leave a happy memory, donate and take time to read (and interact) with the memories which have already been posted. Warning… doing so may produce a warm, fuzzy feeling.

And for those of you who might be interested… my interview for The Nicest Job in Britain is on Monday 3rd October. Please wish me luck and please do share this blog post, to help me raise awareness of, and funds for, Winston’s Wish. This is more than just a NJIB challenge to me. Thank you.